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Trump visits the AZ mask factory TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Will Humble

  RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Chris.  Thanks very much, my friend.  Much appreciated.  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.  Happy to have you with us here tonight.  On April 10th, which is three-and-a-half weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the White House about a worrying new situation that was emerging in northeastern Colorado, a town called Greeley, Colorado, which is up sort of near Fort Collins.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:  I spoke today to the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis.  We`ve been in contact with Senator Cory Gardner about an outbreak at a particular meat packing facility in the Colorado area.  And at this time, our team is working with the governor and working with the senator to ensure that we flow testing resources.  At this point, there are some 14 people hospitalized, maybe 200 to 300 of the workforce have been impacted.  And we spoke about providing those resources this weekend.


MADDOW:  We`ll provide those resources this weekend.  We spoke about providing those resources this weekend.  This weekend.  Right away.  The vice president, right on it.  Right away.  We`re all working together on this.  A serious situation, but don`t worry, we got this.  We`re on it.  As Vice President Pence said, as he spoke, there were 14 people from that one workplace who already had been hospitalized.

I should tell you, by that same night, the night that Mike Pence spoke about that plant in Greeley, Colorado -- that evening, two people who worked at that plant died.  But the White House was on it.  The plant was working with the White House directly.  I mean, they`re being talked about publicly by the vice president about how they`re going to surge testing resources there.  The company who runs that plant in Greeley put out a statement that same day.

They said, quote, "Today, JBS USA announces it is working in partnership with the U.S.  federal government, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, and U.S.  Senator Cory Gardner to secure COVID-19 tests for all of its team members at the Greeley, Colorado, beef production facility." Right? Everybody signing from the same hymnal.  We are on it.  Yes, we`ve got a problem here, but we`re on it.  We`re going to get testing.

What do they say? Quote, "For all team members," at the beef production facility in Greeley.  The company did not do that.  Despite those pronouncements from the White House, despite that public promise from the company.  They didn`t test all their workers.  They decided they would close for a while, and then reopen, and start running the plant again without testing everybody who works there.

And the local reporting from Colorado on what happened there, in terms of that change in course -- this is reporting that we have corroborated with one federal official.  What apparently happened there is that the plant did initially start to do testing of everybody who worked in that plant.  They started testing managers in Greeley, and supervisors in Greeley, first.  The results of those tests were reportedly over 40 percent positive.  And when they got those results, then, the company decided, actually, they weren`t going to test all their workers after all.  Because imagine what they would find?

And so they reopened without testing everybody.  By the day they reopened, several days ago, six of their employees were dead.  Hundreds known to be positive.  But the company deciding not to test everybody who works there before they go back in, even though they publicly announced that`s what they would do, and even though a public order from the county health department in Weld County, Colorado, told them that they must do that testing.  The company just didn`t.

And I should correct myself there.  I said that the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, that has now reopened has had six of its employees die already.  Since we started our updated reporting on this story for tonight`s show, I need to tell you that a seventh person who works at that plant has now died.  Seven people from the same workplace.

Tonight, we also got in touch with the daughter of a woman who has worked at that Greeley plant for 11 years.  The reason that we got in touch is because she wanted us to see -- she wanted us to show you -- a photo of her mom, from where she is today.  Because where her mom is today is in the intensive care unit at the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora.  Her name in Tinh (ph).  She has worked at the JBS beef production facility in Greeley, Colorado, for the past 11 years.  This is the plant where they just reopened after hundreds of their employees tested positive and then seven of them died.  They reopened without testing the rest of the people who work there.

We spoke with Tinh`s(ph) daughter today.  She told us that Tinh(ph) first went to her workplace.  She went to what she described as the clinic at the JBS plant to tell them that she felt ill.  She was having difficulty breathing.  She ended up taking one day off, because she felt bad.  But then she came back to work.  She got worse, though.  She was admitted to the hospital on March 29th.  Since soon after her admission, she has been unconscious, and as you can see, on a ventilator.  Again, at the University of Colorado hospital in Aurora.

I should also tell you that Tinh`s(ph) daughter, who we spoke to tonight, she just gave birth.  She spent time with her mom while her mom was feeling poorly.  The day before her mother was admitted to the hospital in Aurora, her daughter, her 28-year-old daughter started having contractions -- she was pregnant.  The hospital at that point was testing all pregnant women when they came in, and Tinh`s(ph) 28-year-old daughter tested positive.  And she was admitted.  She had an emergency C-section, and now she and her baby are recovering.

I should also tell you that Tinh`s(ph) son is a U.S.  Marine who is currently deployed in the Pacific.  He has not been able to get leave to come home and to help while this is what`s been happening back home in Colorado.  Again, there are seven people dead.  We don`t know the total number of hospitalizations, but we do know this is one of the workers at JBS Greeley.

Tinh(ph) is a member of the union that represents the workers at the JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado.  They told us that they have filed a Family Medical Leave Act claim on Tinh`s(ph) behalf, but it`s been a couple of weeks since that.  And they say, so far they`ve heard nothing on that.

But here`s Kim Cordova, who`s the head of that union for these workers at that plant.  You might remember that we had her here on this show about a week ago.


KIM CORDOVA, PRESIDENT, UFCW LOCAL 7:  They signed up for a job to, you know, process meat, protein, for this country.  But they didn`t sign up to die, you know, and we don`t want a -- this job to be a death sentence for workers.  They`re not fungible widgets.  They are not disposable objects.


MADDOW:  I should tell you that we contacted JBS tonight -- the company that owns this plant, that reopened this plant without testing all their workers.  Despite the fact that they`d had an agreement with the county health department that they would test all the workers, despite the fact that they said they were working with the White House to secure tests for all of their workers, despite their public statements to that effect, they reopened without testing all of their workers.

Seven of their workers have died.  We know at least one is hospitalized and on a ventilator.  We don`t know how many other workers there are hospitalized.  More than 3,000 people who work in that plant, and they have reopened it now without testing everybody before they go in.

We asked JBS -- I find this almost unbelievable.  I`m just going to tell you what they said.  We asked JBS tonight about Tinh(ph), about this 60- year-old woman who`s worked at that plant for 11 years.  She`s got a daughter who`s just given birth, who family believes she also infected with coronavirus that she brought home from the plant.  She`s got a son in the Marine Corp who can`t get home to see her.  She`s been in the hospital, she`s on a ventilator, she`s unconscious, she`s been there for more than a month.  We asked JBS tonight about this employee, the woman who you just saw the picture of.  And this is how they responded.

They took issue with the way that the family characterized what happened here.  This is their statement when we asked for comment, quote, "We do not have a company-affiliated clinic in Greeley.  We do have an onsite health services team that is focused on diagnosing and treating occupational health injuries and illnesses only."  Because this isn`t something she got occupationally?  That clinic does not -- or, excuse me, "This facility does not provide primary care medical services.  The health services team directs team members to their primary care doctor for further evaluation if situations are outside of their focus area."

JBS also tells her that her FMLA claim will be processed consistent with our protocol.  So they want you to know that when she was feeling shortness of breath, and having a fever, and sweating, and she went to go talk to the onsite health team at that plant with 3,000 workers, they want you to know that we shouldn`t call that a clinic.  Because they`re an onsite health services team focused on diagnosing and treating occupational health injuries and illnesses only, and they direct team members to their primary care doctor for further evaluation.  So if she -- you know, this is on her.  She`s been in the hospital on a ventilator for more than a month.

Today, the Secretary of Agriculture in the Trump Administration, Sonny Perdue, sent a sort of bizarre letter to JBS and to the other major American meat processor companies in this country.  And his letter to them basically told them that they need to open up all of their plants right now or else.  It actually says at one point in the letter, quote, "I exhort you to do this ; further action under the President`s Executive Order and the Defense Production Act is under consideration and will be taken, if necessary." I exhort you to reopen these plants.  You must, or else.  I am threatening you.  That`s what the Trump Administration is doing at these plants, where thousands of blue-collar workers are being infected.

Trump Administration is exhorting them, threatening them -- get back open - - while they are not making it mandatory for those plants to follow rules on how to safely operate in the midst of the epidemic.  They certainly could.  They`ve decided not to make those things mandatory.  And what we`re seeing is that the companies don`t even uniformly plan to test everyone so they know who`s positive before they reopen the plants.  I mean, some of the -- yes, some plants are doing that, some plants are testing everybody.  But not all of them are, and nobody`s making them.  The federal government is just ordering them reopen.

And we are seeing, even in plants with hundreds of known positives, even in plants with multiple known deaths among the people who work there, even in plants where they`ve got multiple workers in the hospital, and like Tinh(ph), on ventilators, fighting for their lives right now, some of these companies are very happy to reopen without testing people before they walk in the door.  Oh, we`ll screen them for fever.  If they`re asymptomatic and spreading it, can you really hold us to account for that?  We`ve got liability protection, thanks to the President`s Executive Order, so we know you can`t sue us.  And there`s the Trump Administration, I exhort you to reopen, or else, because that`s how we`re handling this.  This is dystopic.

Today, the Iowa governor, Kim Reynolds, was brought to the White House for a kind of show-and-tell session.  So they put her in front of a placard that says what President Trump has given to Iowa.  Kind of a show-and-tell session where Governor Reynolds, and Secretary "I exhort you" Perdue, and President Trump, and Vice President Pence all talked about how great things are going in Iowa.


GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R-IA):  We`re still monitoring it.  We turned a corner.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE:  You talk to a great heartland governor, like Governor Kim Reynolds, one of the great stories of the coronavirus outbreak has been that our food supply has continued to work every day.


MADDOW:  Yes, it has been a great story.  The way the food supply stuff has gone, it`s been fan-freaking-tastic, right? The White House and Republican governors really want to sell the idea of how we`ve all turned the corner, right? Things are all better now.  When it comes to those meat plants, the only problem is is that they`re closed for some reason.  Well, we can fix that.  Tell them to open.  Everything`s fine now.  In fact, why is anything closed? Everything`s fine now.

I mean, when Governor Reynolds talked there about turning the corner, I`m not sure if this is what she meant.  But these are the corners that I am aware of right now in Iowa.  This is a look at the daily death toll in Iowa, how the number of people dying from coronavirus every day in that state is relentlessly and pretty steeply rising.  That`s the raw data, and then the dark line is the seven-day rolling average.  It`s really bad.

This is a look at their new cases every day in Iowa.  And again, you`ve got the raw data there on the graph, and then the darker line is the seven-day rolling average.  That`s really bad.  That`s bad.  But that`s kind of what`s happening in almost all of the states that are reopening.  I mean, states moving forward with reopening are seeing increases in new coronavirus cases.  Yes, right.  Because nobody based their reopening on the fact that they didn`t have a problem, and reopening creates a larger problem than you`ve already got.

So we are seeing this dynamic at work in states that are reopening, and you`re seeing it especially in cases -- in states, particularly like the big meat processing states -- Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska among them. States where they didn`t do much of anything in the way of a stay-at-home order in the first place, you`re seeing it particularly badly.  You`re also, of course, seeing it in states that did put in some kind of stay-at- home measures reluctantly, but then they ripped them off because the governor got bored with it, or something.  Like in Georgia, for example.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today reporting on very hard-hit Gainesville, Georgia, where case numbers rose exponentially every week in April.  But the governor still insisted on lifting all the stay-at-home measures statewide, even in places where the epidemic was taking off like a rocket.  In Gainesville, Georgia, the last week in March, there were at 12 new cases a day on average.  The following week, it was 22 new cases a day.  Following week, 47 new cases a day.  Following week, 61 new cases a day.  Now they`re at 95 new cases a day, and let`s see how high it can go.  But they`re removing all stay-at-home orders, everywhere in Georgia, across the board, because why are we doing this anyway? Who really cares?

Why are states like this -- states with problems like this, reopening?  Well, I mean, in the case of Iowa, you`re seeing them get praised by the President -- why they do it.  One of the great success stories.  But also, you know, who`s to tell them not to reopen?


DR. CAITLIN RIVERS, ASST. PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH:  There are four criteria that states should meet in order to safely reopen.  The first is to see the number of new cases decline for at least two weeks.  The other is enough public health capacity to conduct contact tracing on all new cases, enough diagnostic testing to test everybody with COVID-like symptoms, not just those people with severe illness, and enough health care system capacity to treat everyone safely.  To my knowledge, there are no states that meet all four of those criteria.


MADDOW:  Expert testimony today from Johns Hopkins in Congress -- there are no states that meet all four of those criteria.  But, go ahead, Georgia.  Go ahead, Iowa.  Whatever you want.  Call it whatever you want.

However much Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa may have enjoyed her show-and- tell visit at the White House today, I should tell you that she began the week back in Iowa apologizing for the continued delay in test results in her state.  Iowans have been waiting a week or longer to get their test results after they turned up to get tested for coronavirus, and that`s days longer than what they were promised when they showed up for the tests.  And those delays aren`t just regular citizens.  They`re also for health workers, who lined up for Governor Reynolds`s new statewide testing program, which she unveiled with great fanfare a couple of weeks ago.

It`s a program called Test Iowa.  Paid a lot of money for it.  Unveiled it with great fanfare.  Well, two days ago, Governor Reynolds apologized for the Test Iowa backlog, said she hoped to get the problem squared away soon.  And, you know, maybe it`ll just be a short-term issue.  The Iowa governor does seem to be working on it.  She`s talking about it publicly.  The apology`s probably a good thing.

But Iowa has a really big problem.  Iowa has a big problem in the way that all meat packing states have problems right now.  Iowa also has a problem in that their numbers are going like this, and the governor seems to think that means things are getting better, when they`re not.  Lack of access to reliable testing in a state that`s having those kind of problem is bad.  It`s probably a little bit worse than it is just bad everywhere.  But I have a story to tell you tonight about the specific reason that Iowa`s testing sucks in particular.  It turns out to be a really specific story.  It applies to Iowa and two other states that have screwed up testing.  It`s a bizarre story that comes out of a different state altogether.  I don`t think you`ve heard it, and you are going to want to hear it next.


MADDOW:  In mid-March, a week after the State of Utah got its first confirmed case, and Utah was trying to figure out how it was going to deal with the coming crisis, a group of tech companies in the state decided they would try to help.  You know how California has Silicon Valley? Utah has was they like to call Silicon Slopes, which ends up being relevant to the story.  I never heard that before, but that`s a thing, Silicon Slopes -- tech in Utah.

The CEO from one of those Silicon Slopes companies, the CEO of a company called Nomi Health, emailed some colleagues in the tech industry on March 14th with his idea.  This was first posted by the Salt Lake Tribune, which obtained the email.  Quote, "We have a solution that we want to put together with the Silicon Slopes community that provides free testing for up to 50,000 people, sponsored by all of us.  Let`s solve it.  We pay for it.  We pay manufacturers of tests, labs, and pharmacies directly for testing and med packs for our employees and families.  No noise."  States already at this point, you know, are struggling to get a hold of testing kits and supplies, and here`s this Utah tech CEO, saying, no noise, let`s solve it, we`ll pay for it.  50,000 tests for the State of Utah.  We know how to do this stuff.

Right from the beginning, government officials in Utah seemed both intrigued and perplexed by whatever this was.  The chief of staff for (ph)the Lieutenant Governor wrote, quote, "Really interesting."  Quote, "I mean, we`re working our damnedest to get access to reagent and other testing supplies for COVID.  Even swabs are scarce right now.  And for the state, it`s really not a money issue.  We have a huge rainy day fund.  I wonder what it is this Nomi guy thinks he has that we don`t?"  Quote, "If it turns out to be legit, I`m sure health care systems would be clambering for it.  Keep me posted." If it turns out to be legit -- somebody`s thinking ahead.  Turns out the CEO was not shy about his own learning curve.  If anything, the Nomi CEO sounded sort of excited about his deeply sloped learning curve.  Here he is speaking about it on April 1st.


MARK NEWMAN, CEO, NOMI HEALTH:  It`s been a really fantastic experience.  I mean, physically (ph) three weeks ago, none of us knew anything about lab testing.  What we did know, though, was that we had to do something, if we banded together -- and could do something, if we banded together to go pull this thing off and get people in Utah back to work.  The behind-the-scenes, how do I say this nicely?  We aren`t doctors, and so sometimes doctors don`t always appreciate our opinion.  As they say, the difference between God and doctors is that God doesn`t generally think he`s a doctor.


MADDOW:  So, we`re not doctors.  So you are not a doctor.  So what -- you know, you knew, what did you say, nothing, three weeks ago, about lab testing in any way, shape, or form.  The very next day after that interview, the governor of Utah held a press conference with the tech CEOs to announce a big, new partnership with the Utah tech community -- the guys who were admitting they knew nothing about this stuff just a few weeks ago, but they definitely now knew better than all the doctors.  They seem so confident.  What they announced the very next day was something that would be called Test Utah.  The tech companies would be doing this service in Utah as a service -- it wouldn`t be for profit.  And they were not going to just bend the curve of the infection rate in Utah.  They were going to crush the curve.  That`s what they called their website, "Crush the Curve."

Since then, there`s been a cascade of local reporting and serious questions and qualms raised about what the Test Utah program is actually doing.  Salt Lake Tribune cited data showing tests at Test Utah`s sites were turning up positive at less than half the rate of all the testing being done by all other entities in Utah.  One doctor on the state coronavirus task force expressed real concern about the disparity, saying, quote, "What alarms me the most is that they are expanding collection and testing with these unknowns about how their test performs.  If correct, I urge you to halt their testing until we understand why their results differ so much from what other labs are reporting.  This is a potential public health disaster."

This is the doctor who`s on the statewide coronavirus task force, writing to the head of that task force.  He says, quote, "A pandemic is not the time for amateurs to learn."  The companies behind Test Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune that the reason their tests were showing much lower rates of infection than all other tests in Utah is just because they were testing a wider swath of Utah`s population than everybody else was.  And so, they were just testing more negative people.

The Tribune pointed out, rightfully, that even if you just look at the subset of people who were showing symptoms at the time they were tested -- even the symptomatic people tested by Test Utah got positive results from these tests at a rate far below the rate reported at other test sites in the state.  Reporters then discovered that despite the idea of the tech companies solving Utah`s testing program for free, with 50,000 sponsored tests from the companies, the State of Utah nevertheless somehow morphed this into a $5 million no-bid contract for the companies, along with $600,000 a month for each testing site that Test Utah would set up across the state, despite the concerns about the quality of their testing.

Reporters kept digging.  The Salt Lake Tribune found that the CEO who first pitched the idea was also involved in a deal for the State of Utah to purchase $800,000 for a stockpile of hydroxychloroquine.  Hydroxychloroquine is, of course, the untested malaria drug that the President promoted relentlessly without any science to back it up, right up until the FDA started warning doctors that the drug could have serious complications.  The tech CEO who arranged this $800,000 -- helped arrange this $800,000 purchase of the drug by the state just also happened to sit on the board of a company that was manufacturing hydroxychloroquine, a company that was manufacturing the version of that drug that was being purchased by the state -- at a significant markup, should be noted.

The Salt Lake Tribune also pointed out that one of the questions Test Utah asked potential testees, asked potential patients, was whether they were allergic to hydroxychloroquine, which is not at all relevant to whether or not you should get a test.  But, for some reason, they were asking that.  After the FDA started warning about complications from that drug, Utah ended up cancelling that $800,000 purchase.  It`s now being looked at by the state auditor.  And the governor is, importantly, denying that he ever had any idea that any of that happened, even though it was cleared by his office.  The questions about Test Utah in Utah have been sustained and considerable.

I should tell you, the principal company, the one led by the CEO who came up with the idea, defended their work today when we asked about it.  They said they`d set out to provide free testing for the community at a fraction of the cost that states might otherwise pay.  Quote, We have succeeded on each front so far, but have taken an amazing number of attacks from health care incumbents and others who are uncomfortable with the complete disruption of the status quo and the loss of millions in revenue from testing and screening.

This approach was necessary in light of the failed national promises for support. We raised our hand to help, which evolved from donating tests and covering costs for potential treatments that Utah was exploring to manage the state`s pandemic response to managing almost half the volume of testing in our home state and then being asked to do the same in other states like Iowa and Nebraska.

And indeed once Utah state government sort of gave its seal of approval to this test Utah idea, it did get adopted by other states. It`s not just Utah anymore. That same collection of companies is now behind the test Iowa program that has the Iowa governor apologizing for the backlog amid her state`s considerable outbreaks in meat packing plants. For services in Iowa, test Iowa, got a $26 million no bid contract with the state. The same company also got a $27 million no bid contract with the state of Nebraska, which sits right alongside Iowa for coronavirus outbreaks in meat packing plants.

The state of Nebraska, this week, opened its first test Nebraska site in Grand Island, where nearly 600 meat packing workers from one plant have already tested positive. And where they`ve got now a huge outbreak in that community. Ahead of that opening, officials in Nebraska were raising concerns about this program and why Nebraska was going along with this Utah consortium that seemed to be causing so much consternation and so many serious technical clash questions elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt told her constituents she was concerned about the privacy of their information with this testing program. Senator Hunt said she was using the Freedom of Information Act to try to get a hold of state`s contract for test Nebraska, since otherwise it wasn`t public. And quote, test Nebraska costs taxpayers $27 million but the state has kept Nebraskans and the legislature totally in the dark about any contract signed.

Through her own FOIA request, Senator Hunt did end up getting a copy of the $27 million contract. And she got a promise from the governor to not sell anyone`s data. Anybody who`s signed up for test Nebraska. But given the way this has been playing out in her state, and in other state, Senator Hunt does not sound, what you would want to call, satisfied.

She says, quote, I appreciate that the state wanted to act fast but this absolutely could have been done in a transparent way with regard to taxpayer dollars. This is an irresponsible solution, that`s convenient for several private Utah-based corporations. It`s also coming a bit late.

Is this how we are going to fix the testing problem in this country? With a patch work of proposals from people who decide to learn this thing as they go and who disdain the ideas of doctors who might actually know what they`re doing here? Contracts that even elected officials have to fight to see. In the states that most desperately need to be testing everyone right now. Is in the way forward? Watch this space



UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: This pandemic does not care whether you are located in your home, prison or on a cruise. It`ll fix us all. This is a social issue. A health issue that we`re all facing.

We`re no different. They`re no different. We all are trying to survive this pandemic. We`re all trying to come out alive. And it shouldn`t be any different for those who are behind bars.


MADDOW: Those women you see there are all criminal justice reform advocates. They`re all ex-prisoners as well. They all served time at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, also known as LCIW. Now that those women are on the  outside working as advocates, they say they`ve been getting dozens of emails a day from women, who are still inside that Louisiana Correctional Institute For Women, telling them about the very worrying situation inside that facility when it comes to coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: So we would like to share some quotes from our sisters on the inside, because we receive emails daily from the women inside. And we just want to briefly share some of the quotes with you, so you can get an understanding of what their mentality, and what they`re going through emotionally right now. And I quote, four buildings are crammed packed with people.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: 80 to 90 women in a closed-up space.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: The bed areas are only about two to three feet apart.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: It`s day 11 of the coronavirus lockdown at LCIW. We have 25 positive cases on the ward.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: The nurses do not check our temps twice a day like the other dorms.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: What are they waiting for?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: They brought an older lady with chronic illness that tested negative for the virus and placed her on our dorms to be quarantined for the next 14 days with us.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: But if she tested negative, why put her with us?Couldn`t that be placing her at risk?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Officers that are sitting with the quarantined then coming to the dorm, where no one is sick, putting the healthy in harm`s way.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I think it`s going to be rough before it gets better.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Kitchen workers that stay here in Autumn fear for their life. They don`t want to go to work in their kitchen. They are being told that they will be locked up if they don`t go to work.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: And I`m just trying to stay alive.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We need a voice. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Please keep us in your prayers. Pray for us.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Please keep us lifted up in prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Trusting in god to bring us through. As I said, those were some quotes from the women on the inside.


MADDOW: They end actually here by asking people to contact Louisiana`s governor, John Bel Edwards, to ask him to immediately sign the pardons that are on his desk. They ask that he release more prisoners that are vulnerable or elderly and ask to implement proper oversight to ensure that people are safe inside of prisons. That last point, particularly important, because of something we have learned in the last 24 hours.

Again, what we`re talking about there, that facility from which they were reading those emails, is the Louisiana correctional institute for women, LCIW. As of this week, they tested one entire dorm at LCIW. 195 prisoners in that dorm. 192 of the 195 women in that dorm tested positive. It`s the only place that I`ve actually seen in America that has produced virtually a 100% infection rate.

You know, it is not a mystery where this virus is running amok, right? Nursing homes. Meat processing plants. Prisons. It`s not a secret. And regardless of how scary these big outbreaks are, you need to know where the virus is so that you can figure out who`s going to need help. You can figure out how many people in your community are likely to get it and get sick and need care and potentially even die. You need the data.

One of the things we`re focusing on tonight is a state that has decided, right as they are opening up in terms of social distancing, that actually they are going to shut off one of their main sources of data. About what`s happening with the epidemic in their state. They`re going to stand down on one of the most important sources of data about what`s happening in their state just as they`re opening up.It is a truly weird story and that is next.


MADDOW: A week ago, Arizona`s Governor Doug Ducey told the people of his state that he was going to extend his stay-at-home order for Arizona through mid May. He said the available data on the spread of the virus in Arizona suggested it wouldn`t be safe to reopen the economy there for at least a couple more weeks. The available data the governor and his team are looking at included a predictive model being worked on by a couple of dozen experts at two of Arizona`s top universities.

The state health department said they wanted a targeted Arizona-specific model. And so, professors at the university of Arizona and Arizona State, they offered up their services to do that as experts for free. And what they turned up was useful and specific.

The mathematical epidemiologist leading the modeling told the Arizona Republic last month that not reopening the state until the end of May was the only scenario they modelled that, quote, doesn`t put me immediately back on an exponential growth curve. Quote, I can say, scientifically, no, it is not safe to reopen unless you`re planning on, you know, shutting down again after a couple of weeks.

So that`s where they stood - things stood in Arizona. But then Donald Trump came to town. The president flew into Arizona to make an unmasked visit to a mask factory yesterday. And Arizona governor Doug Ducey announced, as that was happening, that he would, in fact, accelerate the opening up of businesses in Arizona. The president, of course, has been encouraging this sort of thing all over the country. So forget the extension of the stay-at- home order. That`s off. Salons and barber shops in Arizona, you`re good to go this Friday. Restaurants, customers can start dine-in service next Monday.

Forget what they`d said before. Apparently the data was suddenly looking much rosier than it had just days earlier.

Turns out, that`s because the Ducey administration hadn`t found a new model for the epidemic in their state that they`ve decided they really like and tells them much happier things. It`s a model they say they got from the Trump administration. Arizona`s health department says that this model they got from the Trump administration shows that even if the governor lifted the stay-at-home order right away, and things opened all the way back up, the state would still be fine.

I can only show you though what they say about it because we`re not allowed to see this supposed model. It`s a secret model created by the federal government. Maybe by FEMA, they say. It has not been released publicly. The government of the state of Arizona says we just have to trust them that it says what they say it says and also that it is definitely the best, most realistic model and we shouldn`t look at any other data other than that anymore.

Just hours after the governor announced this new accelerated pace of reopening, based on the secret model they really liked that nobody else can see, the Ducey`s administration contacted professors at the University of Arizona and Arizona State who had been doing the professional modelling for the state and the Ducey administration told them they needed to stop their work. The state would no longer be sharing any data with them to assist them with their modelling efforts.

A reporter for an Arizona ABC affiliate got a hold of the email that went out to those scientists and said in part, quote, we`ve been asked by department leadership to pause all current work on projections and modelling. We wanted to let you know as soon as possible so you wouldn`t expend further time and effort needlessly. Also, we`ve been asked to pull back the special data sets which have been shared. So give us back all the data we gave you. Thanks for your service. Now, go home.

Phoenix Congressman Gallego wrote to the University of Arizona and ASU today calling on them to ignore the governor`s order and keep working on modelling for the state. A statement from ASU tonight interestingly says they will continue modelling work. Although it say they`ll do so without further access to the state`s internal data.

One former director of Arizona State Health Agency called the state`s order for university`s to stop doing this work, quote, astonishing. Quote, the action to disband the Arizona COVID-19 modelling working group begs the question whether the group was discontinued because they had been producing results that were inconsistent with messaging and decisions being made by the executive branch.

Joining us now, live, is that former Director of Arizona State Department of Health Services. He`s Will Humble. He`s now Executive Director for the Arizona Public Health Association. Mr. Humble, thank you for your time tonight. I really appreciate you being here.


MADDOW: Let me ask you if I described that in a way that is -- that makes sense and if there`s anything that I`m sort of putting emphasis on there that`s out of joint.

HUMBLE: Oh no, that intro that you just did was spot on. I was thinking, what am I on here for? She hit the nail on the head. That was just -- that`s just like what happened.

MADDOW: Great. Well, what I wanted to ask you about was your use of the word astonishing to describe this move by the Ducey administration to shut down the modelling that these universities were doing. Why do you find it astonishing?

HUMBLE: Well, I mean, look at the situation. They had 20 of the best researchers that we have in the state that are super talented -- really experienced at this kind of predictive modelling -- who are willing to volunteer their time -- not get paid for it because they wanted to be part of the response and provide valuable information for policy makers to make decisions. And they come up with a good product, at the end of April, that`s super useful, has all kinds of scenarios to help decision making and then suddenly, they`re asked to stop their work.

I mean, I could see it if they were on a big contract and, you know, it was going to be expensive or something but these are folks that were providing a great product for free, And, by the way, the most talented people in the state.

MADDOW: I will also say that, what we know at least from public proclamations or from looking at the model, it doesn`t seem like what they were proposing or saying about the course of the epidemic in Arizona was particularly -- would lend itself to particularly draconian policy results. Like, they weren`t saying that Arizona needs to lockdown and stay that way until 2021. They were saying, you know, if you get out before the end of May, we`re going to see exponential growth. But if you can hold on until then, we can see the way that might go, which might be an easing of the burden in the state.

I mean, I`m not an expert on these things but my impression is that they were proposing was not something that was -- that would make it radically difficult for the governor to govern.

HUMBLE: No, it was written as a 23-page report and it`s written in a way to help decision makers and policy makers think through what the options are and give them an idea about what results would come from different policy decisions. And so, it wasn`t an advocacy piece in any way, shape or form. It was purely, you know, a document that would be really good for policy makers. If I was an elected official, I would love to have that kind of information and it makes zero sense to me that they would stop that work and, you know -- now they don`t have it. I don`t understand it.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about what the state is apparently relying on instead. This is almost as strange to me as anything else in this story. The health department now says it`s relying on a model they got from the federal government. They say they got it from FEMA. We don`t know what that is.

And according to the state health department, they`re saying this model shows Arizona has plenty of resources. It`ll be absolutely fine even if the state opens back up entirely right now. But we can`t see the model and it will not be made publicly available.

That seems like -- that seems like a series of statements visiting from another time and another crisis. I don`t even understand the type of document that they might be talking about. Does that make any sense to you, what they`re referring to?

HUMBLE: I don`t know anybody, outside of the state health department or maybe in state government, that`s actually seen this model. It`s not publicly available. You can`t go to the website and look at the model. Nor are the -- if there are Arizona specific data runs out of that model, it`s not available. And so, I mean, it`s totally non-transparent and I just -- you know, here`s what it does.

There`s 7 million people in Arizona that are all part of this response. We`re all responding to this epidemic personally and professionally and it`s been really hard.

And we`re entitled to see the kind of information that our policy makers are using to make decisions on our behalf. And we can`t even look at the model? That doesn`t -- it`s astonishing, like I said in the blog post.

MADDOW: Will Humble, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former Director of Arizona`s Department of Health Services. Mr. Humble, thanks for helping us understand this. There`s a lot of, sort of, unknowns and black boxes in this story. If they start to fill in and you can see it -- you can see the explanations here in Arizona before we can see them nationally, will you call us and we can get you back on the air?

HUMBLE: Sure, thank you. Sure will.

MADDOW: Absolutely. Great. We will be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Last night, America`s collective heart leapt into our collective throat with the announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been hospitalized. She was treated yesterday afternoon at Johhns Hopkins for a gallstone problem that resulted in an infection.

Well, tonight we can report that Justice Ginsburg is out of the hospital. The Supreme Court just releasing this quote, Justice has been discharged from the hospital. She`s doing well and glad to be home. The justice will return to the Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for follow up outpatient visits over the next few weeks to eventually remove the gallstone.


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