LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And don`t ask me why, but I`m sitting in your chair tonight in this studio
as we shuffle around and make adjustments to the new world order here.
By the way, it does sound like this is the end of the Bernie Sanders
campaign. There is so many indicators there including that one that I
didn`t know, that you said on the Web site it no longer has a link for
contributions. That pretty much tells us where we`re --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: An email that they sent out today, at least,
they didn`t have the link to contributions. So, it not like they -- yes.
But still, it is -- the signs are there but the senator obviously gets to
make his own decisions and after being in Washington and taking important
votes, his campaign says he`s heading home to Vermont to make those -- have
those hard discussions and to have that and make that decision.
O`DONNELL: Yes, and he`s -- I have to say I thought last time he was very
responsible about this and very responsible about the way he ramped
everything down and ramped his supporters down into the point of
understanding the reality of it all.
Thank you very much, Rachel. Really appreciate it.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Well, the most powerful Democratic member of the United States Senate will
join us when his state now has the largest number of reported coronavirus
cases. New York`s senior Senator Chuck Schumer will tell us what to expect
now from Congress now that the coronavirus response act passed the Senate
tonight and has been signed by the president. Senator Schumer will join us
later in this hour.
Eight senators vote against the coronavirus response act. They are all
Republicans. And today, the first two members of Congress to reveal that
they have tested positive for COVID-19 are Republican Congressman Mario
Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democratic Ben McAdams of Utah.
Donald Trump has stopped taking the pandemic lightly and now falsely claims
that he always knew it would be a pandemic even when he saying it was a
And Fox now takes the pandemic seriously. That is a very sudden switch for
Fox where one Fox host said that the coronavirus hoax as the president
called it was the latest attempt by the Democrats to impeach Donald Trump.
The sudden switch to taking the pandemic seriously at Fox proves that Fox
was lying about it deliberately for weeks and weeks when they were lying in
the way they believed Donald Trump wanted them to lie. And when they were
doing that, every single day they were doing that, they were endangering
millions of people`s lives and endangering your life because we are all in
this together, this being the risk pool for coronavirus. We`re all in that
same risk pool.
With Republican Congressman Devin Nunes who is encouraging people to go to
restaurants and show their public defiance of a virus this weekend. That is
what Republicanism and Trumpism and Foxism was just days ago.
We`re all in the same risk poll. As the Republican governor of Oklahoma who
proudly tweeted a picture of himself and his young children this weekend at
a busy restaurant in Oklahoma where he was encouraging people to gather to
gather, because he still believed Fox.
The vote on the bill in the Senate tonight was 90-8. Two Republican
senators did not vote because they are currently self-quarantining because
of fear of the possibility of having been exposed to COVID-19. I`ve never
seen a bill passed through the Senate with all of the 90 senators who voted
for it saying that the bill they were voting for was woefully inadequate
and they must immediately pass another one but that is where we are tonight
in the Senate as the pandemic rages through the American economy, even
before doing the full damage that it will so surely do to public health.
Trading was halted on the stock market today as stocks fell to the lowest
level since Donald Trump became president. All of the gains in the stock
market during the Trump years, all of them have now been completely wiped
But the most important numbers of the day are now 8,654 reported cases of
coronavirus in the United States and 140 reported deaths. We don`t know how
many of those people believed Donald Trump when he said this weeks ago at
the time when the current victims probably contracted COVID-19.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people and
the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s
a pretty good job we`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are Dr. Leana Wen, an
emergency physician and former health commissioner for the city of
Baltimore, and Dr. Kavita Patel, an internal medicine physician. She served
as a policy director in the Obama administration and is now an MSNBC
Dr. Patel, where do you see the pandemic tonight in the United States and
what can we expect in the numbers as we move toward the weekend?
DR. KAVITA PATEL, MSNBC MEDICLA CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Lawrence.
I hope that the numbers do not increase as dramatically as some had
predicted. I mean, we were thinking that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of
the country could be affected. So you can do the math there.
But I will tell you that these numbers, 1,000 new cases alone in New York
City today, that is just the tip of the iceberg and a lot of it has to do,
Lawrence, as you know, with the fact that we`re actually testing people.
So, not only are we seeing them sick in hospitals, but you`re saying
widespread testing starting to slowly ramp up.
So I -- you know, hate to try to limit just a number but this is
exponential. This is going to go into the tens of thousands in a matter of
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Peter Alexander asked the president today
about the way people are able to get tested, depending apparently on who
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPODNENT: How are non-symptomatic
professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in line and
can`t get them? Do the well connected go to the front of the line?
TRUMP: You`d have to ask them that question. I`ve read -- no, I wouldn`t
say so but perhaps that`s been the story of life. That does happen on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: It certainly is the story of Donald Trump`s life.
Dr. Wen, how does that happen?
LEANA WEN, FORMER PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSIONER, CITY OF BALTIMORE: Well, the
testing issue and coronavirus in general unveils the systemic inequities in
our healthcare system and more broadly in our society. I mean, I was
talking to clinic in additions today who are trying to get their patients
tested. These patients are not celebrities. They`re not politicians.
They`re just normal people.
And these are patients who have symptoms, who may even have exposures and
known exposures to patients with coronavirus but they just cannot get these
tests. And it`s extremely frustrating to be that patient or be the
clinician especially when you see that other people are able to get these
tests. I mean, to be sure, we just need more testing broadly because we
need it to direct clinical care and we need it to figure out as Dr. Patel
was saying, what exactly is the extent of the disease in this country?
If we don`t know, then how are we able to plan? How can we anticipate and
figure out the right public health measures to tackle this epidemic?
O`DONNELL: And, Dr. Patel, there`s new information now about what New York
City is facing. They`ve not only close to having the capacity they need.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is very specific about this. They are trying to come
up with emergency plans including the possibility of using the Javits
Convention Center as a temporary hospital.
What can be done to suddenly expand capacity in a place like New York City?
PATEL: Well, the first thing that can be done is something that as you`ve
talked about before, it`s controversial but it has to be done and New York
is taking steps to cancel elective surgeries, as well as just unnecessary
visits. Also, we need to really dramatically rethink, it`s not just a
matter of having beds but actually people to staff the beds, running a
ventilator and the team that it requires doesn`t just crop up overnight.
So I think that the governor and the local mayors have been real heroes in
trying to advocate for any doctors, retired physicians, retired nurses to
come in and actually be able to quickly get credentials to be able to
deliver these services but that`s what it`s going to take. Also, a critical
part of any pandemic is going to be social -- not just social isolation,
medical isolation, we need to be able to quickly triage who actually might
be infected and really along with the health care personnel isolate those
people and that is something that you`re seeing around the country through
tents and other places, but that is exactly what we need to start doing and
we`re doing it today but it`s a little too late that we`ve started today.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Wen, I have to say, every time I participate in one of these
conversations, something comes up that I haven`t thought of. What Dr. Patel
said about where do we get the personnel? Where do we get the nurses? Where
do we get the doctors?
It`s not like there is a big army of unemployed physicians or nurses
prepared to suddenly triple the medical staffing capacities in a place like
New York City. How -- I mean, sure, retired people who might or might not
be able to come in, but many of them presumably would be in the high risk
PATEL: That`s right, and this just under scores why we are not prepared for
a pandemic like this, because we don`t have the beds. We don`t have the
equipment and we really are short on staff. I mean, we`ve seen Italy come
up with creative solutions that are stopgap measures including trying to
elevate their graduating medical students and seeing if these medical
students can take on additional responsibilities.
And you`re right about the retired physicians who are in the elevated risk
category. What might that look like? And I think this is why we need to try
to prevent our country from getting to that point where we`re just
exceeding the demand for health care services by so much, and I truly
believe we do have that window of opportunity right now, but we`re talking
about a matter of days to weeks where we can try to flatten the curve and
try to reduce the rate of transmission of the disease so that ideally we
don`t overwhelm the health care system at once.
But we know this is coming. And I think for too long, we`ve been worried
about overreacting when actually we have not been reacting nearly enough
and I hope that we don`t look back in time and think, what should we have
done? What could we have done to prevent all these unnecessary deaths that
are going to occur in our country?
O`DONNELL: Dr. Patel, certainly some of the people, all the people on the
beaches today in Florida are underreacting. We saw images all over
television today of people in Florida, a state by the way, where one of the
United States senators is self-quarantining.
And so, there`s something flawed to put it mildly in the public information
system when those people can go out there and violate every single thing
that has been said from the White House anyway for the last two days. Now
one thing that struck me yesterday when the president was speaking was he
kept coming back to the then fact of yesterday, that West Virginia had no
reported cases. He kept coming back to that zero and trying to award that
as a prize to the Republican governor of West Virginia. Of course, today,
they have their first reported case.
But in that kind of comment, it seems to me that there is the implication
for a lot of listeners that there`s a part of this country that the safe.
That there`s maybe certain kinds of people who are safe. And maybe those
people think that when they can now go to beaches in Florida because they
think there are places that are safe.
PATEL: Absolutely. I mean, not only it`s so dangerous to send a signal that
somehow, some part of society -- this is the great equalizer, as you`ve
seen. I mean, this is not something that has a preference for socioeconomic
status or ethnicity or gender or any sort of variable. And to imply there
is a group of people that are not only, quote, safe.
But honestly, why am I surprised? There is nothing from this administration
from its lack of taking this seriously when we had doctors and health
professionals in Washington state who identified the risk in nursing homes.
Why am I not surprised? Again, it has to be the local officials
unfortunately, we love to see this when we`re all coordinated, federal,
state and local but this is now just people are having to take the
leadership and that`s where we`re at.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Kavita Patel and Dr. Leana Wen, thank you both for starting
us off tonight. We really appreciate it.
And when we come back, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will join us to
talk about the next round of coronavirus relief Congress is working on,
which could involve helping airlines and other companies and possibly just
sending checks directly to people in what could be the most massive income
transfer in American history. Chuck Schumer is next.
O`DONNELL: Senate Republicans wasted the weekend and the first work days of
this week with delaying tactics that force Americans to wait until tonight
for the United States to finally pass the Coronavirus Response Act, which
was passed by the House of Representatives last week.
Senate Democrats led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are already
working on another bill to provide emergency economic relief on a massive
Joining us now is the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer,
Democrat from New York.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I know how busy your
day is to put it mildly.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Yes.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell us about this legislation that has passed?
There are so many questions but I would like you to address, for example,
in the industry bailout pieces, the airline bailout, are there any breaks
on this that will prevent us from seeing executives enriching themselves
down the line from this?
SCHUMER: You`re exactly right, Lawrence. This will be in the third bill
that`s coming up and administration and Leader McConnell are going to
announce what their proposal is tomorrow. I think there will be bailouts of
the airlines industry and other industries.
And, look, we can`t let these industries go under and we care a lot about
the working people there. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of
good people who are just earning a living.
But I`d say a few things. Number one, any bailout that Democrats will
support has to put the workers first. We`re not going to bailout an
industry and have them cut workers, cut their salaries and all kinds of
things like that. This is for the workers, above all.
Second, we`re going to have to put brakes on some of these executives. The
airlines industry itself did about $300 billion in stock buybacks over the
last year, money that wasn`t -- didn`t go into the company, didn`t go into
the workers, was simply sent to the shareholders to raise the stock prices.
That is outrageous.
And we`re going to have to somehow figure out how to make up for that
because the airlines shouldn`t be allowed to do that in the past or in the
future. And none of this can go to executive salaries or things like that.
So, if I had to describe what kind of rescue of the airlines industry that
we would support, it`s worker-friendly above all. Second, get rid of the
corporate excesses not just during this situation but permanently.
O`DONNELL: What can you tell Americans about what is in the legislation
that you passed tonight?
SCHUMER: Well, the legislation we passed tonight does some good things. It
certainly begins the way for paid sick leave and for paid family leave, but
it doesn`t go far enough and in the next piece of legislation, Senators
Murray and Gillibrand, Rosa DeLauro over in the House put together much
stronger legislation on paid sick leave and on paid family leave, and we`re
going to insist that go into the third bill that we`re debating that we`re
going to start debating, or start working on tomorrow.
One thing that`s very good in the bill that we`re doing is the fact that
you won`t have to pay for your testing and much of your medical care. We
don`t need people who have the virus or think they may have the virus not
showing up at the hospital at the doctor because they get a $200 or $300
bill, even with insurance with the co-pays and deductibles. A lot of people
can`t afford that.
So, that`s a good thing that`s in the bill. And it`s a good start on paid
leave, but we have to go much further there.
O`DONNELL: I don`t know if you saw the president`s press conference today
but he once again claimed that China pays the Trump tariffs when in fact,
American consumers and American companies pay every penny of the Trump
tariffs. Wouldn`t -- asking the president to remove those tariffs which he
imposed on his own, wouldn`t that be instantaneous stimulus?
SCHUMER: It might be some stimulus but the real stimulus we need, Lawrence,
and what we will insist, we have three things we`re insisting on or four
things that insist on -- we`re insisting on in the legislation. First, any
bailout be worker-friendly. I`ve outlined that. Second, all of those who
lose their jobs should get a new form of unemployment insurance. We`re
calling it employment insurance.
Right now, unemployment insurance doesn`t cover a lot of people. It`s hard
to get and you get paid only a small percentage of the salary that you were
making when you were employed.
We would have the federal government first cover many more people, have the
salary be close or the same as to what you were paid while you were
employed and make it much easier and quicker to get. That will send money
into the economy in a much more quick direct way than just about anything
else, and it will go to the people who need it most.
And the third thing we really need to do, Lawrence, is a Marshall Plan for
our hospitals and talking about New York City. We have a great hospital
system but I`ve spoken to several of the hospital executives of these big
hospitals. They are short of all kinds of equipment and things that are
I asked a few days ago for the president to invoke something called the
Defense Production Act, it`s a relic -- it was a relic from the Korean War
but allows the government to come in and do things, the Army Corps to build
new temporary hospital tents with beds. The Army Corps to require certain
companies to make the materials they need.
We need ventilators. We need more beds. There is even such a shortage, one
hospital told me that they -- they`re in a local hospital. There is a
shortage of the swabs. So, even if you got the test, if you don`t have the
nasal swab, you can`t do it. We need to do that.
And we need to improve family leave, paid family leave and paid sick leave
on a permanent basis. If we can add those to the bill that the president is
asking for, and we`re not sure exactly what he`s asking for, we can make
this worker-friendly and really help the people who need help the most.
O`DONNELL: What can you say to people in New York who are now not sure what
their futures hold? I can tell you that in the city of New York, it has
completely closed down. You wouldn`t recognize it. You wouldn`t recognize
where you grew up here. There is just absolutely nothing moving.
In other words, New Yorkers are doing exactly, exactly what you`re telling
them to do. Exactly what the government is telling them to do. What do you
think they can expect as a time horizon for how they will have to live this
SCHUMER: OK. Let me say a few things about this, Lawrence. Of course, I
lived through 9/11. I lost three friends in the towers, including a guy I
played basketball with in high school. I lived through this 2008 crash,
which also had great effect on New York being the financial center.
But nothing is as bad as this. First, the uncertainty here. There was some
uncertainty after 9/11 but not after a few days.
We don`t know how exactly this virus affects everybody. Although I do
recommend people, by the way, take their temperature in the morning and at
night. It`s not foolproof but it would help.
We don`t know the ramifications of this virus. We don`t know how long it
will last. And so, the uncertainty is much greater than before.
And then add to that, the isolation. We New Yorkers like to congregate
together. We love our diversity. We love the closeness.
We love riding in a subway car where you see all kinds of different people
from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, but now, we
are told -- we are telling New Yorkers and doing it ourselves, that we be
isolated. That`s the painful.
Having said that, I never doubt the resiliency of New Yorkers. Somehow, we
find a way to survive. After 9/11, they said New York is finished. Well, we
were bigger, stronger and better ever. Since 9/11, we`ve gone up in people,
about a million people.
So, I think somehow we`ll figure our way through this, but it`s a scary and
frightening time, and we all have to have faith in the future. One thing we
can do is come together and get something done boldly and quickly, not
quibble but focus on the people who need help the most -- the workers, the
families who need the help.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I know we use a lot of language that we`ve used before
when we talk about legislation and how it`s going to help people and what
it`s going to deliver to people, but you are working on a problem that the
government has never faced before, which is an attempt to create a massive
delivery of basic income support to Americans while at the very same time
asking them not to work.
In the past, in the Great Depression, FDR was trying to get people to work.
That was the solution. How do we get them jobs? How do we get them to work?
O`DONNELL: You`re asking people not to work and as a result, the government
has a burden of what will be the single largest income transfer in history
presumably if you pass this legislation.
SCHUMER: Right. But one thing, one -- you know, in this awful, awful cloud
maybe a little good will come out of it. The social safety net has been
ripped apart, particularly in the last ten years when the Tea Party was so
dominant in the House of Representatives and now in the many ways in the
To restore some of that social safety net by improving unemployment
insurance, by improving paid leave -- family leave and sick leave -- and
doing many other things and changing the way we think about how
corporations should govern. Maybe there should be working representatives,
labor representatives on corporate boards, things like that -- could take
this horrible, horrible crisis and dealing with what we have to deal with
now still create some improvements on into the future.
O`DONNELL: Senator, thank you very much for joining us. I know how valuable
your time is and we really appreciate you being able to communicate with
people about what is happening there. We really appreciate it.
SCHUMER: Well, thanks for giving me the opportunity and I just say to my
New Yorkers, I`m working for you all the time. I love you.
O`DONNELL: Senator Chuck Schumer, thank you very much for joining us.
To follow up on what Senator Schumer had to tell us, Gene Sperling will
join us. Gene Sperling was the top economic adviser to President Clinton
and to President Obama. He worked in the auto industry bailout in the Obama
Gigantic bailouts for several industries that will dwarf the Obama bailout
of the industry are now being supported by Donald Trump and Republicans who
condemned, condemned the Obama bailout of the auto industry. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Last week, and again this week, the President`s top economic
adviser Lawrence Kudlow, who is not and never has been an economist, has
publicly recommended to all of you that the very best way for you all to
defend against the economic disruption of the coronavirus is to buy stocks.
He said it was a good time to buy, last week in this week.
Now, if you made the terrible mistake of following Larry Kudlow`s advice,
you have been getting wiped out in the stock market, which today suffered
enough losses to eliminate all of the gains that have occurred in the stock
market during the Trump presidency. All gone.
So now, stock market growth under Donald Trump is exactly zero. And very
likely - and you don`t have to follow my opinion about this, but very
likely going down from there. Here`s what the President said about this.
Almost Three weeks ago,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The markets will come back
and markets are very strong. The consumer is unbelievably strong. The
companies are very strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Unbelievably strong. The very strong companies do not include
auto manufacturers. All the American auto manufacturers are now closing
down. They announced that today Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, they`ve
all announced today that they will be suspending production of automobiles
in the United States of America.
Nearly one in five U.S. households are already experiencing a layoff, or a
reduction in work hours. According to a new NPR/PBS/Marist poll released
yesterday, the poll conducted Friday and Saturday found that lower income
workers, of course, were the most affected. 25% of households making less
than $50,000 have experienced cut - reduced hours or job loss.
Meanwhile, states are reporting just a unprecedented surge in people
applying for unemployment benefits. On Monday, New Jersey reported 12 times
more applications than usual, Connecticut reported an eight-fold increase
over the weekend. Rhode Island experienced an increase of 6,000
applications in five days, Ohio reported seven times more applications than
just the week before.
Joining our discussion now, Gene Sperling, he`s a former Director of the
National Economic Council for President Obama and he was also in President
Clinton`s administration on the economics team. Gene, the auto bailout -
I`ll never forget the heat you took from Republicans on the auto bailout.
The Republicans are now proposing a cruise ship bailout, hotel bailout,
airline bailout, bailouts everywhere they look.
GENE SPERLING, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISOR FOR PRESIDENTS CLINTON & OBAMA:
Well, that`s absolutely right. We received enormous grief for the auto
rescue. It`s clearly saved over a million auto jobs, but more importantly,
it`s allowed the auto industry to now be a factor and perhaps leading the
green auto revenue. None of that would have happened. And I think Senator
Schumer had it right.
O`DONNELL: And Gene, can I just stop for a second there?
O`DONNELL: How much did the auto bailout, as we call it euphemistically?
How much did that cost the American taxpayer?
SPERLING: Well, it was really the only part of the entire Obama rescue plan
that didn`t get fully paid back. But it was in the 10s of billions, and not
on the high amount. So this is relatively this - this amazing, important
saving of manufacturing in the United States is just a fraction of even one
of the bailouts we are likely to see.
And I liked what Senator Schumer had to say about the conditions, because
you`re passing legislation. And I think what he talked about in terms of
not just exact comp, but I see no reason why companies getting bailed out
should not put two workers on the board designated by unions if there are
unionized task force.
And you know, I saw yesterday Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, wrote 96
percent of all of the free cash flow of the airline industry over the last
10 years went to stock buybacks. And, of course, right wing people were
trying to challenge her numbers. She was citing a Bloomberg Business
Report. If you`re spending 96 percent of your free cash flow on stock
buybacks, I think she`s right on point to say not a dime should go to them
unless you have a ban on future buybacks, if you`re not putting workers and
So this is - we`re not stuck with some tarp legislation. We`ve got the
ability to pass legislation right now. And Democrats can insist not only on
the conditions they want, but that it travels with important things, like
Chuck Schumer said, a major expansion of unemployment insurance, fixing
this really inexcusable hole in the paid sick leave. Great accomplishment
by Democratic Senators and Congresswoman. But the hole is inexcusable and
will actually be a health risk for all of us.
O`DONNELL: Gene, I want to follow up with you on something I was discussing
with Senator Schumer and I actually didn`t follow up with him because of
the time constraint, and I knew Gene`s coming up, I`ll talk to him about
So the Trump tariffs - again, today, Donald Trump said the course that
China is paying the Trump tariffs. They don`t pay one penny of it. We pay
it. All American consumers pay the Trump tariffs. American companies pay
the Trump tariffs.
So now, so now, Donald Trump, and Republicans want to send money directly
to Americans who now don`t have enough money because of gaps in their
employment, that money will be sent to Americans. So among other things,
they can then pay the Trump tariffs and send that money back into the
SPERLING: Look, there`s no question that Americans have that impact. That
it has the color on Americans. Now, you can have an honorable debate about
whether that is worth it even in this time to show China we`re being tough
on them. But, I`m with Senator Schumer on the following.
You know, I`m glad we`re doing this major cash to people. But if you lose
your job for 12 weeks or 16 weeks, that`s not going to help you. You need
this robust, new bold unemployment or employment benefits.
You know, remember all gig workers, all the self-employed workers, they
don`t get these benefits. And the average worker who does gets 30 to 50
percent of their wages replace, often just $300 or $400. If we want to do
something to really help, and this - the workers who are now in a great
Let`s be clear, they`re in a great work recession. If we want to help them,
nothing`s going to help as much about making sure all gig - all workers are
covered, and that instead of getting replaced 30 or 50 percent, they get
full replacement for at least a good while. of their wages so they can put
food on the table, pay their rent, keep the lights on in their own homes.
O`DONNELL: Gene Sperling, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We`re
going to have to hear from you frequently throughout this crisis. We`re
SPERLING: Honored to. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: When we come back, the heroes - the heroes who are out there
trying to save us, the medical personnel, the hospital workers, the health
care workers, we want them to have everything they need when they go into
this battle. Don`t wait? They`re not even close to having what they need.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Life and death decisions are at stake here
in hospitals and health care facilities. So a medical surge with
ventilators, protective gear, ICU units has to be the first priority. No
economic stimulus will be successful unless we confront the healthcare
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut today in the
basement passageways of the Russell Senate Office Building. The American
Hospital Association said today in the statement, "More needs to be
urgently done. Hospitals and health systems which are on the front lines
and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic needs significant financial support
for numerous time sensitive and critical tasks.
These include obtaining scarce supplies and equipment to protect caregivers
and patients, increasing surge capacity, including beds and temporary
structures. diagnose and treat patients and support for obtaining child
care for hospital workers. Congress must act now during this critical
window of time."
Joining us now an expert on all of this Edie Slavitt, who was the Acting
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the
Obama administration. Andy, there - again, every time I read one of these
things, I get surprised by another factor that I haven`t considered that`s
in this whole mix. That last item about child care for hospital workers.
The range of things that are necessary that we don`t have ready to go here
is just stunning.
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ADMINISTRATOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Yes,
there`s really a lot for all of us to adjust to, and there will be, and I
think we just have to buckle in for that.
But let`s start there with childcare. I mean, first of all, this workforce
- we have to begin thinking of them, almost as if they`re military
frontline workforce. They`re going to be going into danger on our behalf.
They`re going to be trying to keep us safe and protect us and we need to
make a commitment to protecting them.
So the move today to start moving production and plants, through the
Defense Production Act, to start making gear for physicians and nurses
can`t happen soon enough. That has to be a solid commitment.
When it comes to childcare, it`s a really complex situation, because 90
percent of kids who contract COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means they
don`t know they have it and these little cute kids are all spreaders.
So, if what happens is you`re a parent, but you`re a frontline health care
worker, you`re a nurse, you`re a phlebotomist, you`re a doctor, and your
kids are playing with other kids, and these kids are everywhere then they
come back and infect you, that is going to be a big issue for all of us.
In some parts of northern Italy now 20 percent of the clinical work force
is not able to work because they`ve contracted that condition. So we need
solutions for that right away.
O`DONNELL: And Andy if you had your old job back and this was occurring in
the Obama administration, you are in the meetings of what do we need day to
day on the supply front, in particular, what would be your priorities?
SLAVITT: Well, so first of all, the supply issues are what happens when you
don`t plan very well. It`s very hard to start in the middle of a crisis and
say, now we need to plan. We didn`t build enough hospital capacity. We
didn`t buy enough thermometers. We didn`t build you - don`t have enough
long swabs. There weren`t enough masks for the workers in the system when
you need them.
And guess what every country, every hospital in the world wants them. So
there`s hoarding going on. There is lack of production, there are raw
material issues and it will take a while to ramp some of things - these
things up. And because this is going to be a marathon, we would be doing
O`DONNELL: Andy Slavitt, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We
really appreciate it.
And when we come back the heroes of this pandemic, the people were just
talking about the doctors, the nurses, the people working in hospitals, the
people cleaning those hospitals, we are all running away from this virus.
And look at them, they are running toward it. They are the heroes. That`s
O`DONNELL: Nurses, hospital administrators, the people who clean our
hospitals, the people working in the laundries that provide clean sheets
for our hospitals, the doctors, many still staggering under student loans.
All of these people are the people we always take for granted until we need
them. And when we need them, we desperately need them. And then they are
heroes to us, but they are heroes every day.
They are heroes every day that we ignore them. They are stronger than most
of the rest of us, smarter than most of the rest of us and now so much
braver than the rest of us. "The Washington Post" is reporting that,
"Dozens of health care workers have fallen ill with COVID-19 and more are
quarantined after exposure to the virus, an expected but worrisome
development as the U.S. health system girds for an anticipated surge in
And now masks, gowns and other equipment needed to protect these healthcare
workers from contracting the virus are in short supply. "Bloomberg" reports
that hospital workers in Washington State have been making protective
medical gear out of office supplies and other material to deal with that
shortage. Others have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #GetMePPE, personal
protective equipment. Begging government officials for help, getting what
they need to care for the sick and the dying.
What did nurses and doctors do when we make their jobs impossible like
this? They do their jobs. Bonnie Castillo, a nurse told "The Washington
Post." "Nurses take risks every day because they`re willing to do that,
they`re called to do that, and they want to do that."
Joining us now is one of the heroes, registered nurse, Zenei Cortez. She is
the Co-President of National Nurses United. Zenei, thank you very much for
joining us tonight. How can it be that nurses in Washington State are
trying to create protective equipment out of office supplies?
ZENEI CORTEZ, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED CO-PRESIDENT: Well, unfortunately,
that`s the reality. We have a shortage of protective equipment, mainly
masks, not so much for gloves, but protective gowns.
Like you`ve said earlier. We are there to do the job and we`re willing to
do the job. All we are asking for is protective gear so that we can safely
take care of our patients. Because if nurses and the frontline workers are
not safe, our patients are not safe.
There has been a lot of colleagues of ours who have been put on self-
quarantine, because we don`t know whether they were exposed or not, or if
they`ve gotten the virus. But if there`s too many of us that are put out on
quarantine, or we definitely get the bug - the virus, then there will be
nobody out there to take care of patients.
And I think it`s not too much to ask our administration, our government
officials to give us what we need to safely take care of our patients.
That`s all we want. We cannot pick and choose who we want to care for. We
want to take care of everybody, but we need to do the right thing. We need
to have the protective equipment to safely do our jobs.
O`DONNELL: Zenei, many of the people infected now or who have been
infected, especially early in the pandemic, might not have known how
dangerous it was and they might not have been taking enough precautions.
All of you in the healthcare field know how dangerous it is, and yet you
run right toward that danger. What does it take for you to do that?
CORTEZ: Well, it takes a lot of courage, a lot of passion and a lot of
compassion for our patients, the vulnerable who need us when they`re at
their, you know, very sad state of health decline. We need to be out there
for them, because if we don`t, nobody else will. And that`s what we pledge
for is to take care of our patients, because there will be nobody there for
them if we don`t do it.
And, again, I cannot stress it enough that we are not scared of taking care
of the infected patients. What we are scared about is that we ourselves are
not protected. For all you know, we might be carrying the virus and
spreading it from patient to patient. That`s why we want to make sure that
we have the protective gear so that our patients are safe.
O`DONNELL: How long do you think it will take for you all to get what you
CORTEZ: Well, the Governor of California says there`s about 21 million
pieces of respirators that are in the coffers and that has been released,
but where are they? They`re not anywhere near the hospitals where we work.
I don`t know where they are. And that`s all we need. protective gear. We
will take care of patients, you know, at their sickest state. But we need
to have the protective gear.
O`DONNELL: Nurse Zenei Cortez, one of the heroes gets tonight`s "Last
Word." Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
CORTEZ: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS"
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