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COVID victims TRANSCRIPT: 6/12/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Vanessa Hall-Harper, David Grabowski

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": All right. Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you so much for being here.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Thank you.

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. I appreciate it.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. Happy to have you with us this Friday night.

In 2005, the Super Bowl was played in Jacksonville, Florida. Reason that was noteworthy when it happened is because at that time, Jacksonville, Florida, was the smallest city to host a modern Super Bowl.

In 2005, the population of Jacksonville, Florida, was fewer than 800,000 people. But come the week of the Super Bowl, an extra 100,000 people flooded into that city. That is a huge expansion in the number of people who are ever in Jacksonville.

When it came to the need to house all of those people, it quickly became apparent that Jacksonville didn`t have nearly enough hotel rooms to go around, which should have been kind of a limiting factor for whether they were even in contention to get the Super Bowl at all, right?

You can`t house anybody who`s coming to see the Super Bowl? Then you can`t host the Super Bowl. But despite their dearth of hotel rooms, Jacksonville really, really wanted to host the Super Bowl that year. And so, in order to address the housing concerns, Jacksonville got creative.


REPORTER: The stadium sits along the St. John`s River, and because Jacksonville is the smallest city to ever host the big game, they`ve made up for a lack of hotel rooms with five cruise ships.


MADDOW: Need a bed? In town to watch the Super Bowl? Head on down to the docks. We`ve got five jumbo-sized cruise ships for you there.

That`s what thousands of people ended up doing for housing during the Super Bowl in 2005. They rented rooms and cruise ships that were docked wherever the city of Jacksonville could squeeze them in, because they basically had no other options for where to put all of those people. That`s what Jacksonville did in 2005.

Well, now it is 15 years later and that same city, Jacksonville, Florida, is getting ready to play host to a big national event once again. This time, they will be hosting the hastily relocated Republican National Convention.

It is now official. The Republican National Convention that will nominate President Trump for a second term, that convention has been yanked at the last minute out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They have moved it instead to Jacksonville.

They pulled the plug on Charlotte, North Carolina, after President Trump went ballistic over North Carolina`s Governor Roy Cooper refusing to guarantee that the Republicans convention would be held as if there`s no coronavirus. With thousands of people all crammed into one place. They wanted no social distancing, they wanted no masks. They want it to look like there isn`t anything going on in the country that might suggest any risk, any need for caution, any reminder of the body count of over 100,000 Americans already and climbing.

North Carolina did not want to do it that way. And North Carolina doesn`t seem particularly broken up about losing the RNC given that those are the conditions under which the president wants to hold that convention. When it first became clear that Charlotte, North Carolina, might in fact lose that event over this fight whether or not we`re pretending coronavirus is or isn`t happening, the biggest paper in Charlotte ran this editorial response, quote, "Good Riddance."

And that`s because North Carolina, whatever economic boost they might get from having a big Republican convention in the high summer, North Carolina really isn`t in a position to do something that catastrophically dangerous, to run a convention in that catastrophically perilous and risky a way in terms of where they`re at in the epidemic right now.

I mean, this is North Carolina`s curve of new cases right now. North Carolina is dealing with a steady and pronounced surge in new cases, particularly since they opened up, but it`s just been going up for a long time. The problem is so bad now in North Carolina, that the state health director is warning in the last day that they may need to institute a new stay-at-home order in North Carolina. They reopened the first week of May. They may need to reclose given what`s happening with case numbers there.

North Carolina`s new case numbers per day keep hitting new records. They`ve hit two new daily case records in the past week. They saw a jump of more than 1,300 new cases yesterday. They saw more than 1,700 new cases today. They are dealing with record high numbers of hospitalizations statewide.

And where Charlotte, North Carolina, is specifically, where the RNC was going to be specifically in Mecklenburg County, that county not only has the highest number of cases in the state by far, they`ve just had 11 straight days of triple-digit increases in that county alone in and around Charlotte.

So, yes, in that environment, maybe Charlotte, North Carolina, is not the best place to have a huge gathering that the president insists must be conducted like this, with lots of people who are senior citizens all in the same room together, all inside screaming and not wearing masks.

So it won`t be in Charlottesville -- excuse me, it won`t be in Charlotte, North Carolina. But is Jacksonville, Florida, any better a place to hold it if these are the circumstances in which the RNC wants to conduct itself? Is Jacksonville any better? Do we know?

Florida yesterday reported its highest single day number of new coronavirus cases yet since the pandemic started. And then today, they beat that record in Florida. They beat the daily case number record that they just sent yesterday because they set a new record today. "The Miami herald" reporting today that their own review of public and nonpublic data, which is important in Florida, showed that new cases in the state have bin consistently trending up since mid-May and the trends cannot be attributed to increases in testing.

Now, the statewide data in Florida is another thing, and it`s a contested thing and we`ll get to that in a minute. But in individual counties in Florida, you`re starting to see health officials show their fear a little bit in terms of what`s going on there. Yesterday, the health director for Palm Beach County in Florida convened a press conference in which she announced, quote, it is not contained in any way, shape or form.

That one county in Florida, Palm Beach County, now says its ICU beds are at 81 percent capacity. While case numbers are still going through the roof and still hitting new daily records, that`s bad. But for the whole state of Florida, even though we know the case numbers statewide are as bad as they`ve ever been and getting worse faster than they ever have, setting new records daily, and even though we know from the counties that some individual counties are really bending under the strain in terms of their hospitalization burdens, we really don`t know how bad the burden is statewide in Florida.

I can`t, for example, show you any charts about the current number of hospitalizations in Florida or how they`ve gone up or down over time. The reason I can`t show you that is because Florida doesn`t release that data. Lots of other states, almost all of the other states release their hospitalization data. Florida just stopped doing that. They stopped reporting hospitalization numbers statewide at the end of May, which "The Miami Herald" suggests their rise in cases started taking off. They just decided they wouldn`t put that information out in public view anymore.

Florida is so cagey about its numbers when it comes to coronavirus, that they fired the person they had running the state`s website showing all of the coronavirus data. She said they fired her because they wanted her to manipulate and remove data in order to make the pandemic look more under control in Florida than it actually was.

She`s incidentally now launched her own handmade personal version of the Florida coronavirus data dashboard that she used to run for the state. She`s just doing it herself now from home in their spare time because she says the state wouldn`t let her post the real data online at the official site, so she`s just doing her best now as a private individual.

Florida has also resisted posting data about outbreaks and deaths at its nursing homes and in workplaces. Florida likes to keep the numbers nice and quiet, because presumably if you don`t know, then everything`s fine? I mean, that`s one way of dealing with the crisis. Pull the covers over your head, say everything is fine and hope nobody notices the bodies piling up.

But as they move, the RNC, Republican National Convention and all of those tens of thousands of Republican delegates and all of the media and hangers had much on, as they move from Charlotte, North Carolina, which knows it has a problem, to Jacksonville, Florida, where they don`t say whether or not they`re having a problem, there`s one other wrinkle to consider about the fact that this thing is moving to Jacksonville.

As I mentioned a minute ago related to the Super Bowl, Jacksonville has this interesting history of using cruise ships to house out-of-towners who are visiting for large-scale events. Well, now that Jacksonville is going to host the Republican National Convention because North Carolina was being so prissy about this dumb pandemics Republicans don`t believe is real, it looks like the cruise ship housing solution is being considered once again for Jacksonville for the Republican National Convention in the middle of the pandemic.

Cruise ships, seriously?

Yes. The local NBC affiliate Jacksonville, Florida, reporting that many of the hotels in the city are already sold-out for the week of the RNC. Remember, they moved this thing at the very last minute. Now the city`s former mayor says there are active discussions going on about bringing in cruise ships to deal with overflow guests who are there for the RNC. The chairman of the Florida Republican Party is also saying that cruise ships could be a good option in terms of housing people for the RNC.

Yeah, nice place to stuff them into after they spend the day screaming and chanting indoors with tens of thousands of other mostly older people not wearing masks in one of the states with the largest and fastest-growing pandemics in the country. They`re going to put them on cruise ships.

I mean, next thing you know, they`re going to announce a nightly RNC delegate doorknob licking competition. Or maybe the big puppy pileup where everybody over 75 all takes a lick on the giant soft serve cone. Stick your face in there, give it a slurp and pass it on to the next grandpa. Anybody want to play squeeze my face? Wet Willie, anyone?

After that, you all go back to the cruise ship together to touch all the hand railings and eat at the buffet. Achoo. Ehem, seriously.

But Florida is not alone in terms of its numbers going the wrong way and then making some weird decisions alongside those numbers. Florida is worrying, for lots of reason, now especially given their plans for the RNC. But they really aren`t alone.

Here`s the lead at "The New York Times" tonight, quote: Two of the nation`s most populous states, Texas and Florida, both reported this week their highest daily totals of new coronavirus infections, a concerning sign. The rise in cases helps explain why the nation continues to record more than 20,000 new cases a day, even as some of the original hot spots, including New York, have seen dramatic declines.

Texas identified more than 2,000 new cases on both Wednesday and Thursday this week, the highest daily totals yet. The counties that include Houston and Dallas are reporting some of the nation`s largest single-day rises. Cases are also trending upwards around Ft. Worth, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, Austin, Texas, Lubbock, Texas, McAllen, Texas, and Midland, Texas.

In Houston, specifically, the county executive there, Harris County Judge Helena Hidalgo, unveiled a new sort of pictorial warning system for Harris County yesterday. While she announced the county is at the second highest level of warning, what they`re calling level two orange, which means significant and uncontrolled transmission of COVID-19 in Harris County.


LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS CO, TEXAS JUDGE: I`m growing increasingly concerned that we may be approaching the precipice -- the precipice of a disaster. This week, the COVID-19 general hospital population in Harris County was the highest it has ever been. It was the highest on Monday, and it`s gotten worse every day. It`s out of hand right now.


MADDOW: In the Houston area, they`re already at 88 percent of ICU capacity. As you heard the Harris County judge there say, basically, the county executive for Harris County, the general population of Harris County is the highest it`s ever been Monday and gotten worse every day since then. She says, I`m growing concerned we may be approaching the precipice of a disaster.

But that`s what we`re hearing now. That`s what is happening every day now in some of the most populous cities and states in the country. Not to mention rural states and less populated states where one of the big concerns is how much of a health care structure they have to tax when the numbers really start taxing that structure. Just talked about how North Carolina and Florida are both going in the wrong direction right now, makes it kind of weird the RNC decided to hop from North Carolina to Florida because of the way North Carolina was dealing with its pandemic. Yeah.

I mean, those numbers that you`re looking at there on your screen, those are the new case numbers, on top of just the case numbers, right now, nobody knows about Florida hospitalization statewide because Florida has decided not to release that data, but we do know that North Carolina hospitalizations are hitting new records all the time now.

Texas is hitting record case numbers every day now and record hospitalizations. Next door, Arkansas is hitting record case numbers too and record hospitalizations. We`ve also been closely watching Alabama, where you know the state capital in this region, Montgomery, is also overtopped in terms of hospital capacity. They`ve just hit two straight days in Alabama of their highest case number increases statewide. They`ve also hit their highest hospitalization numbers statewide.

The state health department in Alabama now issuing a statement telling Alabama residents it is, quote, safer to be at home right now because of community transmission in Alabama. Now, that advisory from the health department appears to be having no effect on actual policy in the state where Republicans are both in control of the legislature and governorship and where they just continue to steadily keep opening everything further up, even as case numbers rise and rise and rise and hospital systems start to get tapped.

The country is starting to figure out though that this is what`s happening. The White House isn`t talking about it. The president isn`t talking about it.

The national media really likes to cover just lots of things the president says. The president isn`t talking about this anymore. If you can stop listening to what it is he`s provoking you with and saying for long enough to look around and notice what`s going on in the country, the country has started to realize that even though the White House is ignoring it, what`s happening in terms of the virus right now, what`s happening in terms of the pandemic is really bad.

This isn`t some second wave happening in the fall. This is a first wave that`s either never cresting or a second wave that`s arriving in June. As the country starts to wake up to this broadly speaking, it will be interesting and important to see if in the case of what`s going on in all of these states with rising pandemics, it will be fascinating to see if the "head in the sand/don`t talk about it" approach still stays popular in the Republican Party and in general.

This was "NBC Nightly News" coverage of this situation tonight.


REPORTER: Tonight, rising concern as a surge of new COVID-19 cases hit multiple states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To slow down the (INAUDIBLE) the economy, if there`s any way to avoid it. And we are in the any way to avoid it stage.

REPORTER: In Texas, a month after opening bag up, hospital space is available but at Houston Methodist, patients are up 40 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people have left their guard down.

REPORTER: President Trump himself criticized after photos from last night`s Dallas` visit showed a packed church with few masks and limited social distancing.

When you saw that picture of the president`s meeting last night, what was your initial reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was angry because that`s our community chief. That`s the person who`s supposed to be leading the effort to keep you alive in the time of COVID.

REPORTER: In South Carolina, the government lifting restrictions despite the single largest daily increase in cases since the pandemic began. Fourteen states showing a greater-than-25 percent increase in cases in the last week. Recent spikes now prompting some areas to press pause.

(AUDIO GAP) as both Utah and Oregon take similar steps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is essentially a statewide yellow light. (AUDIO GAP) our public health experts time to assess what factors are driving the spread of the virus and determine if we need to adjust our approach to reopening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If she makes that decision, there`s a reason she`s making that decision and I have to trust that.

REPORTER: Nationwide, the virus still hitting familiar hot spots. This California nursing home evacuated early this morning, after an outbreak forcing every resident to relocate.

And in Oklahoma, Whirlpool announcing it`s closing its plant in Tulsa, where the virus just hit a new daily peak. The company saying exposed workers had been quarantined. And with each COVID-19 case in the plant, there`s a thorough investigation that includes contact tracing.


MADDOW: "NBC Nightly News`" Morgan Chesky reporting tonight.

That last data point there, Tulsa, Oklahoma, closing down a Whirlpool plant after the outbreak at the workplace, Tulsa hitting a new daily peak in terms of its cases, I mean, yeah, (AUDIO GAP) this from the Tulsa County health department. That is not good in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

And this is what the local headlines look like tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma - - infections peak again for Tulsa County. State health officials on Friday today reported 222 new cases of COVID-19, marking a new peak in daily increases in both the state and Tulsa County.

There`s another headline tonight in Tulsa, Tulsa health department urges caution on gatherings as COVID-19 cases reach record daily high.

Caution on gatherings?

Of course, the Trump campaign just announced that Tulsa, Oklahoma, will be the site of the first big rally for the president`s re-election effort next week. Next week, a week from today on Juneteenth, which is the day that celebrates the liberation of African-Americans from slavery.

Trump is going to be in Tulsa that day, yes, this Tulsa where this is what`s going on right now, for a big congregate rally indoors at an arena that seats 19,000 people. The CDC today just re-upped its guidance on how people should keep themselves save amid the rising pandemic. The CDC saying today that organizers of large gatherings should strongly encourage the use of face coverings for anybody at a large gathering.

The government`s top infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, telling ABC news tonight going to a mass event like the president is planning in Tulsa next week, a big congregate indoor event he says is, quote, very risky and people should at least, if they can avoid being in a place like that, they should at least wear masks.

Can we just put that -- can we just put the case numbers graph for Tulsa up just one more time, just to -- can I just -- yeah.

Tulsa, I`m sorry for what you`re going through right are now for these numbers. Tulsa, I`m sorry for what about you`re about to go through next week courtesy of the president. But I`ll tell you, if you start hearing rumors that they`re going to pull cruise ships up the Arkansas River to downtown Tulsa for the overflow, there`s going to be a cruise ship component to this too.

At that point, I`m not sorry. At that point, I have advice for you, which is run the other direction.

We`ll be right back.



REPORTER: June 19th, or for many, Juneteenth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the day African-Americans throughout this country celebrate their independence from child slavery.

REPORTER: But leaders in the community like Tulsa County District 1 Representative Vanessa Hall Harper say this year, the anticipation is more anxious.

COUNCILWOMAN VANESSA HALL HARPER, TULSA, OKLAHOMA: It`s the perfect storm for something very bad to happen here in Tulsa.

REPORTER: Because as the annual Juneteenth celebration remains canceled due to safety concerns --

HALL-HARPER: That celebration was canceled, we made that decision a month ago because of COVID.

REPORTER: President Trump will hold a rally that same day at the BOK Center.

HALL-HARPER: And it`s just a total slap in the face and it`s just a total insensitivity to not only what`s going on here locally in Tulsa but also what`s going on nationally in this country.


MADDOW: A slap in the face she calls it. That`s Tulsa, Oklahoma, City Councilwoman Vanessa Hall Harper, speaking with reporter Dane Hawkins at the NBC affiliate in Tulsa. Slap in the face.

And, of course, it`s not just a slap in the face because the president is holding his first re-election rally on Juneteenth but specifically because he`s going to do that in Tulsa. Tulsa is the site of what is widely considered to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history, the 1921 massacre of hundreds of African-Americans at the hands of organized white rioters, who looted and burned with what was then known as black Wall Street.

We`re coming up on the centennial of when that happened and Tulsa has been very focused on that anniversary as it approaches.

Vanessa Hall Harper now represents that part of Tulsa, Greenwood District. She`s the only African-American on the Tulsa City Council. She was elected in 2016, that was just a couple months after a white Tulsa police officer shot and killed a black driver named Terence Crutcher. That led to protests in Tulsa after that officer was acquitted the following year.

Earlier this year, looked like Counselor Harper`s proposal for a public referendum on an independent oversight body for the Tulsa police was poised positive pass city council until the last minute two of the her fellow councilors pulled their support and their proposal failed.

Now, though, it does feel like things might change. Tulsa has been convulsed over the rest of the country with protests over the killing of George Floyd. The mayor of Tulsa and city council and city`s first African- American police chief, who`s been on the job only a few months, say they are now working on a set of police reforms for Tulsa. But as if to highlight exactly what they`re up against, this week a white Tulsa police major went on a local conservative talk radio show and he said on that show he`s sure systemic racism in policing doesn`t exist.

And in fact, I`m going to give you the direct quote here so you do not think I`m exaggerating this. He said, and I quote directly, quote: All of the research on this says, we`re shooting African-Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be based on the crimes being committed.

That Tulsa police major says he was taken out of context and it was a, quote, hypothetical discussion of statistics. Again, what he said was, we`re shooting African-Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be. That is what he said.

That Tulsa police major has been condemned from those remarks from everybody to Tulsa`s mayor, to its police chief, to state legislators. The president of the Tulsa Black Officers Coalition, who I should mention is the husband of Councilor Vanessa Hall Harper, he held a press conference this week to single out the police major who made those comments as an example of the culture of policing that we are fighting against here in Tulsa.

But don`t worry, everything should cool off in Tulsa soon. One week from tonight, President Trump will be there for his first big rally for his re- election campaign held indoors at a 19,000 person arena in downtown Tulsa as, incidentally, Tulsa hits a new record high in its coronavirus cases.

Joining us now is Tulsa City Counselor Vanessa Hall-Harper.

Councilor Harper, thank you so much for making time for us tonight. I really appreciate you joining us.

HALL-HARPER: Thank you so much for the opportunity. I`m a big fan.

MADDOW: Oh, thank you.

I`m a big fan of Tulsa. I did a book tour a million years ago this past year and took my first stop in the country in Tulsa after leaving New York and had such a warm welcome and had such a good time and had such great food and so enjoyed myself. I feel like Tulsa has a little piece of my heart.

And I feel concerned about where you`re at right now in terms of the pandemic, where you`re at right now dealing with concerns about police violence and racism. Let me just ask you top line for how you feel your city is doing right now with these multiple challenges?

HALL-HARPER: We are in a very, very difficult place. With the president coming here at this time, it`s very concerning to me. It`s very concerning to me. I think, and I fear something very bad may happen very quickly.

And so, I`m really in a state of just -- still shock, disappointment and anger that he chose to come to Tulsa on June 19th, when we celebrate the emancipation. And I think it`s just -- it`s a poke, it`s intentional. It has to be intentional for a decision to be made like that.

And I fear for my community. I fear for my community in particular.

MADDOW: We played that clip of you explaining how Tulsa traditionally has a big Juneteenth celebration and as you said, that was called off this year because of concerns about coronavirus. Because those kinds of events just aren`t happening.

Now that there is going to be a big congregate event that night with the president`s rally, I understand that a coalition of organizations in Tulsa just announced there will be a Juneteenth rally for justice that night, just sort of counterprogramming the president`s events. I just want to ask what your expectations for that. And what the balance is for thinking about doing something like that both the political need to show up and both the concerns about why events like that have been canceled.

HALL-HARPER: I think that decision was made to show Tulsa and this country that we are not okay with the president making the decision or his campaign staff, whatever, making that decision to come here to Tulsa. I`m also very concerned about the COVID-19 crisis but I understand that there are efforts under way to make sure that everyone has masks.

We certainly don`t have to worry about our community, citizens, wearing those masks. I`m more concerned about those individuals that are attending the Trump rally where they`re told, you know, oh, they`re embarrassed about wearing masks. And so those -- the individuals that I`m aware of that are in the planning process, they`re very concerned about that and they`re taking all necessary precautions possible in order to ensure safety.

So I can guarantee you that not only the COVID crisis is of a primary importance of not doing all we can to not spread but also we`re more concerned about making a statement that it is not okay for the president to come here for Juneteenth for ground zero, the worse race massacre that ever took place in this country.

So I get both sides. I really do. And I am concerned. I am concerned about obviously not spreading COVID but also I`m concerned that something may blow up and then we end up having citizens hurt and harmed by law enforcement.

So I`m really in an unstable place right now but I`m just going to continue to pray and hope for the best.

MADDOW: I hear your concern. I hear it both in your words and in your voice.

Tulsa City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, thank you very much for your time. I want to wish you and your constituents good luck in the week ahead. I know these are trying times. But keep us apprise, I`d love to have you back.

HALL-HARPER: Absolutely. Thank you so much.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight this Friday night. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It`s kind of hard to remember now, but there was a time when you could count the number of coronavirus cases in the United States on your fingers. Our first case was reported on January 21 in Washington state. A few days later, there was one in Chicago and then two cases in California.

By January 26th, we were up to five known cases in the whole country. But then in February, we got this one very ominous sign of what was to come. At that point we`re counting a case here, case there, figuring out where each case might have come from.

And then there was this. I remember the chill reverberating down my spine when I first heard this because it was the news of the first known outbreak in the United States where it wasn`t just a person here or a person there, it was a place where potentially dozens of people had become infected all in the same place.


REPORTER: Here`s what we know tonight, two people were diagnosed with coronavirus at the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home, where we are set up tonight.

Two people, a caretaker in her 40s and resident in her 70s, tested positive for coronavirus, and doctors are concerned an outbreak may be happening here. Public health King County said more than 50 others associated with Life Care who have respiratory symptoms are being monitored. Some are quarantined.


MADDOW: More than 50 others with respiratory systems being monitored. What? Just remember like the blood draining out of me when I first heard that.

That was the first word we had in this country about a whole lot of people all apparently getting this virus all at the same place, a congregate facility in which everybody got infected. And ultimately, at least 100 people got the virus at one nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. Dozens of people died at that one nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, just outside of Seattle.

And that first-known outbreak in February, of course, would just be the first. It was the start of a nationwide calamity in long-term care facilities of all kind. A calamity that has still not been mapped in full, even as those facilities continue to be the place where more Americans die than any other place from this virus that`s now killed more than 113,000 of us.

It wasn`t until mid-April that the federal agency responsible for overseeing nursing homes announced that facilities like this would be required to report all of their cases. And the government would publish that data. It seemed like good news the federal government was finally at least going to collect that information and publish it.

That data, such as it is, finally arrived last week. Does that data finally help us get our heads around how big the problem is and how bad the problem has been in nursing homes in these places where the most Americans have died from this thing?

Well, how good is the data they just released? Well, for example, if you look up in these new federal statistics, the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, the place where we know there was that first terrible fatal outbreak, the new federal data on nursing homes shows zero deaths at that facility, even though we know dozens of people who lived there died from this virus.

"The New York Times," the federal government undercounted the number of deaths in U.S. nursing homes. Local coverage in Indianapolis, Indiana, government data about COVID-19 in nursing homes is deeply flawed. Local coverage in Texas, quote: Feds nationwide nursing home data expansive but incomplete.

"The Connecticut Post" compared the federal data released by the Trump administration with what the state offered and found, quote, the numbers from the federal government at best paint half the picture and are far less accurate than available state figures.

The discrepancies were vexing enough that the "Detroit Free Press" just said they would flat out not be listing detailed information on individual facilities without more vetting. Meaning, the federal government published data that he said was representative of what was going on in individual nursing homes, including those in and around Detroit and in Michigan the "Detroit Free Press" looked at those numbers and thought they were so bad and so wrong, they would not publish them or repeat them.

That`s what the Trump administration has done in terms of nursing homes and data. The failure is people who lived in nursing homes asked for data. What they got was an absolute mess.

It`s kind of like what we`re learning has happened as nursing homes have begged for protective equipment for their staff. You might remember Vice President Pence making a big photo-op delivering boxes to a nursing home while not wearing a mask alongside his press secretary, who later tested positive.

You know, that`s politics, right, the big photo-op. Here`s the on-the- ground reality, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting, nursing homes say some protective gear sent by FEMA is unusable. Quote: The blue gowns were large and not fitted, requiring tape to secure them, nursing home executive said. To remove them would require ripping them, likely exposing the wearer to the virus if the gown had been contaminated.

One nursing home he administrator describing the gowns as, quote, glorified garbage bags.

So, here we are. The federal government sending gowns that are glorified garbage bags that look like gardening tarps, gowns in some cases that don`t have arm holes in them, sending them those to health care workers at nursing homes, where we still don`t have a clear sense how many people are getting sick, how many people are dying or have died.

I mean, we`ve been talking about nursing homes as being the most dangerous place for Americans in terms of this pandemic for months now. You would think that having months to work on it while tens of thousands of Americans die in these facilities would at least give the federal government a little bit of a chance to get its act together when it comes to these facilities, right? When it comes to the riskiest place on earth in terms of coronaviruses, right?

We`ve got the worst pandemic in the country -- sorry, in the world, and the place where more Americans are dying from this virus is in nursing homes. The federal government regulates them. What is it doing? Not counting what`s going on there and sending them junk and telling them good luck, pose for the photo-op.

This is not getting any better. The fact that the nursing home problem is old now doesn`t mean it`s improving. This is in fact a deepening crisis, where a U-turn is desperately needed.

Hold that thought.



REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Forty thousand, that is the latest estimate of how many Americans in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have lost their lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. So let`s be clear, these 40,000 Americans deserved better. Their deaths represent a failure of our nation to protect our people.


MADDOW: Congressman James Clyburn at the congressional hearing yesterday on the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on America`s nursing home. House subcommittee hearings are not necessarily known for being fiery. This one was in part for several members attending this hearing, this was personal.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters lost her sister to COVID-19. Her sister contracted it at a nursing home. Congresswoman Waters was there for the hearing, recognized by her colleagues, shared their condolences.

One of the biggest nursing home outbreaks in the whole country because in the district represented by Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): But it took more than two months after the very first outbreak for the Trump administration on May 11th simply to urge residents and staff of nursing homes to be tested. And that wasn`t developing a plan to do it. It was just words, saying you guys should be tested and there`s no still no nationwide testing plan, contact tracing plan, enforcement plan.


MADDOW: The calamity in American nursing homes will be remembered as one of our government`s colossal and fatal screw-ups when the history of this epidemic is written. But it didn`t have to be this way.

Dr. David Grabowski is a leading health policy expert from Harvard Medical School. Here is part of his testimony at that congressional hearing yesterday.


DR. DAVID GRABOWSKI, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL HEALTH CARE POLICY PROFESSOR: Let me start by being blunt. COVID has completely devastated U.S. nursing homes. It didn`t have to be this way. What do I mean by that?

Much of the negative impact of COVID in nursing homes could have been avoided. However, rather than prioritizing the safety of the 1.3 million individuals who live in nursing homes and the staff that care for them, we failed to invest in testing, PPE and the workforce. We allowed a problem that could have been contained to grow into a national crisis.


MADDOW: It did not have to be this way.

Joining us now is Dr. David Grabowski, professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School.

Doctor Grabowski, I really appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thanks.

GRABOWSKI: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Congressman Clyburn opened the hearing by saying that nursing home deaths account for 40,000 deaths of -- among the roughly 113,000 Americans who have died already.

Do you think that`s accurate? Do you think we have a general true sense of the scale of the problem in nursing homes and how many people have died there from this virus?

GRABOWSKI: We actually don`t have a full count, and that`s incredibly sad. You mentioned earlier just the issue with the incomplete data.

So we started back in March with this pandemic. The federal government wasn`t recording data. They finally put together this national database here in June, actually, sort of starting in May into June, and we don`t have a complete record going back to the start of this pandemic. It`s absolutely ridiculous.

So with 40,000 deaths, that`s actually probably an underestimate to a lot of us.

MADDOW: We`ve seen the federal government not do very much when it comes to nursing homes, particularly from my view given the scale of death in these facilities, just how many Americans have lost their lives, how many infections there have been.

We have seen a sort of highly publicized effort from the federal government to send boxes of PPE to nursing homes. There has been some pretty harsh coverage over the past few days, though, that it seems like a lot of what the government has been sending homes is not expected. It is not designed to meet the specific needs of those homes and in some cases, it`s junk, or at least unrelated to the needs of a typical nursing home in terms of how they serve their patients.

What do you make of that effort? Should the federal government even be trying to do that or is it just that they should be doing it and they`re just failing to execute?

GRABOWSKI: The federal government should absolutely be providing PPE to all of our nursing homes across the country. The federal government, as you mentioned earlier, agreed to provide two weeks of PPE to every nursing home in the country. Clearly, nursing homes need more than two weeks, but at least that was a start.

However, most of the PPE that has been shipped is actually unusable. And in some nursing homes they`re actually still waiting on that PPE. This is part of our national shame around this issue.

PPE is the number one weapon towards citing the virus in nursing homes, the fact that we`re sending out this staff that are not always appreciated as much as other direct caregivers but these nursing home staff are heroes. They deserve PPE. They deserve testing.

We need to make certain we have PPE in every nursing home in the country. And the fact that we`re shipping, you know, glorified garbage bags to our caregivers is absolutely unacceptable.

MADDOW: I feel like anybody flipping the channels and coming across this discussion that you and I are having right now might think this show is a re-run because the discussion about not having -- the importance of PPE and not having PPE, and needing to get PPE to front line providers who don`t have it feels like a discussion that we had as a country in March. We have stopped having that discussion. People assume that means the fix -- that things have been fixed.

I mean, setting aside whether or not health care workers in hospitals have adequate access to PPE, which is a whole other discussion, I just feel like this nursing home situation sort of advanced in public consciousness enough to define for them what the problem is and zero progress has been made toward making things any better, toward getting testing to them in a systemic way, toward getting them PPE, toward getting them the support that they need, toward getting them staffing support that they need to be able to properly care for this incredibly vulnerable population.

I despair that things aren`t getting better after all this time.

GRABOWSKI: I completely agree on that point. We have been in the loop now for weeks, literally. We failed to learn back in March from the lessons in Europe and China. Then we failed to learn over the last three months from the lessons of Kirkland. So, basically, as you just suggested, Rachel, we`re basically in the same place we were three months ago with testing and PPE.

At what point are we going to start paying attention to nursing homes? If you want to contain the coronavirus in this country, it starts with nursing homes. That`s where the cases are. That`s where the deaths are. That`s where we need to put our resources and our attention.

MADDOW: Yeah. And it`s not going to come from the top down. We cannot count on the federal government, which oversees these facilities to get this right. They have proven that now. And the energy here is going to have to - - have to come from somewhere else.

Dr. David Grabowski, professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, I really appreciate you being here tonight. I get very upset about this issue, but your clarity on it is really helpful and grounding. Thank you.

GRABOWSKI: Thanks, Rachel. I appreciate your attention on this issue.


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


MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight.

I will give you one last note in terms of what`s coming up at the beginning of next week. You might have heard a little noise today about Trump national security adviser John Bolton teasing the content of his new book. You`ll remember that John Bolton refused to testify or handily avoided testifying during the Democrats impeachment -- Democratic impeachment proceedings against Trump late last year. He`s now written a book in which he says he included everything he testified about had he been man enough to get up there and swear under oath and say his piece when it mattered.

The anger at John Bolton being willing to do this for money for his book rather than doing this under oath has been absolutely palpable all day long.

But I`ll tell you early next week, we are going to be speaking to a former senior government -- senior government official who I am very much looking forward to hearing from who may be a little bit of the antidote to John Bolton, and that is Robert Gates.

Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates is going to be joining us live here on Tuesday night as his new book comes out. I couldn`t be happier about it.

All right. That does it for us tonight. See you again on Monday.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD", where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.

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