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PPE shortage TRANSCRIPT: 4/30/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Safaa Elzakzoky, Keisha Lance Bottoms

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

Thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. Very happy to have you with us here tonight.

I`m going to start tonight with a little piece of video that I`m just going to say you might not want your kiddos to watch, just in the event that your kids are watching with you. It`s nothing gory or sexy or anything, and we have bleeped the swears, but there are many swears to be bleeped. And so you might just want to watch this yourself before the kids see, it better safe than sorry, you can always rewind me and restart if you decide it`s OK for them to see. I just wanted to give you fair warning.

What this is, is video we actually first got our hands on a couple of weeks ago, and it is out of Kansas, specifically out of a Kansas state prison. Lansing state correctional facility, which is just outside of Kansas City, Kansas.

And at the time that we first got this, we thought this might be a document that was important to a larger national news story. But it might be a bigger national news story than it seemed, specifically because of some of the things that prisoners can be heard saying on this video. But at the time, we first obtained this tape, we didn`t have any way to know for sure, we were intrigued by what we were hearing, but we didn`t have the factual backup.

Well, now, we know for sure. And now I think -- I think you should see this. And I will mention once again about watching the video with kids.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They aren`t giving us no healthcare for this coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what happen when you all got (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going afraid.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They aren`t giving us no help for these mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED). So we have to turn up real quick.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all want to give us no healthcare? You all want to give us no healthcare? This is what we do. All you had to do was give us a little (EXPLETIVE DELETED) health care.


MADDOW: Like I said, it`s a little hurly-burly. But that was a couple of weeks ago. A video shot by a prisoner, inside Lansing state prison in Kansas.

And, obviously, what`s going on there is the kind of thing that you would call an uprising, or a riot, or an incident of unrest, depending on your perspective or maybe depending on your politics, but the prisoners there did really tear the place up, in one of the cell blocks at that prison. It is a medium security prison.

As of that morning, the day they started tearing the place up, more than 14 members of the prison staff at Lansing had tested positive and had been sent home from work. Twelve prisoners who had tested positive had been moved into a medical isolation unit.

Now, we knew that from the prison on the day that the riot happened. But then this Facebook live contraband cell phone video got out, showing the riot, showing the prisoner saying, you aren`t giving us help with this coronavirus, you aren`t giving us health care, you want to give us no health care, well, this is what we do.

Just a couple of days after they got the prison back under control, there was this notice from the Kansas National Guard, announcing that Kansas National Guard medical staff were being brought in to help at that prison. Quote: Trained medical Kansas national guard professionals are assisting staff at Lansing correctional facility by supplementing medical support. The secretary of the state department of corrections saying, quote, we recognize the need for additional medical support at the facility.

So that`s what happened with the riot and then two days later, the national guard being brought in, not to restore order, they restored order the night that it happened, the national guard being brought in to surge medical capacity there.

Well, now, we have started to get the full, first full picture of what has really happened there, and the riot turns out to be just a crack in the window into this story. On Monday of this week, Lansing correctional facility reported that the first prisoner has died from coronavirus at that facility. Yesterday, Wednesday, the prison reported that a second prisoner had died from coronavirus at that facility.

The local NBC affiliate ran this feature on a 15-year veteran sergeant at the facility who quit and walked out over lack of protective gear for the people who work at that facility, he told the local NBC station that the spread of coronavirus inside the facility is completely unchecked with prisoners living five to a cell, in four-men cells, and even the guards are only wearing homemade cotton masks.

There are now 75 staff who have reportedly tested positive at that prison, prompting this headline from "The Kansas City Star", today: A dangerous situation, Lansing prison under stress, with 75 staff testing positive.

And, you know, when you have that, all those signs, when you have that many signs, all pointing in the same direction, really you know what you`re going to find, if you ultimately have the courage to look at what is happening there, if you ultimately have the courage and the resources to check.

Well, they have now started to test all of the prisoners at that prison, at the Lansing state correctional institution in Kansas. Quote: Early test results show that 75 percent of Lansing inmates have the virus. They started the process of universal testing in the prison and the initial results from the first sample there show 75 percent of them are positive.

So when those prisoners in Kansas were rioting a couple of weeks ago, tearing the place apart, saying we need help with this coronavirus, we need health care for this coronavirus, they were in fact, living in a unit where almost all of them would get infected with this disease, within just a couple of weeks. And now, two of them thus far are dead. And 75 staff are positive.

You know, we are far enough into this thing now, that we know where it is likely to be in large numbers. And we know for sure where it spreads the fastest, if we don`t take steps to stop it. We know that now. That said, it`s still hard to get tests in this country, even this far into it, even with nearly 63,000 Americans dead from this already, it is still hard to get testing here.

But we do know now from watching the contours of this epidemic, from watching the number, watching the red dots on the epidemiological maps sprout all over the country and then zooming in and figuring out where those are, we know now where we ought to be testing, if we only had tests. And it turns out, when we are able to test in those places, lo and behold, you find the virus in magnificent numbers.

So 75 percent of the prisoners at that prison where they rioted two weeks ago saying, we need help with coronavirus, 75 percent of those prisoners are positive. And we know that because they finally tested there. So far, the federal prison system has done full-scale testing in one prison at Terminal Island in California. They ran 1,055 tests on all the prisoners at Terminal Island, 443 of them tested positive.

They now started a medical build-out at that facility to try to handle the huge numbers of cases there. And the medical care there ultimately, they`re going to have to provide. And, of course, it`s not just prisons, we know where the biggest concentrations are of infection, we know where the most rapid and exhaustive spread of infection tends to happen in our country.

This, for example, is the headline today in "The Cleveland Plain Dealer". What happens when an entire nursing home is tested for coronavirus? More than half of the patients test positive at one Tallmadge, Ohio facility.

This is an Ohio nursing home where they believed they had one resident who had tested positive case. But then they got access to test, so they tested everyone. And of the 104 prisoners, excuse me, 104 residents that they had, 59 of the 104 were positive. They thought they had one case. They have 59 cases.

We have terrible and spotty and inconsistent access to testing in this country but there`s no mystery where we should be testing, to try to identify the most cases, and to try to stop the most spread. In a lot of these facilities at least, just the sheer death toll tells you where to look. We have thus far, just with a news search, of statements by state health directors, we have thus far been able to identify at least ten states in the United States of America, where the statewide death toll from coronavirus is mostly made up of nursing home residents. That`s where most of the death, is that`s where, there are the most Americans at risk of getting this thing and dying from it.

In Pennsylvania, it`s 65 percent of the deaths in that state are in nursing home and long-term care facilities. In Pennsylvania, one facility in Beaver County has had 58 Americans die within its walls. We learned today that a veterans` home in Chester, Pennsylvania, has had 27 American veterans die there.

And the great state of Maryland, the state now admits that more than 50 percent of their deaths are in nursing homes as well, Maryland interestingly, also announced today, that they will now mandate universal testing for all nursing home residents and staff. You might remember, Maryland just bought 500,000 coronavirus tests, from South Korea.

The governor of Maryland, his wife is an immigrant from Korea, she speaks fluent Korean, he got her on the phone with business connection, the family hopefully had or could make in Korea, they arranged for 500,000 tests to be flown over on a Korean airlines plane. The Governor Larry Hogan told "The Washington Post" he made the planes carrying the supplies from Korea land at Baltimore Washington International Airport, at BWI, even though a Korean airlines plane had never before landed at BWI.

He also said he made sure there were tons of state troopers and national guardsmen on the tarmac when that plane landed all because he wanted Maryland to not have those materials stolen by the federal government when that shipment of tests came in.

Now, the governor says those tests are still under lock and key, still being guarded by state troopers and natural guardsmen. They`re still under lock and tree because the tests still haven`t been widely deployed in Maryland in part because just like everywhere, they need swabs, and reagents, and all of the other lab materials to process those tests, just like everybody else in the country still does, but we have a shortage of those, and so even when you got the test kits, you still can`t do tests.

Still, though, the governor of Maryland has now ordered, mandated that everybody in a nursing home in Maryland, symptomatic or not, staff or resident, everybody, must be tested. Now, state mandate is a serious thing. What are nursing homes supposed to do in order to fulfill that mandate?

We have reached out to the governor`s office to ask if they will provide all of the necessary tests to the nursing homes, so they can fulfill that mandate, or if the facilities are going to have to scramble to find the tests themselves, we`ll let you know more when we hear more.

But if Maryland is able to fulfill that mandate, if Maryland is able to make good, if they`re able to actually test, every resident, and every staff person, in every nursing home and long term care facility in the state, brace yourself for the numbers that will emerge. I mean we know what kind of numbers are going to emerge. We can imagine them. Just follow the trail of dead.

The largest nursing home in the state of Maryland has already had 35 Americans die there. How many positive cases do you think there are at that facility, with 35 of their residents have already died. Maryland has not been regularly posting the regular cases in their nursing homes by facility. They have not been regularly posting the number of deaths by facility. They are going to get those numbers now if they`re going to universal test.

They know that most of deaths in that state are in nursing homes. If they start to get universal data from those facilities, brace yourself for the number of positive tests. And for what that is going to indicate about how much resources, how many resources those facilities need. And for ultimately what the death toll is going to be coming out of there.

But testing in the places where people are most likely to get infected, as scary as it is, given the kinds of numbers that we see, when those most impacted facilities start to get tested, as scary as it is, testing in those facilities where people are most likely to get infected is how you deal with this as a public health matter. That`s how you start to protect people who live in those facilities, who are the most vulnerable to getting this thing, and the most vulnerable to die from it. That`s how you target care and resources, and ultimately protective gear to those place, you have to know where it is and who`s got it and you have to protect people in those facilities who don`t yet have it who are at grave, grave, grave risk of getting it.

This also incidentally is how you learn what you need to know to protect the community, the local community, near those facilities, from what will be a non-contained community-based outbreak there soon. None of these facilities is an island. No prison, no jail, no nursing home, no meat packing plant, no freaking cruise ship once it`s stopped, if you have an outbreak of this virus, it is an outbreak that will leak behind the boundaries we are comfortable thinking of it residing in when we talk about it hitting most nursing homes, prison, meat plants, these other kinds of facilities.

We like to think of those outbreaks as being contained in those spaces, but this is a highly contagious communicable disease, right? And just because it starts spreading somewhere kind of the beaten path or places due really think about, like a big industrial plant or a nursing home or a place where a lot of immigrants work and you don`t know them in your community because they keep to themselves.

I mean, just because these facilities and these types of places and prisons and jails and all these types of places may be limited to us, and they may not be in our constant view unless we`ve got family members there or who work there, just because these are liminal facilities that are not visible to us does not mean these outbreaks will stay in those places. That`s not how it works with highly contagious communicable diseases.

Take for example, Cass County, Indiana. Earlier this week, you may remember we mentioned them on the show because Cass County Indiana got our attention. Local commissioners there proclaimed a serious public health emergency specifically for that county.

And this is not like the emergency or the disaster that everybody declared at the start of this thing so they could qualify for things. They declared a new public health emergency in that county and the declaration had teeth, it established serious new restrictions on what people can do in that county, in terms of social distancing. Far stricter than what people are restricted in doing in the statewide order in Indiana.

Well, why did Cass County, Indiana, do that? Well, they do have a Tyson meat plant in Cass County, Indiana, in Logansport, Indiana. And they knew they had some cases there. Just like a lot of meat processing plants do.

But the county, the county officials there were smart, and thinking ahead. Because sure enough, it is just a couple of days later now, and today, the county has announced the results of what they insisted must be the universal testing of workers at that facility. And it turns out, when you universally test all of the workers at a meat plant that`s got a bunch of known cases, Katy bar the door when it comes to actually getting the total number, when it comes to getting the universal testing result.

It turns out at that one plant, there are 890 positive cases, at one plant. A local hospital I should mention in Logansport, Indiana, has a total of 83 beds, nine beds set aside for COVID patients, they are all already full, they have eight ventilators there, in the hospital, in Logansport, Indiana -- 890 positive cases, just among employees, at the one plant in town, let alone any other cases that now may exist in the county, tied to each of those 890 employees.

Last night, we talked with the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa. He was here to talk about the Tyson plant in his town, Waterloo, Iowa, to which the county can now link more than 90 percent of the 1,300-plus coronavirus cases they`ve got in Black Hawk County. The sheriff last night mentioned that sizable outbreak in Black Hawk County is no longer something that resides within that plant. It now encompasses the whole community, and specifically a number of nursing homes in that community. And indeed, there are now known outbreaks in multiple nursing homes in Black Hawk County, Iowa.

Over in Columbus Junction, Iowa, that is actually one of the first meat plants they shut down after a big outbreak there. That plant in Columbus Junction is now reopened, but the outbreak in the community there is such that the governor has just called in the Iowa national guard to start doing testing in that county`s nursing homes, because they`ve got such a problem in their nursing homes now, too.

How did things get from the meat plant into the nursing homes? Well, they get from the meat plant into the community, and then they get from the community into the nursing homes. And then all of the people in the nursing home are very susceptible to getting it, and a lot of them are susceptible to dying.

Grand Island, Nebraska, the large outbreak there, tied to the JBS meat processing plant in Grand Island, the local health director there just announced ten deaths in Grand Island nursing homes in the past few days and tells the local paper today, quote, it is very, very sad, I knew this was going to happen, we knew this was going to happen, excuse me, and I`ll start crying if I think too much about it. It is just hard.

The death toll spiking around Grand Island, Nebraska, because these things may start in your meat packing plant, or your prison, or your nursing home, that`s where your outbreak might incubate, might spread unchecked through everyone in that facility. To the people who live, there people who work there, both. But by nature, it`s not going to stay, nature, it`s not going to stay there in Grand Island, Nebraska. The outbreak didn`t stay in the plant of the mayor of Grand Island tonight, going public with his desperation, saying his city has quote paid a price.

I think Grand Island, during this or deal, has paid a price. He is asking please, for the federal government to come help Grand Island, Nebraska, rather than the federal government just ordering the reopening of all of the meat plants. He`s asking specifically for the agriculture secretary to please come to Grand Island, Nebraska, to see the impact of that huge outbreak there, that started in the meat plant, on that small community. Oh, and by the way, please bring some help.

The problems we are faced with government orders that have failed to protect the people of Grand Island. I want him to come to Grand Island, so I can explain it. And we don`t know if the Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue will come and pay his respects to Grand Island.

Now, Grand Island, Nebraska, needs help, and they are asking for it. I should tell you that Nebraska at the state level is not tracking nursing home deaths. They are not tracking cases in meat processing plants. They are also not testing widely in prisons in Nebraska.

So even today, as yet another corrections officer tested positive in the community, it is a black box as to what is going on inside the prisons themselves. This was a, I think a frameable cross-stitched quote today, from the "Omaha World Herald". Quote, no inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 but the state corrections agency said recently that no inmates had been tested.

Yes, if you don`t test, it`s amazing how few cases you have. Isn`t that crazy how that works? I mean, seeking, you shall find. But if you don`t seek, how long can you pretend that there is nothing to find?

I mean, for the record, in Nebraska, they had their first known coronavirus case way back on march 6th. It took them from March 6th, almost six weeks mid-April, before they hit their first 1,000 cases in the state. But then to get from 1,000 to 2,000 cases, that only took a week and to get from 2,000 to 3,000 cases that only took two days.

Now, they`re scratching at 4,000 cases as we speak with no tracking of nursing home cases, no tracking of meat facility cases, no tracking of prisoners. Good luck, Nebraska. I hope your governor has hidden depths because what is happening on the surface here is nerve curling.

I mean, they`ve got outbreaks at meat plants in Grand Island, Nebraska, Lexington, Nebraska, Dakota City, Nebraska, Madison, Nebraska, Hastings, Nebraska, Crete, Nebraska, that`s a plant where people walked out in fear this week. The plant had said they were closing after finding dozens of positive cases, and they said they changed their mind and they`re staying open and everyone walked out in fear.

Governor Pete Ricketts says that he wants all the plants open. He said yesterday at a press conference yesterday he didn`t think the meat processing plants were a problem at all. He was asked why so many meat processing workers are testing positive and said, quote, they`re more likely to pick up an infection outside of the workplace, where these people spend two-thirds of their time.

Meat processing workers all have ended up positive by the hundreds, potentially by the thousands in Nebraska, because they all do the same stuff outside of work that exposes them. Also, I`ve got wet hair when I get out of the swimming pool but that might just be because I took a shower this morning before I went swimming. Maybe that`s why my hair is wet.

I mean, yes, all the meat workers, they`re definitely turning up positive in the numbers that they are, because of stuff they`re doing at home. It`s amazing.

They must be really different people than all of the other people, and all of the other different kinds of workplaces who don`t have those kind of numbers. It`s definitely their fault.

I will say, for the first time, today, for the first time, a Nebraska meat plant has announced that it is closing its doors for what they call a deep cleaning. This is the Tyson plant in Dakota City, Nebraska. Nobody knows how many cases there are at that Dakota City plant in Nebraska because as I mentioned Nebraska doesn`t track it. The governor doesn`t think that meat plants are a problem in terms of the spread of coronavirus.

And Tyson, for this plant at least, refuses to say how many people are positive there. But for some reason, they have decided to close that plant for a deep cleaning. I should also mention that perhaps it`s a complete coincidence but Dakota County, Nebraska, where this plant is located, happens to have the second highest number of known coronavirus cases in the entire state, after Grand Island, even though the population of Dakota County is only about 20,000 people. But we don`t know if there is any cases there, and are we sure we want to look?

So they`re going to close for a deep cleaning. Deep cleaning isn`t actually a thing. That`s just a word that people use when they tell you they`re sending in cleaners. There`s nothing different about a deep cleaning compared to a regular cleaning no matter what someone wants to send you, certainly in virologic terms, a deep cleaning versus cleaning? Come on.

And ultimately cleanliness is not the real problem here. It`s the conditions, the working conditions in the giant aggregate production environments where so far, the companies have shown no ability to prevent the spreading of viruses super-efficiently among all of their workers who tend to work in groups of several hundred or even a thousand at a time.

The federal government has played a strange role in this part of the crisis so far, right? These kinds of plants have been huge accelerants for the epidemic in America overall, and specifically, in parts of the country, that the Republican Party and this president pretends to care about more than any other parts of the country, and where they supposedly got governors on a very short leash, right?

But the plants are so far not required by the federal government to do anything, to protect these workers. They`re required to make a good faith effort, to comply with guidance, but the guidance is non-mandatory, the Trump administration absolutely has the option of making those guidelines, requirements, in terms of how these places operate, they are absolutely not doing that.

All they want is these plants open. There`s no pushing in terms of what the plants need to do, in terms of the way they operate to stop keeping thousands of people from getting infected there.

I`ll tell you, we are on the trail right now of a story about what`s happened at the CDC specifically, that has actually led to that scandalous part of the federal government response to this epidemic. We are going to have a special report on that here tomorrow night.

But next here, on the show we will talk to a worker who`s got firsthand experience about what exactly is going on. That`s next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: This is from the "New York Times" op-ed that the worker wrote. Quote: In the past month, two of my co-workers died from COVID-19. The company instituted protective measures but it was too late.

The company in this instance is JBS, the giant meatpacking conglomerate, and this is specifically about their plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, which is north of Philly.

The person who works at the plant continues, quote, our plant temporarily closed on April 2nd, before the deaths. At that time, 19 people had tested positive. JBS remodeled the floor in line with coronavirus safety measures.

Quote: In meatpacking plants, workers are piled up on top of one another, often touching because there are so many.

Quote: The two people we lost to the coronavirus were most likely exposed to the virus at work before the factory shut down. Quote, they will not be forgotten.

We should note that Souderton, Pennsylvania plant, had 19 cases when it closed on April 2nd. As of tonight, the union says they`ve got 119 cases at that plant. The company tonight tells us that many of the workers who tested positive have returned to work after quarantine.

The plant reopened, April 20th, minus the 15 percent of its work force that is over the age of 60. The company says that those workers over age 60 are home now with full pay and benefits.

As for the others who are back at work, JBS tells us this, quote: Team members have responded positively to the safety interventions put in place during closure and the facility is now running beyond expectations.

That is how the company views the situation with that one plant. We have us with tonight a colleague of the person who wrote that "New York Times" op- ed, so we can ask for ourselves what it`s like to work in one of those big plants now, having been reopened.

Joining us now is Safaa Elzakzoky. She works at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania. She is the shop steward for the union, UFCW local 1776.

Ms. Elzakzoky, I know this is a difficult time. Thank you for taking time to be here tonight.


MADDOW: Let me just ask you, bottom line, do you feel safe now working at the plant and going in every day?

ELZAKZOKY: Right now, yes, but before, no.

MADDOW: How big have the changes been? They closed down on April 2nd. They reopened a couple of weeks later, having made significant changes to the way you and your colleagues work with each other.

Can you describe to us how much that`s changed the way you work?

ELZAKZOKY: So, right now, they provide like a face masks for each employee. They take the temperature when they start working early in the morning, even if someone, a worker go outside to break time, or doing something outside the plant, they take the temperature again.

Also, they provide the face shield. They provide the hand sanitizer everywhere. We have the lines on the floor, to have social distance between each worker, we have like a supervisor and superintendent on the hallway, arranging people during the break time, disintegrate the people during the break times. Also, the beginning time, they divide them to a group, so one of them starts 15 minutes early, than the other. Also, when we are going home, it`s like 15 minutes between each group.

MADDOW: Uh-huh. In terms of testing, obviously, when they shut down the plant, there was about 19 people who worked there, who were positive, now the union says it`s like 119 people are positive, if you want to get tested for coronavirus, if you or your colleagues want to get tested, do you have easy access to get testing?

ELZAKZOKY: To be honest, that was (INAUDIBLE) right now because we still have the issue that we had a worker on the floor, work behind each other, yes, they wear masks, they wear facial, there is no social distance behind each other so they work shoulder by shoulder on the floor.

So, also, we have employees that they say they get the virus but they never had the symptoms, so that`s our worry, that we had the employee who maybe carried the virus, came to work, because they had no temperature, they had no cough, or any symptoms of the virus, and maybe spread the virus in the plant.

That`s why we ask for like testing from the employer, the workers during the daytime, during the work, stuff like that, make us more safe, especially, we had some worry from Tuesday, about Trump ordered that there is no mandatory CDC or OSHA. This makes us worry.

So we`re back to work, because they told us that they will -- we would be safe. And we feel that he should worry about the protection, that he should treat (ph) us like a human, should be (INAUDIBLE), should we be safe, should we be healthy, and make us less worried.

MADDOW: And you would feel less worried if the OSHA guidelines, if the CDC guidelines were mandatory, you would feel safer?


MADDOW: Safaa Elzakzoky, an employee at the JBS plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, I really appreciate you coming on to talk to us tonight, god bless you, and all of your co-workers, we`re counting on you in lots of ways but we don`t want you to be at risk when you go to work. Thanks for helping us understand.

ELZAKZOKY: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Here`s the front page of "The Atlanta Journal Constitution" today. You can see the big top story. It`s a four column across the top of the front page there. Kemp set to lift restriction. It`s the top story in Georgia today.

The state`s Republican Governor Kemp is allowing Georgia`s stay-at-home order to expire tonight after already opening up very, very, very essential businesses like bowling alley, tattoo parlor, salons, gym, movie theaters and dine-in restaurants over the past week. The governor now says that all restrictions of all kinds will be gone in two weeks.

But then look right below the big top headline, the other big story on the front page of the "AJC" today, Georgia poultry workers test positive for COVID-19. Check out the lead on this story.

Quote: Nearly 400 workers in Georgia`s prized poultry industry have tested positive for the disease, caused by the coronavirus.

Quote: Ominous signs are popping up in Hall County, Georgia, where much of the poultry industry is based. Hall has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the region. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,233 people in Hall had been sickened and 20 had been killed by the disease.

If you want one at least partial snapshot of Georgia today, they have it right next to each other on the front page of the biggest newspaper: Coronavirus outbreaks spreading rapidly through the state`s poultry plants and the governor says, open everything back up. Everything. No restrictions.

Georgia`s governor has made these kinds of demands even as his state rose to 12th in the country in the number of cases and deaths. Even as one of the nation`s worst outbreaks hit in his state, in Albany, Georgia, and even as the city of Gainesville, in Hall County where all of those poultry plants are became the center of one of the nation`s newest emerging large outbreaks.

The Northeast Georgia Medical Center there projects it will not hit the peak of its coronavirus hospital admissions until the middle of June. But they expect to max out their staffing capacity at the hospital, well before then. Like within a matter of three weeks.

It`s hard to square what`s happening in Georgia right now, between the characteristics of the large epidemic in Georgia right now, and it`s hard to square that with Governor Brian Kemp`s insistence that everything is fine and faster than everywhere in the country Georgia needs to open everything back up.

It`s hard to square those things sometimes. But sometimes it`s not that hard to square them.

This is the other big news in the Georgia epidemic today. A new CDC study that finds that more than 80 percent of hospitalized coronavirus patients in Georgia are African-American. African-Americans comprise only about 30 percent of the population in Georgia. But they`re 80 percent of who has been hospitalized for coronavirus in the state.

And certainly, the study tracks broadly with the data we`ve seen across the country, that coronavirus is hitting black Americans disproportionately, but over 80 percent of the hospitalizations in Georgia?

Governor Kemp telling the Atlanta journal constitution today, quote: If you weren`t in the medically fragile category, or someone in a long-term care facility, for the most of the rest of Georgia, the effect of coronavirus has been minimal. For most of the rest of Georgia, for most, 80 percent of the people in hospitals are black people -- for most of Georgia, it`s been minimal, minimal impact. We haven`t barely noticed. It`s fine as far as we`re concerned.

Today, in Atlanta, Georgia`s fantastic majority black capital city, residents held a mock funeral procession, complete with several hearses, driving around and around past the Georgia state capitol building. Organizers told a local NBC affiliate that, quote, death is the foreseeable result of Governor Kemp`s misguided plans to fully reopen the state of Georgia.

The mayor of the great city of Atlanta is going to join us live here next. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The mayor of the great city of Atlanta, Georgia, just published this piece in "The Atlantic magazine" today, entitled Atlanta isn`t ready to reopen and neither is Georgia.

Quote: As the mayor of Atlanta, I`m unable to endorse the governor`s decision to reopen businesses before health experts say it is safe to do so.

The mayor makes a point about something in particular that worries her. She says, quote, we should recognize that many of the kinds of businesses that are reopening are especially popular in African-American neighborhoods where barbershops and salons are ubiquitous. This concerns me because we continue to see much higher rates of infection and death occurring among African-Americans than in other communities.

This, of course, comes as a CDC study finds that 80 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations in Georgia thus far have been African-American patients.

Joining us now is the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Madam Mayor, been really looking forward to talking to you tonight. Thank you so much for making time.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: Thank you. It`s great to join you.

MADDOW: Let me just ask you if anything that I have said in the last couple of minutes about -- about Atlanta, and about Georgia, and about what`s going on in your state right now, if it strikes you wrong or if you think that I`ve sort of got the telescope turned around the wrong way in any of this? Does it sound like a reasonable description of what`s going on in your state and city?

BOTTOMS: So, you`re spot on, and the reality is this, Rachel, in Georgia, we beat the national average in every single category that makes this virus so much worse. Our rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, are all above the national average. And then you layer on top of that the African-American community, it`s even above that.

And so, the fact that we are opening up businesses in this state, and that we are putting the economy before the lives of -- of people is, it`s baffling, and I keep searching for new words and I can`t find any because I`m still completely dumbfounded that we were one of the last states to close down and yet, one of the first states to open up.

And the governor has said this is about the economy and unfortunately, the people who will be the test case for whether or not we have gotten it right are the people who can least afford to be sick and are more likely to die.

MADDOW: I`ll tell you, Madam Mayor, one thing I`m worried about with Georgia because it does like your governor is ideologically fixed on the idea of not having businesses shut down, of not enforcing stay-at-home orders, as you said, he started so late and he`s ending -- and he`s releasing these things so early. I am worried when you look at that, alongside the fact that there is so little testing in Georgia. Georgia is one of the worst states in the country in terms of how much testing there is -- I`m worried that he`s not going to feel the pressure to try to increase testing numbers in Georgia because testing numbers might reveal bad epidemiological consequences of his policy decisions.

BOTTOMS: So, our testing has increased but it`s still dismal. We are still 40th in the nation in testing.

And, you know, listen, Rachel, the reality is this -- we all bring a different lens to office. So, the governor was a small business owner and I`m certain that the lens that he brings.

Well, what I bring is the daughter of a small business owner, a woman who owned a hair salon. And so, I know what happens in a hair salon. There are people from the community who come into the hair salon. Many people in the hair salons don`t have health insurance. They are living paycheck to paycheck.

And so, even if we are testing people in our communities and this was a question that I posed to the governor and Dr. Toomey, our health -- leader of our health department in Georgia today, testing is a point in time test. And so, if I test negative today and then I go out and get exposed tomorrow, it means what?

And so we know that testing is just one part of this. There needs to be contact tracing. There needs to be isolation and quarantine, and there still is so much more to be done.

And even when you have funeral directors saying I`ve never seen anything like this before and you couple that with the CDC along with health professionals and even the president of the United States saying it`s too soon, then I -- I think all of those are signs that this is -- it`s not the appropriate thing for us to do at this time.

MADDOW: I will say, looking at this from outside the state and having been sort of half in love with Atlanta my whole life, I think you`re the mayor of one of the world`s great cities and certainly one of the cultural hubs in America that we all have to be both thankful of and often in awe of -- from outside the state looking in, one of the things that is just remarkable and explicable is that the governor didn`t talk to you before he made any of these decisions. I know Georgia is a big state and Atlanta is one city, but it`s Atlanta.

It`s remarkable to me that he has been preceding on this as if Atlanta is kind of outside the state or its own thing, or should just go along with what it says regardless of whether or not you think what he`s doing is a good idea.

Has that just been a hallmark of the way he`s conducting himself as governor or has that been -- has that been worse over the course of this epidemic?

BOTTOMS: No, the governor and I have had a great working relationship over the past couple of years. And we obviously are from -- he`s a Republican. I`m a Democrat. But we`ve come together to work together on the things that we agree on.

He did not speak with me before when he lifted the first set of restrictions, but I can say the governor and I did speak on yesterday, and we have essentially agreed to disagree on this and his staff did call today to let us know that he was going to move forward with lifting further restrictions. So that has changed since the first restrictions were lifted.

But that being said, I still didn`t have any input and influence because we simply don`t agree on this. And so, I continue to use my voice and I`m grateful for the opportunity to talk to you and have this platform to continue to encourage people to stay home.

And the reality is this: people are going back to work because they need money. And so that part is right. Our economy is suffering and people are facing economic hardship.

But I think this is where we step up as leaders and we lead our community into recovery, and we make it easier for people to stay at home by making sure that those small business loans are getting into the pockets of not just the people who have well-established banking relationships but that barber on the corner who may not have as lengthy as a credit history. We make sure that people have food on their table.

These are the things that we are doing in Atlanta. These are the things that we need to be doing statewide and certainly at a national level.

MADDOW: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you so much for taking time tonight, Mayor. I know you have a lot on your plate and this is valuable time. Thanks for sharing some of it with us.

BOTTOMS: Thank you very having me.

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


MADDOW: There were protesters again today at the Michigan state capital. A whole bunch of them armed, in a state that just reported another 119 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours. These protesters were demanding with their guns that the governor should get rid of the state`s stay-at- home order.

Republicans in the Michigan legislature are making plans to try to sue the governor to achieve the same thing. But during the debate over that today, the view from the Senate floor was of these pro-Trump protesters denouncing Governor Gretchen Whitmer bearing their long guns inside the capitol building.

State Senator Dayna Polehanki tweeting today, quote: Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our sergeants-at-arms more than today.

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.

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