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Tyson meat plant TRANSCRIPT: 4/29/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Tony Thompson, Paul Krugman

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Appreciate it.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you us with.

So, if you`ve been watching the show for the last few weeks, you know we`ve been trying in touch with front line health providers throughout this crisis. I think that`s sort of a no-brainer. They ought to be at the center of our understanding of what`s really grasping the country right now, what we`re going through. What it means to have over a million coronavirus cases, and climbing. What it means to have had over 60,000 Americans die from this, just in a matter of weeks, with that number still just climbing relentlessly.

The president`s son-in-law who is a senior White House adviser with no fixed responsibilities, Jared Kushner just went on TV today and called the American coronavirus catastrophe a, quote, great success story for the Trump administration. It is not, obviously. With the hugest outbreak on Earth, even though we have the luxury of weeks, even months of warning that it was coming, with now more Americans dead in less than two months, than died in all of the years of the Vietnam War.

It is not a great success story for America. It is certainly not a great success story for the administration that has not been leading a response.

So you probably noticed the pattern here, right? We`ve sort of tried to steer clear of the happy talk weirdness as much as we can reasonably avoid it from Washington and instead, we have tried to focus almost on a daily basis on the American doctors and nurses and health providers who are in the middle of it, who are really risking their lives to keep the rest of us alive. They, of course, are also the ones who will pay most acutely for any decisions that we and our government make in terms of accelerating the spread of the virus again, by stopping a stay at home orders, and reopening nonessential businesses.

We don`t have a vaccine for this. We don`t have a treatment for this. The only thing we can do is stay apart from other people, to stop the virus spreading so fast. That`s the only thing we`ve got. That is really the only way we can stop piling dying Americans by the thousands and tens of thousands into the arms of our doctors and nurses who are doing the hardest work on earth, fighting to keep people alive in the biggest coronavirus epidemic on earth. So, we`ve tried to stay in touch with them. We tried to keep hearing from them on their own terms as much as we can.

But tonight, here`s one that I want you to see that did not come to us because we asked the doctor or a nurse to put on a GoPro or grab their phone, and make a video for us. This is something that we got from Waterloo community television in Black Hawk County, Iowa. And I`ll just tell you, the reason I want to show this to you is that, my God, if there is one thing that I have seen in about a week that has made me sit down and try to figure out if I`m doing enough, if there is anything else that I can do, I think it was seeing this.

Maybe that`s in part because I`m not sure anybody involved in this ever thought it would be seen outside Black Hawk County, Iowa. Here`s Black Hawk County on a map if you want to picture it. Here`s the big Tyson meat processing plant there where apparently hundreds of people got infected on the job and the state kept the plant open anyway through last week.

But now, little Black Hawk County, Iowa, population 130,000 in the whole county, now, because of the outbreak that started in that plant, they`ve got over 1,300 coronavirus cases in that county. And they`ve got a climbing death toll.

And no, they don`t have a ton of health care resources in that county. They just don`t. They`re not designed for a pandemic. But that is what they are coping with now.

And so, I want you to meet tonight, the medical director of one of their local clinics, her name is Dr. Sharon Duclos.

This again the Waterloo community television. And you can hear the White House, or the conservative TV, or your home state governor, brag about how things are better, we`re over this, and this isn`t New York City here, and trying to stop this virus is worse than the virus itself. Just introduce them to Dr. Duclos in the middle of Iowa.


DR. SHARON DUCLOS, PEOPLES COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC CO-MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WATERLOO, IA: Thank God there are a lot of people that have not been personally touched by this. And thank God there are a lot of people out in that don`t know somebody that has been personally touched by this. But for people who work in the health care profession, they are the front lines of this. And they`ve had to go through that emotional rollercoaster of feeling the wave that`s coming.

Initially, you know it`s coming, you`re watching New York City, you`re watching all of that, that you go through, but you`re a distance away, you`re seeing it, but not really feeling it, you feel sympathy, you`re like oh, my gosh, that`s just so, I`m so sorry for them, but you`re still over here, feeling A-OK. And then it gets a little closer. And then it starts to hit your community. And then we saw the surge.

And then we felt that emotional, OK, here it comes, this wave is now coming, here comes the tsunami. And then you change a little bit more, as far as working around, how many positions can I change to really take care of this wave of people if they come in.

And as you do that, then you`re trying to take care of your staff, who start to feel like they start to get sick. And so as the wave comes in, then you have a portion of your staff that`s out, because you`re worried about illness, and they don`t feel well.

So, you get over that. And then people going to the hospital, and then finally, finally, you start to see the death. And I think that`s the thing that really gets you, is you see the impact on the family who have to sit at home and can`t be with their loved one, who have to FaceTime, as somebody is going through one of the most traumatic experiences of their life. We`re going to FaceTime.

And that`s the part that finally gets very overwhelming, and I know in our organization, that is what we`re feeling, and that`s what I`ve been feeling, and it`s hard, because you start to go through the grief of realizing again this is not a sprint, it`s a marathon. You have to set your mind to work on your stamina.

As the governor announces the opening, now more than ever, and especially in Black Hawk County, the social distancing is so important. And for me, it is, I think about what would the person say to me who just died from this, how would they advocate helping other people not go through what they just went through, so that`s what I think about.

So for the other businesses, churches, restaurants, think about your community, and think about your actions, and think about how you can best serve the greater good. And really, really work on social distancing, because I can tell you, it is a heavy load to carry. And my biggest fear, as I encourage my staff to come to work every day, and be compassionate and help people, is, my biggest fear is I`m going to lose one of them, and then I have to carry on my shoulders, because I`m asking them to do a service that I realize it is very hard.

And I`m asking them, I know they`ve got that pit in the middle of their stomach, and you get up and you come to work, and you think, OK, is this the day, so please, work on the social distancing, please help people out, so the number of deaths that we have to endure are minimized as much as they can. That`s my plead today. Thank you.


MADDOW: So the number of deaths that we have to endure are minimized as much as they can. Black Hawk County, Iowa. Waterloo, Iowa. The impact on the doctors there, that`s the medical director of one of their clinics, I mean that`s what happens, when you get a big outbreak of hundreds of cases, that happens among the people who work at a meat processing plant, somewhere in America.

And it`s not just a food supply chain issue. It`s not just an issue of the economics of those plants. It`s not even just the immense tragedy of hundreds of people from the same workplace all getting sick, and a number of them starting to die.

I mean, these huge outbreaks of hundreds of cases in the places where we`re getting big outbreaks, at meat plant, at prisons, at big jails, at nursing homes, at all of the places we now know we as Americans are doing the worst job keeping people alive and keeping them from being infected, all of the places we`re seeing these -- the worst outbreaks, these are not islands of individual failure, where these infection explosions are confined within the four walls of these facilities, these are all outbreaks, of a very contagious communicable disease, that then creates not only immense infection inside that facility but a large outbreak of new infection and mild illness and severe illness and ultimately death, around wherever those facilities are.

And that is what then pours into and pours over whatever hospital and health, and ultimately morgue resources there are in that area. And that is why it is more than just bad, that the places that have so many of these huge outbreaks often tend to be the places politically that want to open stuff up, the fastest, or who never shut down nonessential businesses, and told people to stay at home in the first place.


DR. DAN GLASCOCK, UNITY POINT HEALTH/ALLEN HOSPITAL MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WATERLOO, IA: As the incidence of, has the incidence of health care workers coming down with the COVID-19, impacted our services and the answer is yes, and we have nurses that are being exposed to it, we have lots of people that are getting tested now.

And it`s not just Unity Point clinic, it`s the health care workers across the Cedar Valley. So it is every one of our organizations, and the nursing homes, and anybody that`s involved in health care, that`s where we`re starting to see the numbers start to climb. So that`s a major problem.

And as we continue to see a surge in the hospital, we are moving more resources and more people into the hospital to try to address the care that our patients need there, and they`re doing the same thing at Mercy One, so that is taking more patients, or more nurses and staff and putting them directly in harm`s way, to take care of the patients that need to be taken care of.


MADDOW: The medical director at the main hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. They just had to build a second respiratory clinic at that facility because of the high volume of patients that are now surging in that hospital in acute respiratory need because they are COVID patients.

With that unfolding, in Black Hawk County, including now starting to lose health care staff, as the patient numbers surge in the hospitals and the clinics, with the Sioux City, Iowa area, also being another place in that state with one of the fastest-growing outbreaks on the planet right now, with that problem they`ve got in Black Hawk County, with the problem they`ve got around Sioux City, Iowa Republican Governor Kay Reynolds this week is ordering businesses in Iowa to open up.

And she has now threatened workers in the state of Iowa that if for some reason they are afraid of unsafe conditions at their workplace, if you`re worried about the way your workplace is set up, poses a risk of you getting infected on the job, well, tough. According to your governor, you have to go anyway. The governor is ordering businesses back open and going a step further, explicitly ordering that if you believe your workplace isn`t safe and so you don`t show up for work, she will zero out any unemployment benefits that you have been getting.

Governor Pete Ricketts, also a Republican governor in Nebraska, is doing the same thing to working people in his state as well.

But this is what`s emerging as Republican Party policy, or maybe strategy, now that we`ve got over 60,000 Americans dead.

"The New York Times" today reporting on a, quote, network of conservative leader, donors and organizations that has launched a legal onslaught against state and local restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. "The Times" further reporting that these conservative groups mounting this effort have become, quote, emboldened in recent days, by ever-more-explicit signs that the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department may take their side, to help them legally dismantle public health efforts to slow the virus and to limit the death toll. And they`re doing this because, because, well, this is what they`re doing, because that`s how the administration and the Republican Party and the conservative media are going to want to go down in history here?

Sixty thousand Americans dead. Yes. Sounds like a good start. What else can we do?

I mean, it`s one thing if this had been their take from the outset, right, before Americans started dying in huge numbers. We`re going to legally challenge anything you do to try to slow this virus or slow the death toll from piling up. It would be one thing if they had take than stance from the very beginning but they didn`t take that stance from the beginning. This increasingly is the unified position now, now that this many Americans have died this quickly. Now that we`ve outpaced by four months the date by which the favored White House model said we hit this many Americans dead.

They say we may be at 61,000 Americans dead the first week in August. Well, it`s still April and here we are.

So, now, is what they really want to put the screws to the doctors and the nurses and the hospitals. Let`s see how high we can get the body count. Let`s see how many people we can get infected all at the same time. It`s just now, now`s the time? It`s just incredible to see, to live through this.

It is hard to imagine what would be appropriate political accountability at the ballot box for people who are doing this at some point. But that`s where we are. That`s where the Republican Party is, that`s where the conservative media is. That`s where the administration is.

And so the president issued this executive order late last night mandating the opening of meat processing plants across the country, technically, despite the hype and the way they build it, he didn`t really order meat plants to stay open. He basically just moved to block any state from being able to close a meat plant.

But just think about this for one hot second. Why have meat plants been closing all over the place, right? Why have meat plants been closing? It`s not like it`s been some blue state plot to make everybody a vegan or to make meat packing look bad.

These plants have been closing in all of these different states all over the country for one very simple, very consistent reason, because these facilities are in the elite, the very top rung of the places in America where the most people are being infected the most quickly by this virus. They have proved to be an incredibly efficient location for creating enormous outbreaks of coronavirus and all of the subsequent hospitalizations and deaths that come from that.

I mean, to the point where otherwise stoic doctors in the heartland who have never before been known to cry in public, medical directors of hospitals in northeastern Iowa are weeping in public over the toll on their doctors and nurses, right, begging the public, please, do social distancing even though the governor is telling you it`s all fine to open now, to the point now where today the county health director could barely get it out.


DR. NAFISSA CISSE EGBOUNYE, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IA PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: To all of the frontline staff, especially to our health care providers, thank you for everything that you are doing. We value every single effort you make to save every life.

This is a very difficult time, so if you see me emotional, it`s just because it`s very difficult, and I want everybody to take this very seriously. COVID has had a huge impact on the community.

As much as I hear, you know, with the communication that things are opening up, what I`m asking for Black Hawk County is to pleased continue to implement these preventative measures, I need you all to not give up. I know it`s been very difficult, but please do not give up. By staying home, you are saving a life.


MADDOW: That`s what is happening in northeastern Ohio after the outbreak that started in their Tyson meat plant which employs thousands of people there. But that`s what is happening in America right now with this epidemic.

In Weld County, Colorado, where the local Republican board of supervisors is demanding that all businesses open up, and no statewide orders apply to them, Weld County, Colorado, they`ve got one of the worst infection rates in the state in that county, in part because of an outbreak of unknown size as a 6,000-person JBS meat plant.

The U.S. senator in Colorado, Corey Gardner, has been bragging recently about his role in directing 5,000 tests to that plant once they realized they had a real problem there. Well, 5,000 tests still wouldn`t be enough tests to test everybody who works at that plant, but in any case, the plant did not even try to test all of its workers before reopening this past week.

Already five people who work there are dead. Already the public health system in that part of Colorado is raising the alarm about the strain they are facing in terms of the surge into the northern Colorado hospitals because they`ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases there now. But the plant is back up and running.

In Minnesota, today, Governor Tim Walz, visited a plant in the town of Worthington, Minnesota, that has hundreds of cases associated with it, too. There`s no reason for Nobles County, Minnesota, to have over 600 coronavirus cases, except for the fact that they have a JBS pork plant there, where apparently hundreds of people have been infected on the job because of the way the plant is set up.

In Dakota county, Nebraska, there`s a Tyson plant there that didn`t report its first case until April 12th, which is not long ago. They have their first case, April 12th, they`ve now got 608 known cases.

In Crete, Nebraska, which I think is how you say it, Crete, Nebraska. It`s a small town of about 7,000 people, 25 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska, they have at least four dozen employees tested positive this weekend and the plant announced plans to close temporarily to clean the plant down and try to come up with pleasures to keep the workers safe. But then the plant reversed that decision and told the workers actually no, we`re not going to shut down, we`re going to stay open.

And after they told the workers this re going to change their mind to stay open, the workers at the plant walked off the job, an impromptu walkout, not organized or approved by the union, they just didn`t know what else to do to try to get the company to make the necessary changes to keep them safe.

There are actually fairly good up to date federal guidelines about how workplaces like this can be run without continuing to infect their workers by the dozens and the hundreds, thereby creating large outbreaks of coronavirus, all over the country, wherever these plants exist. And the guidelines are not rocket science. But they are carefully derived by experts.

And they involve some expense and some stuff the plants presumably don`t want to do. They did tell them to consider slowing the line speeds down. They don`t want to do that. Space the workers more than six feet apart. Don`t have the workers work right across from each other, facing each other.

Provide everybody with masks. Disinfect everybody`s hardhats and face shields every day. Slow down or space out break times and shift times so there isn`t a time when everybody is crammed together in the same room or corridor. Let people wash their hands frequently, and put hand sanitation stations everywhere.

And these guidelines make sense. They are certainly doable things if we want to continue to be a country that continues to have meat processing but they`re only doable with some considerable time and expense invested on the part of the people who invest these plants. Well, we know how this works in a regulatory environment, right?

Unless you mandate it, unless you require every plant to do these things, you will create a competitive disadvantage for any plant that does this stuff, if the other plants don`t, because they don`t have to. Because of that, you have to make them all do it. You have to make a blanket rule. You have to make guidelines like that, mandatory, or not only will there be some plants who don`t do it, because they want to skate, you will economically disincentivize compliance even among plants that might be inclined to do the right thing.

You have to make these guidelines mandatory and universal or you will not get them. And that is how a functioning government would approach it. That is not what our government is doing.

Instead, today, we got a hold of this. It`s the enforcement memo that goes along with the president`s late night executive order from last night which banned any state from shutting down a meat plant. This was the "Trump is ordering the meat plants open" thing. It is really him blocking the states from shutting them down.

Since received, the enforcement memo how they are actually going to do this and the enforcement memo says yes, there are these existing, good, CDC- derived federal guidelines how meat plants can operate without infecting all of their employees. There are guidelines, there`s ways to do it.

But the enforcement memo for the president`s executive order explicitly says, the Trump administration will not actually make any plant follow these guidelines. Quote: No part of the joint meat processing guidance should be construed to indicate that state and local authorities may direct a meat and poultry processing facility to close, to remain closed or operate in accordance with procedures. OSHA will take into effect good faith attempts, attempts, to follow the joint meat processing guidance.

Just do your best, you guys. I mean really, it`s whatever you think is best. Make a good faith effort. That`s all we`re looking for here. Give it the old college try.

When the H1N1 virus was rearing its head in 2009, the administration decided that the guidelines for preventing the transmission of that virus, the guidelines worked out by the CDC and OSHA, the government decided, the Obama administration decided in 2009 that those guidelines would be binding. You can do that through the Department of Labor, establish an emergency temporary standard, and you require, in that case, places like nursing homes and hospitals, to follow those guidelines, to prevent infection, because that made sense to do.

You don`t say these are the guidelines but nobody has to follow them. That will ensure that nobody follows them. Instead, you create the guidelines and you make them mandatory. That`s what they did with H1N1 in the Obama administration. It takes a signature.

There`s no reason why the Trump administration could not do exactly the same thing with the guidance they have already drawn up for these meat plants that have infected thousands of blue collar workers in this country, and that has started to swamp the hospitals and working class and middle class and rural communities all through the Ag Belt already.

They literally could just do it. And likely save hundreds, thousands, arguably tens of thousands of lives. They could do it with a stroke of a pen. Why aren`t they doing it?

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: A little over a week ago, you might remember, we spoke with the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa, which is in the middle of a large and growing coronavirus outbreak tied to the giant Tyson meatpacking plant in the town of Waterloo. Black Hawk County at that point, a week ago, had 356 cases and three deaths. They tied roughly half of those cases back to that one Tyson meat plant.

But the sheriff there, along with the county board of supervisors and the board of health and the mayor of Waterloo, they were all begging Tyson, the plant`s owner, or Iowa`s governor, Kay Reynolds, to please shut that plant down given the impact the outbreak there was having on the surrounding community. The sheriff said on this program last week, quote, that plant is the biggest hole in our defense right now and creating a risk to the entire population of my county.

Well, two days after we spoke to the sheriff last week, Tyson did finally close down that plant. They closed it in part, they said, because so many of the 2,700 workers at that plant were out sick. The sheriff and the Waterloo mayor both welcomed the plant finally closing, both of them said they worried it had come too late for their community. That was last week in Black Hawk County.

Here`s the sheriff this week now that just as they feared, cases have skyrocketed. I just said 350 cases roughly when we talked to him last week. Now, the cases are up over 1,300.


SHERIFF TONY THOMPSON, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IA: One percent of our population is now infected, and that`s the 1 percent that we have tested and that we are aware of, that we know of, and we know certainly there are more asymptomatic and people who haven`t been tested that are still out there. I hear corporate Tyson talking about how this community COVID spread is impacting their operations. And it makes me want to jump up out of my chair to say their operations is negatively, has negatively impacted the COVID spread in my community.

You can`t jump 500 people in testing positive and not have somebody stand up and say, listen, folks, this is real. We can`t let it sit without comment.

Today should be that wakeup day because we`re over a thousand cases. We`re almost double the second highest county.


MADDOW: Almost a thousand cases, that was yesterday. As of today, Black Hawk County, Iowa, has 1,326 confirmed cases. There have been more than a dozen deaths already and the local hospitals are filling up, one Waterloo hospital adding a second respiratory unit in the past few days to try to deal with the high volume of COVID patients.

The county`s public health director saying now that over 90 percent of the cases they got in the county can be traced to the Tyson meatpacking outbreak in one way or another.

And now, President Trump says that is time to open that plant back up. Executive order, no more shutting down meatpacking plans. Open them all back up, with no binding guidance in terms of how they should prevent their workers from continually getting infected in huge numbers. No binding guidance.

If Tyson decides to reopen that giant plant, because of the president`s executive order last night, nobody can tell them no if they decide to. What is that going mean for local officials and local hospitals trying to cope in a place like Black Hawk County?

Joining us now is Tony Thompson, who is the sheriff there.

Sheriff, thank you so much for coming back. When you were here, I said at the end of our discussion last week that I`d really love to have you come back and apprise us of the latest. I am sad to know that it`s more than 1,000 cases down the road in just that week`s time. But thank you for being here, sir.

THOMPSON: It is absolutely my pleasure. I wish we were talking about something that was more positive. I wish we could have an update that said we were on top of this. But certainly it`s now outrunning us and so absolutely frustrating for me to know that my citizens --

MADDOW: Did we just lose his audio for a second? Do we have a backup audio with the sheriff that we can -- get him on the phone for a second? This sometimes happens with the remote studio that I`m in and he is joining in by Skype.

Oh, Sheriff, are you back with us?

THOMPSON: We could do it this way. Absolutely.

MADDOW: God bless you. See, sheriffs always have another way.

THOMPSON: I`m sorry.

MADDOW: It`s all right. If not by hook, then by crook. Let me just ask you to -- let me ask you to pick up where you left off there in terms of feeling like you`re not getting ahead of this, that it feels like it`s running away with you.

THOMPSON: Well, it is. It is frustrating that my citizens are so -- they`re more at risk than any other county in the state. Any citizens in the state of Iowa, at contracting COVID, and we know that 90 percent of that ,1326 that we are facing right now that tested positive is because of the Tyson plant. Ninety percent of that testing, it incenses me, and I almost feel like the full-page ad that John Tyson took out in the "New York Times" about how operations are being negatively impacted by this COVID spike, or this COVID spread, was like a shot over my bow and my citizens` bow when we know that it`s attributable to these inept reactionary and dysfunctional responses to what was happening in their plants.

MADDOW: From the testing that has happened at the plant in waterloo, we know that nearly half of the test results they got back were positive, showing something like 44 percent positive, among people working in that plant. Do you believe that they could operate safely enough to prevent further spread, to prevent more people from getting infected on the job when their work force has that many people who have been infected on the job?

THOMPSON: Well, look, the concern for us is clearly that Tyson is a big part of our agri economy, in the state of Iowa, in Black Hawk County, they`re an important partner for us, and we definitely want them to reopen. We recognize that those 2,700 employees probably live paycheck to paycheck. That`s an important thing for our economy. It`s an important thing for those employees.

But obviously, we`ve got to do this safely. And I don`t -- I don`t have a good feel right now that that`s possible.

But I think with that DPA that was released by the president, that we`re going to have any kind of control or say-so whatsoever at this point. I think again, if the good faith effort that I was seeing back on April 10th, when I walked through that plant, with the department of health, if that`s the good faith effort that they`re putting forth, from this point forward, forget about it. The hole that they blew in our front line of defense is already, the damage is already done.

Now, our front line of defense is in our correctional institution, it`s at our E.R. front doors, it`s at our long term care facilities and nursing homes front doors, we`ve already, we`re monitoring five long-term care and nursing home facilities. I`ve got a nurse and a food service worker in my own jail that have tested positive, because of, one was a roommate of a Tyson worker, the other one worked as a PRN nurse, at a long-term care facility, where a Tyson worker was married to a nurse that brought it into that facility.

I mean, this is ridiculous. And to have our governor opening things back up now, obviously, we`re concerned about the economy as well. But in our county, again, my biggest concern is my own citizens, and their public safety, and God, I wish I was chasing bad guys instead of chasing a virus.

MADDOW: Tony Thompson, the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa -- sir, I can hear the frustration in your voice, I know that you do not have to talk to national media about what is going on right there with everything else you`re dealing with, I appreciate you taking the time and I do want you to come back and keep us apprised.

I`m really worried about your county and a few other counties in that part of the country dealing with similar situations right now and I feel like we need to stay in touch to let the country know what`s happening.

THOMPSON: Sincerely my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Sheriff.

We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: There`s a panel of 17 CEOs, hospital officials, state and local government officials, whose job it is now to advise the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, about what Massachusetts should do about that state`s sizable epidemic when it comes to trying to save and restart parts of the Massachusetts economy.

The outbreak in Massachusetts is bad. There`s now more than 60,000 cases in the state, more than 3,400 deaths in the state already. It was 3,405 as of 4:00 p.m. today.

Thinking about what to do with existing stay at home policies, whether and when and how to open up businesses, it is definitely a hard decision. It`s hard for all states. It`s all the more difficult and all the more consequential in a state that has a big epidemic already.

But in Massachusetts they`ve also got a big really advanced health sector, including on the academic side. And that`s what makes it very interesting, that there is another tool that can advise the governor now on what he ought to do. Mass General Hospital, Massachusetts General, along with Harvard Medical School and Boston University and also Georgia Tech, they created a tool that they call the COVID-19 simulator. It doesn`t simulate the virus, it simulates the effect of policies designed to limit the spread of the virus.

It is a tool that basically lets policy makers play out different scenarios. Do you lock down businesses in the state? Do you lift all restrictions? Do you try something in the middle?

This is a tool that`s designed to show you what the consequences of that decision might be, given the state of the epidemic right now, and when you might want to make this policy change. The simulator lets you do this for all 50 states. You can get online yourself, and fiddle around with it. You can make yourself a decision maker and see if you can make good calls.

But just take a look at Massachusetts, right, which is currently under a stay-at-home order. The governor says it is going to be there until at least May 18th. OK.

Well, according to the simulator, this is what it looks like, if Massachusetts keeps doing what it`s doing for the next few months. If Governor Baker leaves intact the measures that he`s got right now, the state will go from 3,400 deaths as of today, and those deaths will rise, they will however level off over the summer, until by the end of August, the state will reach a total number of deaths that is right around 4,900 -- 4,900 deaths by the end of august with policy as it is right now.

But if instead restrictions are lifted by the governor, let`s say before the end of may, soon after the current restrictions are due to expire, well, then what happens? Then what happens is that the death count explodes. And by the end of August, Massachusetts would not have 4900 deaths, it would have more than 27,000 deaths. That`s if they dropped the policies they`ve got now before the end of May.

That`s the difference for one state, for Massachusetts. Between having solid public health policy in place, and not, between keeping things as they are, or ripping the lid off. More than 22,000 dead residents in one state before the end of the summer.

And that is just one model. Again, that`s Mass General, Harvard Medical School, B.U., and Georgia Tech, there are a whole bunch of different models out there. But that`s kind of a well-sourced thing.

And obviously, it`s scary for all of the front line reasons, unless of course you look at those absolutely preventable 22,000 deaths and decide, well, yes, 22,000 dead, but we`ve really got to get the economy going.

That kind of thinking is what brings us to our next guest tonight, and the next big mistake that the country is making right this second.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Today, we got another punishing round of economic news. The economy shrank in the first three months of the year by an annualized rate of almost 5 percent. Not only is that by far the worst economic quarter since the 2008 financial disaster but we know the worst is yet to come. Economists warn that in this current quarter the economy could be shrinking at a rate of 30 percent.

Already more than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs in five weeks. Tomorrow, we`re going to get the latest weekly report on job losses. Economists expect another 3.5 million Americans to have filed for unemployment this week.

Americans losing jobs by the million, tens of millions, across the economy, from companies, but it`s also from town halls and local libraries. It`s from everywhere.

This is I think the very important headline in "The Washington Post" about this mass layoffs begin in cities and states amid coronavirus fallout, threatening education, sanitation, health and safety.

In Dayton, Ohio, the city`s already furloughed a quarter of its workforce including at the city`s water department. In Baltimore, the cuts are slated to include furloughs for police officers and firefighters. I mean, cities and states are broke right now just like everybody`s broke right now.

But while Congress has passed roughly $3 trillion in economic relief, only a tiny sliver of that has gone to states and cities that are facing these huge budget shortfalls. And maybe you don`t care about that in the abstract. But when states and cities go bankrupt, they have to fire or at least furlough the people who work for them.

And the people who work for states and cities tend to be the people who make civilization basically possible. Unless you don`t particularly care for or need running potable water or trash pickup or cops or people who will come with a truck full of water and hoses if your house catches fire.

Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell first said that states should just go bankrupt. Then he said maybe Congress could help the states, if the states all agree to certain Republican political priorities.

If the idea is to prop up the economy, though, why aren`t police officers and teachers and firefighters and people who work at the water company seen as part of the economy? And setting aside the politics of any of this, how is this not a disastrous decision in terms of how we as Americans live and what we`re spending money on to try to keep our civilization together while our economy is in a coma?

Joining us now is Paul Krugman, "New York Times" columnist, Nobel Prize- winning economist and the author most recently of "Arguing with Zombies: Economics, Politics and the Fight for a Better Future."

Mr. Krugman, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.


MADDOW: Let me ask you if I said anything that seemed dumb there or if my frustration here is frustration that you share.

KRUGMAN: No, I mean, this is basically insane. We have -- there is no shortage of money. The federal government is running huge deficits, but it can. Right now, we can sell bonds. Washington can sell bonds at interest rates which are ridiculously low. Interest rates which one`s we adjust for inflation are actually negative.

So there`s essentially -- there`s no reason why we should be suffering. Things that have to be closed, restaurants have to be closed, big giant sports events have to be closed. There`s nothing that says that we should be laying off schoolteachers, that we should be laying off firefighters.

The money is there. But the money is in Washington. States and local governments are required to run balanced budgets. So, the obvious thing is to maintain these.

No unnecessary pain no, gratuitous suffering. There`s going to be a lot of -- this is going to be a difficult period. But we should minimize the harm.

But the trouble is that because of the rules of the game that money has to come from Washington and it`s completely insane to say, no, we`re not going to do that and to try to pretend that this epical, this Great Depression- level economic crisis is somehow the fault of the fiscal irresponsibility of progressive governments in blue states when in fact it`s nationwide and it`s completely -- again, has nothing to do with lack of wisdom. This is a vast natural disaster.

MADDOW: Do you see a way that this could be structured as a policy or even framed as an idea that could get broad Washington support and could move money quickly? I mean, I`m -- you know, I`m an American living through this just like anybody is. You but the idea that cops and firefighters and teachers and people who work as sanitation workers and people who work at the water department and other people who just do basic utility stuff that we need to keep ourselves together, that they`re at risk right now of furloughs gives me a great sense of urgency around this.

And I feel like you can read the politics as well as anybody. Do you see a way that this will get politically fixed?

KRUGMAN: I think there`s two things that may work in our favor. One is I think as this starts to bite, people get a much better sense of what we`re really talking about. Lots of people say I`m against government.

Then you say, well, do you think we should have fewer schoolteachers? Do you think we should have, you know, fire departments? Do you think we need to lay off policemen? They say no.

Well, that`s what state and local government is. State and local government is overwhelmingly education, first responders, public security, highways. It`s things that we all depend on.

The other thing is that, you know, governors, even Republican governors for the most part, I mean, not DeSantis, but for the most part Republican governors are aware of what`s really happening here. And if they imagine, if Mitch McConnell imagines that somehow this is only a New York problem or a New Jersey problem, whatever, he`s going to very quickly hear from governors of red states that it`s -- they`re in as much trouble.

And in some ways maybe even in more trouble. I`m looking at this a bit, places like Florida and Texas depend almost totally on sales taxes whereas New York or California depend on income taxes. And probably the sales tax revenue is going to fall faster than the income tax revenue.

So this is going to be -- we`re going to see desperate budget situations in Republican states. And hopefully those -- you know, the governors, the legislatures of those places will be burning up the phone lines to the Senate and saying Mitch, you know, this may sound great to you, but if you look at what`s actually happening to us on the ground we need that money. And it`s not at all hard to do. You could do this in a day. It wouldn`t be a perfect bill but you would save us from what will be otherwise catastrophic cuts in public services.

MADDOW: Really important point about those sort of coming political incentives.

"New York Times" columnist, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, it`s great to see you. Thanks for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.

KRUGMAN: Great to be on. Thank you.

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


MADDOW: Earlier in the hour tonight, I called Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Kay Reynolds. I have no idea why I did that. I didn`t realize I said it wrong, but I apologize. It`s Kim, not Kay. That said, I still maintain her coronavirus policies in Iowa are cray, so maybe that`s what happened.

That does it for me tonight. I will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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