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coronavirus aid bill TRANSCRIPT: 3/18/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Leana Wen, Chuck Schumer, Gene Sperling, Andy Slavitt, Zenei Cortez



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 

out. Gone. 


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. 





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. 




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 

medical contributor. 


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? 




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 

they are. 





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 





O`DONNELL: It certainly is the story of Donald Trump`s life. 


Dr. Wen, how does that happen? 



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. 




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 

White House. 


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,





and markets are very strong. The consumer is unbelievably strong. The 

companies are very strong.




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.



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 

investment first.


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 

worker recession.


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 

really it.


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. 

That`s next.




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 





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.



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?



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.



starts now.





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