Governor Whitmer TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Steven Reed, Gretchen Whitmer, Jeffrey Shaman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN":  Yes, that`s a good -- I`m going to try to take that to heart.

Jamie Lloyd-Smith, that was so, so, so, enlightening and fascinating and thank you so much for making time to share your expertise.

JAMIE LLOYD-SMITH, UCLA INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT:  Thank you. It`s a pleasure.

HAYES:  That is "ALL IN" for this evening.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

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

And thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. Happy to have you here.

Last night here on the show, we had the governor of New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She is reportedly one of the high-flying female elected Democratic Party officials who Vice President Biden`s presidential campaign has started vetting, as a potential running mate for Joe Biden. So, we had the governor of New Mexico here last night.

Tonight, we`re going to be joined live by the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, who is also reportedly in contention for that slot. She is also reportedly being vetted by the Biden campaign as a potential running mate.

President Trump, of course, was in Governor Whitmer`s state today. He was in Michigan, where he gave a sort of rumbly string of consciousness rally- type speech after he toured a Ford factory. That was really strange.

And then even though everybody in that factory is supposed to wear a mask at all times, the president told the press that they were not allowed to see him in a mask, and that`s why he wasn`t wearing one there. Whereupon, nevertheless, we promptly got pictures of him in which he appears to be wearing a mask. This one comes from the Twitter account of Congresswoman Jackie Speier. You know, another day, another thrill, in terms of what it means to cover the surreal, surreal presidency of Donald Trump.

Governor Whitmer in Michigan is contending not only with that nonsense, she`s contending with a serious disaster right now in the central part of her state, in Midland, county, Michigan, where there is fairly catastrophic flooding and serious worries about a superfund site there, under the flood waters.

And that is of course on top of Michigan`s ongoing battle with the coronavirus. Michigan has had more than 5,000 of its residents killed by the virus thus far. Only New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have had a higher death toll than Michigan thus far. We`re going to be speaking again live with Governor Gretchen Whitmer in just a moment tonight.

You should also know we are going to be speaking tonight with the epidemiologist whose work landed on the front page of "The New York Times" today. You probably saw this headline. Waiting to lock down costs 36,000 American lives. That is the absolute gut punch of a finding from a new study by, among others Columbia University epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Shaman.

And this is a complicated study. There is a lot of math here. Look at this for a second. This is the transmission model. This is from page 14 of their article.

The equation on the top there is for daytime transmission. The equation on the bottom is for nighttime transmission of coronavirus. This is like a seriously numerological thing. But for all the math here, the bottom line is the most human thing in the world this. Study will just rip your heart out. I mean what all that math is about, is the fact that we finally got around as a country, in mid-March, to putting in broad stay-at-home orders, and starting to tell people to stay away from other people basically, to try to slow the spread of the virus, and those restrictions did slow the pace of the spread of the virus.

And it slowed the spread of the virus to a degree that you can measure it, with all this complicated math. It turns out that you can then use that math to figure out what would have happened, sort of build a counter- factual model to figure out what would have happened if we had taken those same actions that we took in the middle of March, but we had taken them a week earlier, or two weeks earlier. And the numbers suggest, just blow you away.

I mean if we had acted nationwide according to this modeling from Columbia University, today, if we had acted nationwide, just in the way that we did, but we had done it one week earlier, on march 8th, 36,000 Americans who are dead today would not have died. If we had acted two weeks earlier, if instead of acting on March 15th, we had acted on March 1st, 54,000 American lives would have been saved. Americans who are dead today, whose lives would have never been at risk, had we just acted two weeks earlier.

But, of course, you know, this is where we were at, even as of March 9th, saddled with a federal government run by a president who even as of that date was crying about how, quote, nothing is shut down, life and the economy go on.

Maybe not too much emphasis now on the life part now that we know that him dithering for that long cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives. So, we`re going to talk with the epidemiologist behind that absolutely unforgettable study.

And importantly, that epidemiologist is going to come on the air with us tonight, to talk about what that modeling tells us, not just about when we should have started taking this seriously. But what we should do now, from here on out. Now that we`ve got 1.5 million cases, now that we`ve got over 95,000 Americans dead.

This kind of modeling isn`t just about what we should address about the past and who we should blame for inaction in the past. It is helpful for that. But it is also fairly prescriptive in terms of what is going to happen next, and how we shouldn`t make the same mistake twice, and how we should make the next round of decisions that we need to make in terms of public policy.

So we`re going to be speaking with Governor Whitmer from Michigan. We`re going to speaking with that epidemiologist. Big show. That`s all coming up tonight.

But we are going to start tonight, with what appears to be a really, really urgent situation that is unfolding right now, in one great American city. You might have seen the headlines today, about modeling that`s been done to try to account for how people are behaving now, as state restrictions get lifted around the country.

In particular, there`s been quite a lot of coverage of this one bit of modeling from Philadelphia-based researchers, who are using anonymized mobile phone data to track how people are moving around more as state restrictions get lifted, and using that mobile phone data about how people are actually behaving right now. They are modeling the epidemiological consequences of these new patterns of movement as the states are starting to open up, and as people are starting to move around more.

And the "Washington Post" headline about this modeling today put it pretty succinctly, quote, coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country. Experts warn of second wave in the South.

And I know that we keep talking about first waves and second waves, and that`s part of the jargon of our discussion around this epidemic at this point, but in this case, it`s important to know that when they`re talking about a second wave in the South here, they`re not warning about a sec wave in the fall, or, you know, in the flu season, or when it gets cold again. This is the second wave that the experts are warning about that is coming right now, over the next four weeks.

Quote: According to a research team that uses cell phone data to track social mobility and forecast the trajectory of the pandemic, Dallas, Houston, Southeast Florida`s gold coast, the entire state of Alabama, and several other places in the American south, that have been rapidly reopening their economies, are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus infections over the next four weeks -- over the next four weeks -- which is worrying if the second wave is coming like now. The second wave is going to be here for June.

But that basic idea does make sense. It does roughly jive with what we are starting to see in terms of data in places that are reopening. In Texas, and in Florida, and in Maryland, and, yes, in Alabama, we are seeing the reopening of those places coinciding with the case numbers hitting record highs and going back up.

I will say the numbers in Alabama in particular are unsettling. Every state has one of these sort of coronavirus dashboard things now, at least a central web site where they do, they release basic information from the state about what is going on in the epidemic, and Alabama, the state`s data visualization dashboard thingy, I have to tell you, is a mess. Literally, this is the data visualization aid you are greeted with when you first go there. Oh, that`s helpful. I see now, I understand. There`s a lot of stuff on the Alabama data visualization web site which makes no sense and is of no help at all.

But if you fiddle around with it, long enough, eventually, you can get the Alabama coronavirus data hub to spit out this chart showing the growth in daily case numbers in Alabama. And as bad as all of their other data visualization stuff is, this is clear, and this is bad.

Quote: The average number of new cases reported each day in Alabama has been higher in May than any prior month. Before May 5th, Alabama had seen only two days with more than 300 new COVID cases.

Since then, Alabama`s reported 300-plus new cases on ten out of 15 days. That`s how AL.com is summing up the rise in cases and how the state is the worst it`s been and seeming to get worse every day.

So it`s bad generally speaking in Alabama, even as the governor there, Republican Governor Kay Ivey, keeps insisting that something else should be opening up every day, and keeps insisting that everything is fine and everything needs to be opened there. That model that I mentioned is using cell phone data to track mobility and the epidemiological consequences of that, that model could not be more blunt about the risk in Alabama right now. Quote: According to the model, Alabama will probably experience a steep increase in cases in nearly every county in the state over the course of the next month.

So, as we are going through this political and policy transformation, where every state in the Union is opening to a certain degree, and in some states, that might be okay, that might be wise, and in some states, it really seems clear that it is not a good idea, there really is an alarm ringing for the whole state of Alabama right now. Depending how you look at it, in terms of state`s own numbers and in terms of the state`s journalists and in terms of modelers who are finding the most worrying places in the country, everybody is kind of pointing at Alabama and saying this is not good.

But if you live in the capital city of the great state of Alabama, if you live in Montgomery, Alabama, specifically, you woke up today, to an even louder alarm than everybody else in your state got today, because this is what arrived on your doorstep in Montgomery, as your morning paper today.

This is the front page of the "Montgomery Advertiser" today and this is how big the headline is: Montgomery hospitals down to one ICU bed. And that photo there, that is the mayor of the city of Montgomery, that`s Mayor Steven Reed and he really does have a bear of an epidemic on his hands this. It shows the total cases in Montgomery, Alabama, over time, how steeply they have risen over time.

For an even starker look, this is a graph that not only shows their cumulative case, their total cases, this is their new cases day by day. Look at the recent days on that. Look at how that is spiking.

And that isn`t scary just in terms of being alarming graph. That isn`t just scary in math terms. It`s not even scary in terms of the forward-looking implications for the spread of the virus, inside that American city. What`s going on in Montgomery, Alabama, right now, is already being lived in terms of real dire consequences. And I use the word dire advisedly, because that is the mayor is calling it right now.

The mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, right now, is ringing the alarm bell as loudly as he can. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR STEVEN REED (D-AL), MONTGOMERY:  Whether you believe this or not, it is a serious issue. Our health care system is at a critical point right now. And we are at a point that we are now diverting acute care patients to Birmingham, because of our ICU bed shortage. That`s very serious.

Right now, if you are from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you`re in trouble. If you`re from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one, because our health care system has been maxed out. Right now, we are short at Baptist East by three beds. Baptist South has zero ICU beds. Baptist South in Prattville has zero ICU beds and Jackson Hospital, not far from here, Montgomery, has one.

I really want us to think about the seriousness of that. Because none of us know who may need that ICU bed today and who may need that this evening, tomorrow, or over this extended Memorial Day weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Mayor Steven Reed of Montgomery, Alabama, sounding the alarm. If you are from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you`re in trouble. If you are from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one. This is happening right now. Montgomery Alabama. And their mayor signaling that the city needs help.

Joining us right now is Steven Reed, the mayor of the great city of Montgomery, Alabama.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for making time tonight. I know you have an incredible amount of work on your plate. Thanks for making time to be here.

REED:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me just ask if what I`ve described about what is happening in your city and indeed in Alabama, if that comports with your understanding or if I`ve gotten anything wrong in the way that I`ve described it?

REED:  No, you`re dead on, that is the information that we had yesterday, when we did the press conference. We understand that information has changed somewhat. It has been some improvement but not very much, in terms of availability in the community.

However, we`re still at a point of crisis in this city, because of the lack of ICU beds that are available, even with some beds being freed up over the last 24 to 48 hours.

MADDOW:  I think the thing that is so worrying, from a national perspective, thinking about what`s going on in your city is, that we`re, as we see rural outbreaks, places where they`ve got maybe a prison, or some nursing homes, or a meatpacking plant or something, where it`s a rural area, but they`ve got workplace-based outbreaks, and so they have large spikes in cases. You`re -- sometimes, I feel like I`m recognizing this pattern now, we`ll get reports from rural America, that there is a place where there is only one hospital, there`s only two hospitals, and they`re getting overwhelmed and they need help.

What you`re describing in Montgomery, is a good-sized American city, with a handful of hospitals. It`s not like Montgomery just has or two hospitals. You`ve got a reasonably sized health care system there but it sounds like all of the facilities in your city are being taxed and that the system as a whole is essentially overcapacity, even if you factor in all of the different places that people can go to get treated. Is that fair?

REED:  You`re exactly right. We`re at a place right now, because of the decimation of our rural health care system, in Alabama, and throughout this country, where we have people that come from as far away as 80 miles, in towns that are big and small, that depend on Montgomery, as a health care capital. They come here to get medical care. They come here to get taken care of. And unfortunately, because of that, not only are we here to support our residents in the city of Montgomery, and the county itself, but we`re supporting the entire area.

Now, I think what we have to look at is, this COVID-19 virus has really exposed the gaps in our health care system, both in terms of who can get access to it, and those who have access to particular and what it can sustain. And we`re in a very serious situation here because of the trends that you`ve highlighted on your show, and what the numbers are saying and that is happening here over the last few weeks, since we reopened the economy.

MADDOW:  Now, the reopening is not something that is a fait accompli. It continues. And the governor continues to make these announcements.

I mean, it was yesterday that you gave that stark warning about the ICUs in your city essentially being full and needing to offload patients to Birmingham and then, it was today, that the governor further relaxed restrictions in the state for theaters and summer camps, for schools and athletic activities. I have to think that those statewide decisions that the governor is making, they don`t really seem to match up with the experience in Montgomery, both in terms of the number of cases you got, but how taxed your resources already are in terms of whether you can handle more cases. It seems like there is a real disconnect there.

REED:  Well, I think there is. You know, we`ve had different hot spots around the state over the last couple of months. And right now, in Montgomery, we`re at a point where we can see the cliff, and we don`t want to get too close to it from fear of falling off. And that`s why we sounded the alarm yesterday, leading up to this Memorial Day weekend.

And I think when you look at Montgomery, we tested less than 4 percent of our population, we`ve doubled our cases, month over month. We`ve had week to week increases of over 40 percent, this month alone. We`re in a very dangerous predicament. And I think parts of the state may be doing a little better for now.

But I don`t think that the economy should have been open at the time that it was. I think that we should have slowed our reopening and done some things a little bit differently, because what I think it has done is send a message that the battle with COVID-19 is over, and it has been won.

We`re still in this battle. And we can`t afford to relax now and lose much of the progress that we`ve made over these last few weeks. And make no mistake about it. Our first responders, our medical personnel, our frontline workers, they`ve done a great job. Members of the community have stepped up to do things over and beyond to help their neighbors and to help their families and just to help out in any way they can. But it doesn`t help us if we are doing those things on, and taking two steps back, by prematurely trying to get back to our normal routine and what was normal prior to this pandemic.

MADDOW:  Steven Reed, mayor of the great city of Montgomery, Alabama -- sir, thank you so much for taking time, for us tonight, we`re going to be checking in with hospitals, in your city. We`ll do our best to stay on this story as your city continues to struggle with these real high case numbers. But please keep us apprised if you feel if that there are things the country needs to know about what you`re going through. We`d love to help you get the word out, sir. Thank you.

REED:  Thank you for having me.

MADDOW:  All right. I will say, you know, there has been a lot of happy talk about the course of the epidemic from the very beginning, from the very top, which delayed our initial response which likely caused tens of thousands of lives in America. We will be talking about more of that later on in this hour.

But part of the happy talk that we`re getting right now, particularly on the political right is look the reopening is happening and everybody is fine, everything is fine. Well, first of all, when people get exposed it takes a couple of weeks in terms of people getting tested and having positive results and turning up in the hospital and ultimately turning up critically ill, and so, all of the premature celebration about look how great the opening up is, is ignorant.

But this idea that it`s just a theoretical that our health care systems will be overtaxed or will come to capacity, as we reopening fuels the surge in more cases, it`s not a hypothetical. It`s happening right now in Montgomery, Alabama. Ignoring that because you like the idea of reopening doesn`t make that go away.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is going to join us live here next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There it goes. There it goes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  And there it went. That is the moment when the Edenville dam in central Michigan collapsed. That footage was caught on camera by a local resident named Lynn Coleman who happened to be recording at the time that that happened. Lynn Coleman told MILive.com quote, I shot the video for about 30 seconds. Then shut it off and called 911. Yes.

The Edenville dam was one of two hydroelectric dams that failed the day before yesterday after heavy rains over the weekend. The other was the Sanford Dam, upriver from the city of Midland, Michigan, which has a population of about 42,000 people.

Now, Midland, Michigan, has been inundated with what is being called 500- year flood, parts of the city, recover tops were left just barely visible underneath the flood waters. Hundreds of homes got swamped. Many of them totally destroyed. Local roads washed out, left impassable. People who live in the area, more than 10,000 of them were evacuated ahead of the breach.

They were told that it could take another four or five days before the flood waters recede there, before they can even start to clean up. People evacuated from their homes have been put up in some cases in temporary shelters, set up around the city.

At Midland, Michigan, high school, senior citizens make up about 90 percent of the crowd that is now sleeping in the gym there, and that, of course, is not ideal, in terms of the other crisis in Michigan right now, the crisis we`ve all got now, in terms of the coronavirus epidemic. Not a great time to have people sheltering in congregate facilities, particularly mostly elderly people.

Late last night, Michigan`s Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to President Trump requesting a federal emergency declaration. As it happens, President Trump was in Michigan today, giving a weird rambling campaign- like speech at a Ford plant.

The president granted the governor`s request for federal assistance to augment the state and local response. That`s of note, because it comes right after he threatened earlier this week to withhold all federal aid for Michigan, because the state was going ahead with plans to make voting easier and less risky during the epidemic.

Today, Governor Whitmer described the damage in midland as truly devastating. She said it was like anything we have seen before. She noted the incredibly stressful nature of an operation to get 10,000 people out of a flood zone, while maintaining social distancing.

With everything going on, Governor Whitmer has agreed to join us live tonight for which I`m very grateful. I have lots of questions for her about this very desperate situation in central Michigan, her state`s local efforts to combat the coronavirus which has killed over 5,000 people in her state, the fourth highest death toll in the country.

I also want to talk to her about what she is calling the opening conversation she had with Vice President Biden`s team which reportedly has her on the list of potential running mates.

Last time Governor Whitmer was here on the show, she really did not want to talk to me about that last thing and I will ask her again and she will probably blow me off again. And I`ll try.

Governor Whitmer joins us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Joining us now for "The Interview" is Governor Gretchen Whitmer of the great state of Michigan, and, boy, does she have a lot to contend with right now.

Governor, you are dealing with an emergency at home. You`re dealing with this ongoing epidemic. You are dealing with a strange visit from the president today.

Thank you for making time in the middle of all of this to be here with us tonight.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you first about this historic flooding in your state. This is -- this is a crisis that you could see coming. You ordered people evacuated out of harm`s way before those dams failed or were overwhelmed.

But it seems to me, at least as best as I can tell, that this is a crisis that is not over. Not only have flood waters not receded, but are you expecting that there may need to be further evacuations, there that there may be other -- other towns that are in danger?

WHITMER:  Well, we are concerned and we`re watching it very closely, and we know, too, that there is more precipitation in the forecast. And so, we`re taking this very seriously.

I`ll just acknowledge, the fact that we`re in the midst of a global pandemic, on top of that, dealing with a 500-year flood event, which are, of course, becoming more and more frequent. We`ve got climate change as a part of that, but also, old infrastructure as well. We were able to evacuate 10,000 people in the midst of all of this. And at this -- as of our conversation now, we`ve not found any casualties, and it really is a testament.

I know people see the footage of what`s going on at the capitol and protests, but what`s really happening in the state of Michigan is people are rising to the challenge and helping one another. We`ve flattened our curve. We`ve helped each other out. People have been displaced from their homes.

And when I went to Midland, I was so inspired by the attitude of the people who are all wearing masks and chipping in to help each other in the midst of these two crises. And it was really inspiring. We got a lot of tough stuff to deal with, and tough things that we`re trying to confront together, but I think you can see bits of humanity every day in this, and that`s what keeps us going.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the way these two emergencies sort of dove- tailed in your state. Obviously, emergency planning when you think about the need to evacuate large numbers of people, as you said, 10,000 people, in very short order -- short order, in advance of an impending dam failure. That`s a specific kind of emergency planning.

To have to integrate that with social distancing, and infection control protocols that are so unusual, so unfamiliar, something that we`ve never done before this epidemic -- I mean, how do you integrate those two imperatives? How do you evacuate people and keep them safe and put them up in shelters while also preventing them from giving each other coronavirus?

WHITMER:  Well, it`s really incredible. When I went to the state emergency operations center, to call for the evacuation, and to declare a state of emergency on Tuesday night, I found myself saying, this is a once in a lifetime event. And I found myself saying this again, right, I`ve said it many times over the last ten weeks here in Michigan.

And yet, here we are, and we`re going to grit our teeth and get through this and help one another out. The local emergency operations center was on top of this. And they worked seamlessly with the state emergency operations center.

But they`ve done phenomenal work. And I think that the planning and all of the different agencies, the Michigan National Guard, the Michigan State Police, combined with what was happening at the local level, really contributed to an organization that helped save people.

But we`re going to have our work cut out for us. And it`s going to take a while to come back from this. There`s no question.

MADDOW:  Hmm. On the issue of the epidemic, per your executive order in the state, anybody who`s medically able to do so has to wear something that covers their face in enclosed spaces. The whole country watched today as the president sort of personally, gleefully flouted that by talking to the press today on his visit to your state, when he visited that Ford plant and he didn`t wear a mask -- at least for most of that visit. Photos did later surface of him apparently in other parts of the plant wearing a mask, but when he was talking to the press, he was sort of bragging about the fact that he wasn`t doing so.

I just wanted to ask your response to that. It`s public health behavior modeling by the president at one level. But it`s also specifically flouting your order in the state.

WHITMER:  Well, it`s disappointing. It wasn`t surprising but it was disappointing.

I think that our Big Three have just started the reengagement, right? They are phasing in reengaging, after what has been a stay-at-home order, and the UAW members are concerned about their safety, naturally. They worked very closely.

The head of the UAW, Rory Gamble, worked very closely with the head of the Big Three, to make sure that his members would be safe when they went back to the workplace.

As you saw in the footage, all of the Ford executives wore the masks. All of the employees were wearing masks. All of the press were.

And it`s really important that anyone with a platform has a responsibility to make sure that they model precisely what we`re asking everyone else to do. This is about public health. Not one person`s or another. This is about all of us.

And anyone in a position of power, and responsibility, I hope emulates and does precisely what they`re asking everyone else to do.

MADDOW:  One of the things that we talked about the last time you were here, Governor, is an effort to try to get everybody in nursing homes, in Michigan, tested. I know that you have been pursuing that. I know that you`ve also, in Michigan, been pursuing a plan to try to get everybody in Michigan state prisons tested, and that has turned up some large numbers of positive prisoners, in some state correctional facilities.

I have to ask you -- now that you`re further along into those projects, if you feel like you have clarity, or if there are lessons learned in terms of what you do with that information when you`ve got it, once you know that you`ve got an epidemic, once you know that you`ve got an epidemic in a dangerous place for the spread of this virus, like a prison, or like a nursing home, do you understand what the right protocols should be that go into effect in terms of separating people with the virus from people who don`t have it?

WHITMER:  Yes. So, obviously, with a novel virus like this, we are learning an incredible amount every single day. And we have been really ramping up our testing in Michigan. We`re now in the top six, both in numbers of tests done and numbers per million. That is something to be proud of.

We have tested a lot of people in our nursing homes, and in our prisons. We have learned from that, and we`ve got protocols that we have developed in conjunction with our nursing homes, to make sure that we are able to keep people safe.

This is a challenge. But we -- the more information we have, the better we can take actions that will protect people. And that`s why this testing is so important.

We`ve been behind the eight ball as a nation when it comes to testing. We`re still struggling to make sure that we`ve got all of the appropriate swabs we need so that our testing capabilities were up to the maximum and are on all fronts. We`ve made great strides but there`s no question there`s a lot more work to do.

I`m also proud that we have been one of the first states to release racial data, that we have been able to learn in this process as well, so that we can identify the fact that this has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. I`m hopeful that every state in the nation is ultimately sharing that data so that we do the hard work of learning the lessons.

This virus is holding up a mirror to the United States of America and we better learn lessons and come out of this determined to do better.

MADDOW:  Governor Whitmer, I asked you the last time you were here about reports that the Biden campaign had approached you about potentially being vetted to be his -- his running mate for the forthcoming campaign against President Trump and Mike Pence in the fall, and you absolutely did not want to talk about it, and I can tell just from looking at you that you do not want to talk about it again right now.

But I`m going to press you on it a little bit because these reports continue. We believe that those opening conversations have happened. And it`s a really important thing, as the country is trying to figure out who Joe Biden might pick and whether or not that person is going to be ready to be president.

Can you tell us anything at all about that -- about that process, whether or not that vetting is happening, and whether or not you look forward to the scrutiny and potentially joining that campaign?

WHITMER:  Here`s what I can tell you, that they have got a phenomenal group of people to vet, and there are a lot of phenomenal women leaders across this country, who would make a great running mate for Joe Biden.

And no matter who it is, I am going to be a strong ally, and I`m -- because this is a crucial election, and I believe in Joe Biden, I believe he will make a great president, and no matter what way that goes, I am going to be helping and counting on us, you know, move forward as a country and learn the lessons from -- from this horrible experience we`ve been going through together.

MADDOW:  Governor Gretchen Whitmer of the great state of Michigan, thank you for at least entertaining my question, to the degree that you did.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDOW:  I know that`s not your favorite thing to talk about. Thank you, Governor.

WHITMER:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  And -- and, you know, good luck to you. I know you got -- every governor`s dealing with a lot right now in terms of this epidemic, but it just feels like you are -- you are being, you are fielding more than most. So please keep us apprised. We`d love to have you back any time you want to come back.

WHITMER:  Tough times don`t last, but tough people do. We`re going to get through, this, but thank you for shining that light here on Michigan. We appreciate it.

MADDOW:  I hear you, Governor. Thank you.

All right. Coming up next here, we`re going to be speaking with the epidemiologist whose study is on the front page of "The New York Times" today. The study that says that had we acted one week -- or even one week earlier as a country while the president was insisting nothing need to be done about this virus, had we acted one week earlier, tens of thousands of Americans who have since died would not have died.

That study, that epidemiologist, next.

Stay with us.

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MADDOW:  Epidemiological news isn`t often the kind of thing that makes you feel like your heart is breaking. But that`s what this did today.

Quote: If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures, one week earlier than it did, in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to the new estimates from the Columbia University disease modelers. And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1st, two weeks earlier, than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation`s deaths, about 83 percent, would have been avoided.

Quote: Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer Americans would have died by early may.

So just one week earlier, on what we did, something we know we are capable of doing, because we did it, we just had done it one week earlier, 36,000 Americans who died would have been saved. If we had done did two weeks earlier, 54,000 Americans who are dead would have not have lost their lives.

It just breaks your heart because it is so possible that we could have done.

But that`s how "The New York Times" today describes the findings of this new modeling from researchers at Columbia University, and you know, models, it is just that, it`s a model, it can`t tell us for certain what might have been, but their method of arriving at these estimates is pretty straightforward and compelling, even for those who aren`t scientists.

And the researchers looked at how transmission of the coronavirus slowed down, starting in mid-March, when the social distancing and the shutdown of schools and businesses really did take hold across much of the country. They took that real world data, and essentially mapped it backwards in time, what if that slowing curve of virus transmission, what if slowing of the transmission of the virus had begun a week earlier, when the epidemic was one week younger, one week smaller, in terms of how many people were already infected.

What if those things had been put in place two weeks earlier, when the epidemic was two weeks younger? When we had two weeks less of people getting infected? And those people infecting others. And those people infecting others.

And this, very simply is, what it looks like. That steep red line on the top is what we lived through or died from. That is the number of the coronavirus deaths in the United States through May 3rd. Below that, you see the lines showing what the toll would have been if the lockdowns began one week or two weeks earlier, all of that excess death, all of it avoidable.

In all of these scenarios, the first American deaths happened at the same time. It`s the increase in deaths overtime that get slowed down and that gets so drastically reduced.

"The Times" today also translated these findings into maps. On the left, you`ll see the actual number of deaths that we`ve had. On the right, the number of deaths if social distancing began a week later. And the first thing you notice is that not only would deaths have been reduced by half, the deaths would have happened in fewer places would suggest the virus would have been kept from spreading. Someplace places would have been stared entirely.

On one hand, this is about the past. This is more data for us to use and evaluate and what has already happened in our government`s terrible dithering mismanagement of the epidemic. And certainly, this raises upsetting and haunting questions for the loved ones of Americans who have died.

But this isn`t just about regret and what we did wrong in the past. This is also about not making the same mistake again. These models would also seem to hold a warning about our next steps that would seem to hold a warning about the future.

From "The Times" today, quote, the results show as states reopen, outbreaks can easily get out of control unless officials closely monitor infections and immediately clamp down on new flare ups.

Just as we needed to stop this thing when it was small from the outset, we need to stop new outbreaks when they`re small, too. Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman`s team estimated the effect of relaxing all control measures across the country. The model finds because of the lag time between the time -- because of the lag between the time infections occur and symptoms begin emerging without extensive testing and rapid action, many more infections will occur leading to more deaths, as many as tens of thousands of deaths across the country.

Joining us now is Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University School of Public Health. He`s the lead of the research team that did this modeling.

Dr. Shaman, appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thanks for being here.

DR. JEFFREY SHAMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY CLIMATE & HEALTH PROGRAM DIRECTOR:  Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW:  So I am a lay observer of these things and I read your study. I got tripped up by the math, but I`ve read the reporting on it, as well.

Let me ask you first if I`ve explained anything wrong or if I misunderstood anything about what you and your colleagues have found.

SHAMAN:  I think you summarized it very well and I think the important thing that we`re really trying to do here is not just look retrospectively and quantify might have been, but to use that information to really inform how we go forward and how we have to be very vigilant with this virus. We`re not done with this pandemic by any stretch. Most of the story has not been exposed to it, has not been infected. And it`s really vital we actively seek it out in our communities, that we monitor what is happening with the transmission of the virus in communities as we loosen restrictions and reopen the economy further and further to make sure we don`t have flare ups and if we identify growth in cases, we have to clamp down quickly. We have to respond more quickly because as you said, if you get the virus when the outbreak is young, when it`s in the early stages, you`re going to limit the number of deaths that will accrue over time.

MADDOW:  Can you put a little more meat on the bones of that basic idea? I feel like it makes sense just when I think about it qualitatively that getting it early is better and if you get it early, it doesn`t grow as large. What I was shocked by in your model is the quantitative difference that just one week, just a few days would make such a huge difference in the number of people who ultimately died over a couple -- over a couple of months.

Can you explain just in may lean terms why the numbers are affected in just a few days difference in response time?

SHAMAN:  Well, it is very staggering. And I think it`s important to quantify so you see how strong that response is. When you`re dealing with the growth of a virus in a fully susceptible population, it`s going through a doubling process. It`s growing exponentially.

And it`s very important to remember the doubling processes can really sneak up at you. They seem to start small and insignificant and not be of much consequence. But it really can swell and overwhelm you kind of like a tsunami wave. There are many examples that you`ll hear in the mathematics where they will try to explain it very simply.

One of my favorite is this idea you have a pond and there is this invasive lily flower that gets into it and every day doubles in size or doubles the number that are there. And by, let`s say, day 30, the entire pond is covered with lilies. The question is, well, on what day was it halfway covered with lilies? And the answer is Day 29, just the day before, because it is a doubling process?

By jumping on this virus earlier, you are really going to circumvent that growth, you`re going to squash that growth down and you can prohibit the number of people who are going to subsequently be infected by taking early action?

It`s a very strange and horrifying compounding process that this goes through by which it`s spreading through a community. And as a consequence is really vital that we reach out and we monitor what is going on in our communities actively. We can`t get complacent with this. There is a risk of that, particularly as we`re moving into summer, particularly because the virus may be seasonal and less transmissible during summer, that we`re going to get complacent and feel like we have this thing under control.

But we have to get in this for the long haul and we want to keep it squashed and reduce the levels to a low number of cases per day going forward while we hold on until we can get a vaccine that`s effective or effective therapeutics.

MADDOW:  Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, professor at Columbia University School of Public Health, thank you for being here tonight. That key insight that that dynamic that was true at the outset is also true with new outbreaks going forward. It`s just a game-changing understanding.

Thank you so much for helping us understand it, sir.

SHAMAN:  You`re welcome. Have a good night.

MADDOW:  You, too. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

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MADDOW:  Thanks for being with us tonight. It`s good to have you here. I`ll see you again tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".

Good evening, Lawrence.

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