CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much appreciated.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
So this show has been on the air for more than a decade now. We`re about 11 1/2 years old as a cable news show, which means in human years, I am just as old as I look. I am Methuselah, I know you can tell.
I`m, of course, super grateful that we have been here this long. I will hold on to this job as long as they let me have it. But having been on the air this long, I can tell you, even in these weird times, there is sort of a constant I can describe to you, one thing that has progressed steadily and without change since I had been doing this. And it`s this shift that has happened in the news environment in which we work.
It`s that our friends and colleagues in the conservative media over the years, they have become more and more their own thing. Like I said, I`ve been doing this for more than a decade. At the beginning of me doing this show, I think it was fair to think of our friends at the Fox News Channel, and conservative talk radio and other conservative media, I think it was sort of fair at that time to think of at least most of them as our like legit professional rivals. They were people who were coming at the news from a very pronounced right wing view, perhaps a very partisan pro- Republican Party view, but at least we were all doing the same kind of work, at least we were all covering the same stuff. That`s how it started when I started doing this business. Started working in this business.
But over this past decade or so, steadily, that has decreased, year after year. To the point where now, even in times this weird, conservative media is like Earth 2, like all the rest of us are on Earth 1 and they are on a completely different planet, in terms of what the news is and what it means to cover. And the conservative media are as influence the as they ever where were if not more so when it comes to Republican elected officials and conservative voters in the party base.
But the conservative media, the most influential parts of it really are living in and describing and now promoting a completely different world than the one that all the rest of us live on here on Earth 1.
And again, this is something that pre-dated this crisis that we are in. I have seen it steadily, this change, over the past 11, 12 years, but in the context of this virus, you can see it now in some weird and really specific ways. For example, you can see it in how the conservative media has been really, really excited about Sweden. It`s not usually their kind of thing, Sweden, but in this case, for coronavirus, they`re all about Sweden.
"The National Review", has Sweden found the right solution to the coronavirus? Multiple segments on prime time Fox News show, where the hosts have inveighed against how terrible the United States has been in our response and should be more like Sweden. Let`s do what Sweden says they are doing. They`ve got the right approach to this.
Do you remember the talk show radio host Glenn Beck who was on Fox News for a hot minute? He has a web site that still exists there today at the Glenn Beck web site, they are still hyping Sweden and how Sweden`s response has been the best in the world and that should be the one that America emulates.
Now, this stands out to those of us who still live on Earth 1, because Sweden is not who these guys usually root for, right? Sweden is kind of the high-performing big government Scandinavian country that American conservatives like to vilify and describe as a terrible place. So, it`s interesting, it`s unusual, right, why is the pro-Trump conservative media now hyping Sweden`s response to the coronavirus?
Well, it`s because Sweden didn`t do a stay at home approach. They didn`t close themselves down. Which sounds awesome, right? The Swedes have found the coolest possible way to deal with coronavirus.
What they have decided to do is not do anything, and it must be working great. Wouldn`t it be amazing if that really was the right way to deal with coronavirus? Wouldn`t that be great for the U.S., if we didn`t have to do anything either?
So you`ve got, you know, multiple Fox News segments both in prime time and in the morning, hyping Sweden, there`s Newt Gingrich, on "Fox and Friends", saying how he`s known all along that the Swedes would take the right approach and America should absolutely emulate what they`re doing.
I mean, on Earth 2, over in conservative media land, what the Swedes have done has not only been really attractive in terms of it having no cost to the way we live our live, it`s been super successful. So it`s a win-win, right? Where the rest of us live and die on this planet, Sweden`s let`s not lock down anything approach has been pretty disastrous. It has been pretty lethal.
Here is Sweden against their similar neighboring countries. Here`s Denmark, for example. They actually had a pretty hard time for northern Europe. Here`s Finland, well below Denmark, doing pretty well. Here is Norway, Sweden`s closest neighbor.
For good measure, here is Iceland. Which has been so aggressively, so aggressive, but there`s Sweden up top, with the largest death toll, of any of the similar countries. And that is the results of their approach, that Fox News and conservative media has been hyping for weeks now, which is that they did very little of a lockdown.
I mean, it`s very appealing, right? In an ideological sense, that Sweden decided we don`t need to lock everything down. Let`s keep it all loose. But it turns out the virus doesn`t care how cool that sounds. Our friends in conservative media are nevertheless in love with the idea that this is no big deal, that you can definitely reopen everything as soon as you don`t feel like dealing with all of this stuff anymore.
And so, with the helter-skelter encouragement of President Trump, we`ve now got red state governors all over our country, saying you know what, screw it, let`s tear the lid off, the Swedes did it, it was great, I keep hearing in conservative media how everyone has been overreacting and you don`t really need to do anything, so that`s the way we should be governing here, so Florida, the beach, let it rip. Mississippi beaches, too, in Texas, and in Mississippi, the state parks, pile loose, sure, why not.
South Carolina, Georgia, they`re opening the beaches. It is almost all of the stores in Georgia. They`re going to pour everyone in to dine-in restaurants again as of next week, and theaters, too.
And heck, let`s do elective surgeries again, too. Why not burn all of that PPE. The health workers don`t really immediate it, do they?
Sure, they`ll be fine. It will all be no big deal if we wish it was so. Let`s reopen everything. Red state governors, now let`s just reopen. Come on. Has this really been such a big deal?
In Arkansas today, where there never has been a stay-at-home order, they`re now reporting 600 coronavirus cases in just one state prison in Lincoln County, Arkansas. In North Dakota, where there has never been a stay-at- home order, there appears to be a good, a new good-sized outbreak at an energy plant in Grand Forks. Again, that`s North Dakota, 128 cases associated with that plant already.
In Abilene, Texas, today, in Texas, where they`re very excited to reopen as much as they can, as quickly as they can, Abilene, Texas, today, it`s a cookie factory, a place known as AbiMar Foods, they had one case in that factory on March 30th. By April 10th, they have five cases and now they`ve got a cases among people who work at that plant and they are shut down, hoping to reopen. But they did go from one case to 50 cases in less than three week, so I don`t know, maybe, I don`t know.
"The Green Bay Press Gazette" in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is now reporting on what they`re calling an explosion of cases associated with a meat packing plant there on the east side of Green Bay, in Brown County, Wisconsin. They`ve now got hundreds of cases there, 22 people hospitalized in Brown County, Wisconsin. They`ve called in the CDC to address the explosive outbreak there.
The CDC has also been on the scene at the South Dakota, at the big outbreak, at the Smithfield meat processing plant in Sioux Falls where there are, as of today, 863 known cases of coronavirus associated with that one meat processing plant. There`s no stay-at-home order in South Dakota, even with nearly 900 cases associated with one facility.
The National Guard has now been brought in to start to build field hospitals to handle overflow coronavirus patients both in Sioux Fall, South Dakota, and in Rapid City. South Dakota`s neighboring states of Iowa and Nebraska also don`t have stay-at-home orders. They are also now contending with multiple outbreaks at meat processing plants including a plant in Madison, Nebraska, now, where workers were first advised that some of their colleagues had tested positive, as of Friday, last week, dozens of workers had been sent home, that plant at least for now is staying home -- excuse me, staying open.
Iowa has what appears to be a large outbreak at a meat plant in Waterloo, Iowa, local officials including the county sheriff and the mayor of Waterloo, Iowa, have been begging for that plant, a Tyson pork processing plant to be shut down, but so far, they are keeping that Waterloo, Iowa plant, open and running, despite the large outbreak there.
Today, there are other outbreaks now being reported at meat processing plants everywhere you look, in Tar Heel, North Carolina, in Logan`s Port, Indiana, in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, in Worthington, Minnesota, where they today had to shut a large plant that has over 2,000 employees. If you are noticing a theme in terms of meat packing plants being hit hard, you`re not making that up. I mean this may well end up becoming a real issue for the supply chain, for packaged meat in America.
But whether or not it becomes an issue for our overall supply chain, in the right now term, it is a huge issue for the people, for our friends, and relatives and neighbors, who work at these big plants where the pay is low and the conditions are close, and the outbreaks just keep coming, in plant after plant after plant.
This is from NBC Nightly News tonight, in a feature on that huge outbreak at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
REPORTER: This Smithfield pork processing plant, one of the area`s largest employers, is now a coronavirus hot spot, linked to nearly 900 cases.
Now, we are hearing about conditions inside from a current long-time employee who wished to have their voice disguised.
SMITHFIELD EMPLOYEE: I started getting really super concerned when a person on my line was diagnosed with COVID-19.
REPORTER: The worker said this is a picture of the cafeteria, outfitted with cardboard dividers and yellow tape for social distancing. But the employee tells us, that is nearly impossible.
SMITHFIELD EMPLOYEE: There`s people standing in line outside. There`s people inside in locker rooms. People walking down the hallway. And there`s no way of being six feet apart.
REPORTER: In a statement to NBC News, Smithfield says it`s extremely proactive in responding to COVID-19, supplying masks and face shields for employees, and paying workers who stay at home when they`re sick. The plant is now closed indefinitely.
SMITHFIELD EMPLOYEE: A lot of us were getting scared, knowing that if we didn`t show up for work, we might not have a job. And a lot of people were worried about their family members, bringing it home and spreading it to them.
MADDOW: "NBC News Nightly News" tonight, the report, including from that Smithfield pork processing plant.
Even in the case of these large outbreaks, at these workplaces, in most cases, we don`t have everyone who works at these places being tested. Even at these plants where there have been hundreds of cases among co-workers there, that`s in part because access to testing has been so scatter-shot, so slow, so stymied, so random.
I mean, speaking of random, one place they actually have newly been able to wrangle some tests as of this weekend is the state of Maryland. Why are they able to get some tests, access to tests this weekend in Maryland?
Well, it`s because that state`s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, was apparently able to get his wife to call individual companies in South Korea, and that`s because she speaks fluent Korean. She was able to use her own connections, and her language skills, to buy Maryland a half million tests from South Korea, which were flown over to Maryland on a Korean airlines jet this weekend.
So that`s one way you can get tests. If you`re a citizen of an American state, who has that series of circumstances lined up to make it possible.
Ohio`s Republican Governor Mark DeWine was also able to get his hands on some tests, enough to start testing all staff and prisoners in Ohio state correctional facilities. It is a good idea to test people in facilities like that, just like it`s a good idea to test all patients and all staff in places like nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has been able to line up enough tests to do that in Ohio state prison, that effort has resulted in what we now know, in what is now the largest known outbreak of any kind in the United States. An outbreak in Ohio surpassing even the size of the Smithfield pork plant in South Dakota.
Marion correctional institution in Marion, Ohio is, now reporting an -- now reporting more than 1,800 coronavirus cases among prisoners, and more than 100 cases among staff at that prison. That means that nearly three quarters of all the prisoners in that one state prison are known to be positive. They are now deploying the National Guard to go help at that facility in Ohio.
But you know, there`s nothing that sets apart the Marion correctional institution from every other prison of its kind, and the more they test, the more they`re going to find. As I said, Ohio is now doing this widespread testing at its prisons. In addition to the Marion correctional institution, which has what we believe is the largest outbreak in the United States, that same prison system is now reporting more than a thousand cases, among prisoners and staff, at a different Ohio prison called Pickaway.
They are also reporting almost 150 cases among prisoners and staff at a prison hospital called the Franklin Medical Center. You would think if there is one type of state correctional institution, that could potentially handle this sort of thing, it would be a correctional hospital facility that they`ve got more than 150 cases.
Where you test, you find incredible prevalence. And America`s original sin, in terms of the way we responded to this epidemic, is that we have never had widespread testing. Still to this day, it`s spotty. It is where people have connections.
But still, with our lack of access to testing, what we know of is 772,000 confirmed cases in the United States of America, and more than 41,000 dead Americans already. But that`s with terrible access to testing. Everywhere people can finagle enough tests to do widespread testing, they`re finding way more cases than they thought possible.
Among homeless people at a Boston homeless shelter. Among women turning up to give birth at a New York City hospital. Among the general public in Santa Clara County, California. Among the general public in Los Angeles, which just today reported results of a large general public screening today.
In all of these places, you are finding much higher prevalence than the people who are doing these studies and doing these screenings expected when they started doing the tests. And we`ve now got more than 40,000 Americans dead. We`ve got new outbreaks almost every day, including of hundreds of cases, right, in rural states, far from the coasts, both in workplaces and in places like prisons, anywhere people are being tested, we are turning up large numbers, unexpectedly high numbers of Americans who turn out to be positive.
And if you`ve got testing, and ultimately, depends on whether your governor`s wife speaks some Korean, right, or if you`ve got some other kind of lucky connection that gives you access to test, the test is still ab -- testing is still absolutely hopscotch all over the country in terms of who has access and who doesn`t.
But even with, that we`ve got three quarters of a million cases. We`ve got more than 41,000 Americans dead. We`ve got these huge outbreaks all over. And not just in New York and New Jersey, but all over, in the heartland. And that`s what`s happening now, on Earth 1. Here where we all live.
On Earth 2, in conservative media, which is all the president cares about, in terms of messaging and how people hear him, on Earth 2, everything is totally better now, right? We should do like the Swede, rip the lid off, never mind the death count, it will all be fine.
In a country that has a bifurcated outlook like that, right, here in the real world, a dizzying, spiraling, out of control epidemic, that is growing everywhere, including in the places with the fewest hospital beds per capita, but one where simultaneously, there`s this ideological imperative and conservative media, in conservative politics, to tell everybody everything is fine and this has all been an overreaction. In a bifurcated world, like we have here, how do we expect this to go over time? How do we get out of this? If with 41,000 Americans dead over the course of a month? The word from the right on that is that everything`s fine, it`s all over, we`re going to be good.
I`ve just the guy to talk about this when we come back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This weekend, as protesters egged on by the president called for the end of measures to slow the spread of coronavirus in multiple states, and as some red state governors began rolling out the reopening of gyms and salons and nail places, and restaurants, by the end of this week, or next week, sure, why not?
This weekend, while that happen, "New York Times" science reporter Donald McNeil published an in depth look at the path ahead. He spoke with over 20 experts in public health medicine, epidemiology. He says, quote, the path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable. They said.
A carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers and eventually an effective vaccine. Difficult but doable.
The question of course, in this country is, whether difficult things are indeed doable right now.
Reporter Donald McNeil has been a guest here several times since this pandemic began, he was here the very first night we switched to covering this thing full time. Mr. McNeil has covered epidemics and outbreaks across the world for decades. He has done pioneering reporting on coronavirus.
When I spoke with him almost a month ago, just as shelter in place orders were starting to be enacted across the country, he said on this show, quote, this is just an attempt to freeze everything in place. Then the real work begins.
Would -- did that real work had begun? For instance, Mr. McNeil said at the time containing the virus would likely require quarantining infected people away from their families. That is the step that we have not even started to take in this country.
But in this latest report, Donald McNeil conveys this warning from epidemiologists. Quote: If Americans pour back out in force, all will appear quiet for perhaps three weeks. Then the emergency rooms will get busy again.
Joining us now is Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for "The New York Times".
Mr. McNeil, happy to have you back with us. Thanks for making time.
DONALD MCNEIL, SCIENCE & HEALTH REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you. But you know --
MADDOW: Yes, please, go ahead.
MCNEIL: My report was so gloomy, that my editors wanted it made a little more optimistic. And you just read one of the more optimistic paragraphs that was inserted in it. You know, a sort of belief that everything will work out thanks to American ingenuity and scientific advancement. We`re in for some tough times, which is kind of the point of that piece.
MADDOW: Well, that comes through, don`t worry, they didn`t rosy it up too much.
But let me ask you about the distance that you see between where you think we`re going, and the morbidity and mortality that lays before us and the kinds of decisions that are being made now to loosen all of the restrictions, to open up different types of businesses and places where Americans can congregate.
How big of a chasm is there between where you think we`re going and those kinds of policy decisions?
MCNEIL: It`s huge were the picture coming oust White House for a number of weeks is don`t worry, this will all be over in a couple of months, we will be able to go back to bars and restaurants and all stadiums will be open in the fall and life will be back to normal. And I think it`s become a little clearer to a lot of people, even people who see that not everything is rosy and sweetened, realizing that, you know, maybe we`re going to having a little more careful about this.
But the truth is, you know, we`re not sure how many Americans got infected in the first wave, but the estimates I`ve seen are between three to 10 percent of the country. And a country of 330 million people, that means about 300 million of us are still vulnerable to the virus.
And there`s no scenario in which 300 million people can come running out on to the streets and beaches and hopping back on to the subways and going back into our offices and piling into, you know, for the end of the basketball season, or the baseball season, and not have this all start over again. And last time you saw it from the White House, we were on the trajectory up to somewhere between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths and we haven`t lobbed off very much of that whole equation and made those people immune. A tiny proportion of the country is immune now. So we`ll go back on the same track again if we come out. And that`s, people have to realize, that this is going to be a slow careful coming out, and we`ve got to watch.
And when Tony Fauci uses the expression the virus will tell us, he means if we have broad spread testing all over the country and enormous number of tests every day and those tests have to be rapid because you need results and a study came out of Harvard today, we`re talking about five to ten million tests per day, we need, in order to really have good eyeball on the situation in the country. When we get there, we can watch those test, and when the positives begin to go up, we can say, okay, time to socially distance a little more, let`s back off, and not a total lockdown but into enough lockdown so that curves instead of going up begin to go down again. It`s a set of constantly flattening the curves.
And what it looks like on the epidemiological models is we`re no longer on that giant alpine spike, up to two million deaths but to say it is going to be kind of a series of shark teeth, some deaths and lockdown and then deaths come down and some deaths and we go back into the lockdown and it comes down and this may can continue until we have a vaccine or a prophylactic pill which may take a while, 18 months minimum.
MADDOW: Let me ask a cynical question, a cynical question, I guess, a non- rose-colored glasses of you, given that scenario, I do not have faith in our governing capacity as a country, particularly at the federal level, but also in a lot of states, to think about us being able to ratchet social distancing measures up and down, based on epidemiological imperatives. I just don`t think that we`re nimble enough and rational enough, and science- based enough, to do that as a country.
And so I look around, and I see the president insisting on opening things up, red state governors insisting on opening things up, and I can`t imagine that they will ever ratchet things down again in the other direction because they will see it as a political failure.
If they do open things up, and never ratchet things back down, what happens to that curve? Do we go back to the alpine slope to potentially millions dead?
MCNEIL: I don`t necessarily agree with you. I mean I think a number of governors are very clued up on this, Andrew Cuomo being one of them. Gavin Newsom being another, Mike DeWine in another being another, and they will recognize it. The other governors are going to see a significant chunk of their voters die. And they will get the lesson.
It may take a couple of waves of the pandemic but they`ll figure it out. And you know, there`s an expression in the Army, you know, sometimes to get the attention of a mule, you have to take a two-by-four to it. You know, that`s kind of what we`re looking at here.
It may take the deaths of some people for governors to realize that running out into the open is not safe. And I, you know, hope that the populace will be more sensible about that, and the governors will realize who they`re putting at risk, it`s going to be their own people, but that`s learning the hard way and I suspect that`s what`s going to happen in some states.
MADDOW: That`s terrible. I mean, I believe you. But that`s terrible.
And I feel like I have already been watching in a micro level, I`ve been watching medical associations, nurses associations, hospital associations, tell governors, please don`t do this. Please give us a stay-at-home order, or like in the case of Nebraska, they`re going to reopen this gigantic mall just outside Omaha, in the Nebraska hospital association, has said to Governor Ricketts, there, please, for the sake of the hospitals in this rural state, do not do this, and he has blown them off and going to open that stuff up anyway.
I`m really worried that the feedback loop here isn`t working, in terms of medical expertise.
MCNEIL: Well, the Diamond Princess didn`t work out as expected, either. Sometimes, you know, the epidemiological models on the Diamond Princess, says even if there were complications aboard, if you locked the ship down, you would have less than 64 cases by the time they emptied the case a month later. They had 712.
So, something went badly wrong on that ship. We learned that there is a lot of super spreader events. You know, we`ve learned, you know, that Virginia, God will protect me, and I will have the love of Jesus and he died and infected his wife. People learn lessons the hard way.
You know, we saw Chris Cuomo on CNN, quarantining at home. And doing it about as perfectly as you could. He was in the basement and there was a bathroom, wife left the food at the top of the stairs, kids didn`t come down and, yet, his wife ended up becoming infected.
You know, this is how -- the virus teaches us lessons. And that`s -- that`s a lesson we`ve known in the 19th century, in the 18th century, the 17th century, we sort of forgot it in the 20th century, in the age of vaccines.
But we`re being reminded of it again, with this virus, because we don`t have anything to stop it, except basically common sense.
MADDOW: One of the things that you wrote about this weekend in the "times" that I`ve been thinking a lot about is the idea of giving people an option to quarantine away from their families. And you wrote about some of the controversy and the differences of expert opinion on whether or not America could pull that off and some people saying Americans, you could never separate them from their families for this sort of thing, they would never do it and other people say, given the option of recuperate somewhere safely where they weren`t risking infecting their parents or their kids or their relatives, a lot of people, a lot of Americans would elect to be in that kind of facility if it was safe and if it was free.
Where do you come down on whether or not America should be trying to do that? Epidemiologically, it is obviously the wiser way to do it. But in the real world, do you think we could have those kinds of recuperation and isolation centers for people to be on their own?
MCNEIL: Absolutely. I mean look, I think it`s a mistake to think the Chinese are wildly different from us. The Chinese love their families as much as we do. The Chinese originally in Wuhan were reluctant to be taken away from their families and in China, children were taken away from their families and taken into pediatric centers to recuperate, and no one liked that. And yes, there were some people who were literally dragged out by the police, and flung into ambulances kicking and screaming.
But ultimately, it became clear, if you -- if you see the infection rate within families, and you see the older members of the family get very sick, or die, you begin to realize, you know, this is a good policy, to, I mean imagine, if you had any infectious disease, you wouldn`t want to give it to your family. And so it is actually an act of love to separate from your family, rather than an act of love to insist that, you know, Katy barred the door, don`t let the health inspectors in, and I`m not going to do.
So after some resistance, people will do as they did in China, as they have had in Singapore and as they have in a number of other countries. It just, I mean once again, it`s the two-by-four to the head of the mule in the beginning to make people realize the wisdom of the thing.
MADDOW: Donald McNeil, "New York Times" health and science reporter -- sir, thanks very much for your reporting on this and for coming back to talk to us again. I appreciate it.
MCNEIL: Thank you for inviting me.
MADDOW: All right, much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: I want to give you a report on something I just mentioned in that conversation with Don McNeil from "The Times".
We reported Friday night here on the show about a growing coronavirus hot spot, outbreak, place to worry about, in Grand Island, Nebraska, Grand Island is the third largest city in the great state of Nebraska. As of Friday, Grand Island`s per capita infection rate was higher than in some areas of the country that have the worst nationally known outbreaks.
But in Grand Island, the ICU at the one local hospital they`ve got was almost full as of last week. Things haven`t improved since we last checked in. The infection rate is still growing in Hull County, which is the county there, more than 50 new cases being reported each day. The director of the health department there said Grand Island, Nebraska, is quote going into a rather dark couple of weeks.
Both she and the mayor of Grand Island have asked the Republican governor of Nebraska, Pete Ricketts, to please issue a stay-at-home order to try to help slow down the spread of the virus, to reduce the number of deaths but the government govern said no, not statewide and no they can`t do it locally. Nebraska is one of the only states in the country now without any kind of stay-at-home order anywhere in the state.
And now, on top of that, this week, the Nebraska Crossing Mall, in Gretna, Nebraska, just outside Omaha, they`re planning to reopen their doors as of this week, as of this Friday morning. The owner of the mall says he wants to give the retailers in his mall the opportunity to test out best practices for how they will ultimately open up all their stores nationwide. He wants Nebraska Crossing opened first. It`s right on the interstate, too. So people can come from all over.
What this means is that in lieu of a statewide stay-at-home order, this one mall owner in Nebraska is setting his own experimental health care policy, for that whole part of Nebraska, and honestly anybody who wants to drive there.
The employees at that mall are not pleased to be involved in that grand experiment. One store manager at the mall telling the local ABC affiliate in Omaha, quote, we don`t want to go risk our lives and our health so people can come shop.
Another saying the mall reopening is, quote, making us look like we signed up to guinea pigs. It`s not only the mall employees who are pulling the alarm here. We talked to the Nebraska Hospital Association, asking for their professional opinion about whether or not this mall in their state should be reopened, but this week, they gave us a stark answer. Quote: This move is in direct contradiction with public health guidelines. Quite simply, it is irresponsible for a nonessential retailer to open its doors to the public at this time. Quite simply irresponsible.
In this, these few holdout state, the ones who have refused from the beginning to tell anybody to stay at home, right, refusing to tell businesses to shut down, we are starting to see the effect of that lack of statewide policy. Activities are continuing, resuming, over the objection of local and state health officials even as local case numbers and local outbreaks start to spike.
One alarmed local official who has been doing his best against very stiff opposition in these circumstances is going to join us next. You will want it meet him. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It started with Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the single pork processing plant that for a while was the nation`s largest coronavirus outbreak, more than 800 cases of COVID-19 associated with that one plant. In terms of being the largest outbreak in the country, that pork facility has been overtaken as of tonight by a prison in Marion, Ohio.
But that one epic outbreak at the South Dakota meat processing plant was just the beginning. Here`s Sioux fall, South Dakota, on the map, where that outbreak was. Drive an hour east of there, northeast of there, and you will hit Worthington, Minnesota, which is home, basically, east of there, right, home to the JBS pork processing plant, where more than two dozen employees have also tested positive. Both of those two plants you just saw on the map are now closed for the time being, the one in South Dakota and the one in Minnesota.
It may be no coincidence that the fate of those two plants are sort of twinned. The governor of Minnesota has pointed out, quote, there are a lot of family members that work in both those plants, only about an hour apart.
We have seen outbreaks like this though, in state after state, nearly a dozen meat packing plants in a dozen states have closed because their workers have been getting sick and because nobody can quite figure out how meat processing workers can safely work alongside one another without running the risk of transmitting the virus among them.
One of the states that has had trouble is Iowa. Over the weekend, Iowa saw its biggest one-day spike in new cases driven largely by new positive tests at meat packing plants. Just in the past hour, Black Hawk County, Iowa is reporting that 42 percent of its coronavirus cases are coming from the local Tyson Fresh Meats plant, which is in the town of Waterloo.
Three hundred and fifty-six cases and three deaths countywide in Black Hawk County as of this morning, they believe that 42 percent of that total comes from that one plant. That plant, in Black Hawk County, Iowa, is nevertheless, still open, still running. The governor says she has no intention of closing it so the plant remains open over the vocal objection of local officials including the Black Hawk County official who has been inside the plant himself, who has been very critical of conditions inside the plant, saying he believes that the company operating the plant is more concerned about the production rates than worker safety.
The sheriff of Black Hawk County said quote, my personal opinion is it should be closed. We need a hard boot reset on that plant. I think we need to be able to sort out and cull the herd between the haves and have-nots there. I think we need to deep clean that facility and I think we need to restart that plant on a clean slate.
Well, that was before the latest numbers rolled in.
Joining us now is Tony Thompson, who is the sheriff in Black Hawk County, Iowa.
Sheriff Thompson, I`m so grateful that you took time to be with us tonight. Thank you, sir.
SHERIFF TONY THOMPSON, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IOWA: It`s my pleasure, thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So if you could tell us a little bit about the plant in Waterloo, in Black Hawk County, that has had this outbreak, the governor has talked about her concern, that there is a considerable outbreak there. I know it is a large facility, it employs a lot of local people, I know you`ve been inside and you have been critical about whether or not they have done what needs to be done to keep people who are working there safe.
THOMPSON: Sure, it`s a plant that employs about 2,700 employees. They process about 20,000 head of hog a day. It is a big part of the agri- business, agri-economy of the Black Hawk County, Waterloo, and the state of Iowa. So I don`t disparage the governor`s opinion that certainly with an agricultural-based economy, that this is important.
But having been plant and recognizing -- don`t necessarily blame the local plant management, staff. They`re probably walking that precarious tight rope between, you know, corporate Tyson policy as well as what they feel in their heart is right, but what we saw a week ago Friday with less than maybe a third of the plant wearing proper masks and PPE and knowing at that point that they had positive test cases coming out of that Tyson plant, today, we got 356 cases and three deaths.
You know, that plant is the biggest hole in our county defense right now and it`s creating a risk to the entire 132,000 to 135,000 population of my county. And for me to sit back and idly allow that to go unchecked or not mentioned and fight for it is absolutely wrong.
MADDOW: We have seen the company say their worker safety is their highest priority. We know how important the plant is economically, we know how important plants like this are collectively in terms of the nation`s food supply. Absolutely, nobody is questioning those things.
But it s disturbing to hear you say last week after they had a lot of cases at that plant, less than a third of people at that plant were wearing masks.
Do you feel like it`s within the county`s power or within the state`s power to compel the panel to create safer conditions if they are going to keep this thing going, to make sure that everybody has masks to do other things to keep employees further apart from another, to do anything else that public health officials believe would be necessary to stop the case numbers from going up there?
THOMPSON: One of the reasons our county officials all got together and signed this letter to Tyson corporate was to encourage them to be good partners, to be good citizens with us, to recognize that every time somebody leaves that plant carrying the virus out of that plant with them, they`re giving it to their families at home. They`re going to the shopping center that all the rest of us are grocery shopping at.
They`re knowingly allowing those folks, their employees to put all the rest of us at greater risk and so locally, at that city, county level, we don`t have the ability to compel them to close or to work with us to try and come up with a creative ingenious way of -- I think I used that hard boot reset kind of approach but the state has that authority. The Iowa department of public health and certainly the governor has the ability to do that. She said she won`t.
But at this point, our numbers jumped from 192 to 356 in two days and we are probably going to continue on this trend, if I pay attention to the numbers that are disease investigators are paying attention to at the county health department level. We`re on pace to be over 1,000 simply because we`re trace -- contract tracing and surveillance monitoring all of these folks and surveillance testing all of these folks. It`s -- the danger is real right now, and unfortunately, the risks are significant for not just people that work in that plant.
Until we can get that plant clean, until we can figure out who has it and who doesn`t, we`re putting everybody in my county at risk.
MADDOW: Tony Thompson, the sheriff in Black Hawk County, Iowa. Thank you for speaking out about this publicly the way you have. I`m sure this is incredibly challenging and scary in Black Hawk County. Thanks also for letting us know at the national level what`s going on and, sir, I ask you to please keep us apprised and come back to let us know how things are going as you continue to pursue this at the local level. I really appreciate it.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: An employee working at a hospital in Las Vegas says that she felt pressure to go to work despite feeling sick. She later registered a 102 fever while she was on the job. She told a supervisor and her supervisor reportedly said in response, quote, take some Tylenol and you`ll be fine, just go back to work.
That`s disturbing in any context in the middle of an epidemic of a contagious disease but particularly worrying and particularly news-worthy here because the hospital in question here in Las Vegas is run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It`s part of largest health care system in the country, one directly by the federal government.
And yes, that is just one hospital employee`s account but it is part of some harrowing new reporting from government executive that includes multiple accounts of V.A. staff saying they somewhat systematically are being pressured to continue working at V.A. medical facilities, even when they`re sick or even after they have known exposures to coronavirus patients.
V.A. officials instituted policies under which employees that work with COVID-19 positive patients before their status was known and therefore not wearing proper equipment should nevertheless continue to work until they themselves developed symptoms.
According to employees at multiple V.A. facilities those who take time off to self-isolate without experiencing symptoms risk being labeled AWOL, absent without leave, which is a status that cuts off your paycheck and negatively affects any future pay. One nurse says when the virus first started to spread, employees were told to quarantine to 14 days after exposure, that was reduced to seven days and three and now nurses must continue to working unless they develop symptoms even when they know they`ve been exposed.
At this point, the V.A. has a long history of happy talking the situation on the ground in their facilities terms of whether or not there is adequate protective equipment for their staff, what the rate of exposure is for their staff. I mean, we`re seeing the V.A. say things that seem not credible when you compare them with a ground truth from their employees at multiple levels through this epidemic.
The question has been why? Why the V.A. has been trying to keep glaring unmet needs under wraps and secret from the public? Well, tomorrow night, we`re going to have a special report on that, among many other things.
That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll 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