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House to vote TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Nicholas Kristof, Zeke Emanuel, Amy Klobuchar, Somini Sengupta, Laura Dean

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Rachel. 

And I have to tell you, listening to General Semonite was -- was real  pleasure. Having worked in government and interacting with the Army Corps  of Engineers, they are just among my favorite get-it-done people. They know  how to get it done and the only thing that gets in the way is politicians. 

And it was great to hear his clarity, his directness, and I have to tell  you, my phone was just ringing with texts coming in of people overjoyed to  get that kind of clarity that you brought up in that discussion with the  general. 


The specificity with which he`s speaking about what he`s doing, the fact  that he`s volunteering the urgency of the nature of what he`s doing, but  he`s offering no excuses, talking about his own urgency, the need for  everybody else to act urgently and then answering questions with specifics  about what he`s doing because they`re actually doing the work and getting  it done and leaning forward and trying to do as much as possible. Just the  contrast with everything else going on in the federal government, even  though he has nothing but kind words to say about everybody else in the  federal government. Don`t put any of my politics on him at all.

But the contrast between hearing him talk about getting this stuff done and  excuses and defensiveness and, you know, non-sense frankly that you`re  hearing from the rest of the federal government, from the administration  and their response, I finally feel like there is something going on  federally that we should all be paying attention to and hoping for success  and counting on, and meant a lot to me he made time to be here. 

O`DONNELL: Rachel, next time if he has more to say and you run out of time,  just leave him in the chair. I`ll do the whole hour with him. 


MADDOW: Will do. I will do, my friend. Thanks. 

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much. 

Laura Dean stopped wearing her wedding ring at the beginning of this month  because she was afraid of what might be on it when she gets home from work.  Laura Dean is an emergency room physician in Boston which today reported  150 health care workers infected with the coronavirus. Laura Dean will join  us at the end of this hour and she will tell you her story. 

Last night, we brought you the then breaking news report in the "New York  Times" about the surge in coronavirus deaths at Elmhurst Hospital in the  borough of Queens in New York. Tonight, we`ll be joined by the reporter who  went to that hospital and talked to the people waiting in line all day, day  after day, in the hope of being tested for the coronavirus.

And Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us. He`s a veteran of the Clinton  administration and Obama administration. We will get his reaction to the  president`s suggestion that America should be ready to reopen for business  by Easter Sunday. 

And Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us later in this hour. She is one of  the 96 senators who voted yes on the emergency economic aid bill passed by  the Senate with no one voting against it. Senator Klobuchar`s husband has  been hospitalized with coronavirus and she has some good news to share  tonight about his progress. 

We begin tonight as we always do with the numbers. As of today, the United  States has 82,849 reported cases of coronavirus and 1,177 reported deaths  from coronavirus. That is more reported cases than any other country in the  world, including China and Italy, and on the day when the United States  broke this terrible record, it is worth remembering that exactly one month  ago, Donald Trump said that the opposite would happen. 

Donald Trump said one month ago that as of now, we would have zero cases. 


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. 


O`DONNELL: Don`t ever forget that he said that. 

Today, Donald Trump said his administration is working on a data analysis  that will allow them to change their recommendation on social distancing  and other coronavirus precautions from a national recommendation down to a  county by county basis. Now, it is hard to think of a less relevant measure  for public health than the utterly irrational and archaic boundaries of  counties in the United States. 

Most Americans can`t tell you what county they are in right now, what  county they live in.

Still, the president said today that possibly, next week, his so-called  coronavirus task force will offer guidelines categorizing counties in  America as high-risk, medium risk or low risk. There are vast tracks of  America that are virtually empty of people but they are counties, those big  empty spaces are counties. 

And so, Donald Trump will probably get to rate some of those empty counties  as low risk, and then claim some victory in urging the reopening of  American business in say, Inyo County in California, which is the second  biggest county in California by land mass. Over 10,000 square miles, and it  has only 18,000 people living there, which means that each person in that  county has at least half of a square mile per person for social distancing. 

Los Angeles County is less than half the actual physical size of the county  and it has 10.1 million people. What possible relationship do those county  haves to each other? By choosing counties, Donald Trump has chosen the  geographical marker that he believes will allow him to tell some people in  America that they are at low risk. 

The shut down of most of the American economy produced the biggest one-week  surge in applications for unemployment benefits in history. That news came  out today. 3.3 million Americans applied last week. Many, many more have  lost their jobs. But don`t qualify for unemployment benefits or have not  applied for those benefits yet. 

So, the number -- the real number is much, much bigger than 3.3 million.  The president who predicted we were going to be at zero coronavirus cases  at this point, which would also mean zero unemployment filings based on the  coronavirus told this lie today. 


TRUMP: This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this  country. I`m not even blaming -- look, we inherited a broken situation but  I don`t totally blame the people that were before me in this  administration. Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have  happened. 


O`DONNELL: All the professionals thought a thing like this could happen,  all of them. And in fact, the Obama administration left a pandemic playbook  for the Trump administration to use precisely for the situation that this  country is in tonight. "Politico" reports the Trump administration was  briefed on the existence in 2017 said four former officials but two  cautioned it never went through a full National Security Council-led  interagency process to be approved as Trump administration strategy. 

The playbook was designed so there wasn`t piecemeal thinking when trying to  fight the next public health battle, said one former official who  contributed to the playbook. 

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of  the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Colombia University. He`s  an MSNBC public health analyst.

And Nicolas Kristof is with us. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for  "The New York Times". He has been interviewing epidemiologists about the  coronavirus, doing important reporting on that. 

Dr. Redlener, when the president said again today, no one could have  possibly imagined a situation like this ever coming to the United States,  what was your reaction to that? 

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:  Well, having been very much involved with the development of such plans  back in 2007, 2008 on a federal, state and local level, it`s a preposterous  statement and has no bearing to reality. But, you know, why are we  surprised? 

I think the key thing is we continue to get mixed messages based on  ignorance, lack of understanding of the science and just a complete  misunderstanding of what the message should be to Americans. The problem is  he`s using that kind of information to justify in someway or explain the  incompetency of what this administration has been doing or not doing in  preparation for something that we knew was coming, and even when we got the  early warnings, we still messed up the entire process of getting the  appropriate testing done and distributed properly and now behave mixed  messages which are just confusing states and localities.

And the biggest problem of all, of course, is a complete, active, melting  down of America`s health and hospital system. It is staggering in it  breadth and scope of incompetence and, you know, the president did not  cause this virus to develop. The president is responsible for leading the  country in the wrong direction with misinformation that has been extremely  destructive to the efforts to combat this on our doorstep. 

O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof, as you`ve been talking to the experts and  reporting on this in "The New York Times", have you found anyone who said,  who is an expert in this arena, who said they are completely shocked by  this happening in the United States, they never dreamed something like this  could happen? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, of course, it`s the opposite and  I will back up what Irwin said. I`ve known him for many years and he`s been  hounding me as many other journalists to write about this risk as have  other epidemiologists, as have other national security people. This is a  risk we`re all aware of and we`ve also known the importance of getting  personal protective equipment, PPE, in the hands of doctors and hospitals.  We`ve known the importance of getting ventilators. 

You know, I began writing about this in January when Wuhan was hit and we  had China gave us a two-month warning that we squandered and now, I`m  afraid New York City is turning into Wuhan. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Redlener, what was your reaction to the president saying the  task force will come up with a county by county ranking of risk from low  risk to medium risk to high risk? 

REDLENER: It is jaw-dropping, Lawrence. I can`t imagine who advised him of  that. I would be very disappointing to hear one of our really great  professionals in the agencies responsible for dealing with this actually  have advised him of that. It made no sense whatsoever. I mean, among the  things in addition to what you said earlier makes total sense. The virus is  not aware of a map of the United States counties and how it`s going to  behave in county X versus the county next door. The whole thing is just  fraught with inaccuracies and really contrast to what the professionals  that he has around him are actually saying. 

It`s -- I`ve never seen -- I don`t think anyone seen this level of conflict  and complete disparity between what the scientists and experts are saying  and what the administration is saying completely like they are in a  different universe here. I know Nick has been reporting on this like, you  know, like intensely and appropriately, and I don`t know who is listening  to us exactly but it`s not seeping up. 

We should have been having a national policy recommendation a long time  ago. So we wouldn`t have governors and mayors struggling to improvise on  their own. There`s one state on this, and other state is doing that, and  part of that is just responsibility of completely faulty improvised  messaging that`s coming from the White House. It`s a shame and I`m shocked. 

But there you go. Now we have to deal with it and the main thing we have to  do is make sure we save the lives, literally, of the doctors, nurses and  aids and attendants, registrars, technicians that are struggling every day  basically going, Lawrence, into a war zone and two combat veterans told me  this analogy the -- that this analogy is not hyperbole. This is what it is.  I have a son who`s an ER doctor in New York and we are worried sick every  single day that he and all of his comrades and workers in all the  hospitals, all the places this has been on outrageous intense outbreak, we  fear for them and we should be protecting them. Nothing could be more  important than that, otherwise the entire health care system will sooner  rather than later collapse. We`re worried about that anyway. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Redlener, let me assure you that millions and millions of  Americans are listening to you and we have the proof of that in the latest  polling on this, a poll question coming up today saying, should Americans  continue to socially distance even if the economy is damaged? And 81  percent say yes. Eighty-one percent agree with you, Dr. Redlener. Eight  percent say no. 

And, Nick Kristof, that poll is very, very encouraging poll in a country  where the president of the United States gives everyone misinformation  every day. 

KRISTOF: Yes, and, you know, in fact, look, I mean, obviously, there are  frustrations in parts of the country. People worried about being laid off.  There is some evidence that the downturn, that their joblessness rates may  actually become greater than they were the peak of the Great Depression,  according to the St. Louis Fed. 

But the evidence is that what damages the economy is not these public  health measures but is rather the virus itself. And so, the way to protect  the economy is simply to protect the population and that does involve  social distancing measures. That was kind of a basic point that  epidemiologists were taking to me to with the help of two epidemiologists  and a colleague we model for the coronavirus, and it showed that if you  compare that a two-week intervention and then lifting it would lead with  certain assumptions to more than 120 million infections in the U.S., a two- month intervention would lead to 12 million. 

So, you know, there are trade-offs there. We`re where the country chooses  decides to go will depend on part of the course of the epidemic. I do think  in response to your question, Irwin, that what the administration is  talking about in terms of classifying different parts of the country is if  you had enough testing out there to determine that there were some places  where community transmission was not occurring, then you might in those  places be able to send kids back to school, et cetera. 

The problem is that right now, we don`t have that testing capacity. We have  no idea where community transmission is occurring. Down the road, if we  have more testing, if we have more data, we can make smarter decisions  about where to ease curbs and where not to. 

O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof -- 


O`DONNELL: Go ahead. 

REDLENER: -- right, Lawrence. But -- and the other thing and he`s right  about the economy versus the public`s health, but that`s the whole point of  having this gigantic appropriations to help people get through this without  actually being afraid of being able to pay their rent and buy food and all  that stuff, and that was the whole point. We have to deal with the economy,  but we can`t do it at the expense of the public`s health. It just doesn`t  make any sense at all. 

And the point of the data, yes, if we had the data, if we had the testing  we should have been doing for many months now, we would be in a position to  make much more fine tuned nuanced predictions, but that`s not where we are. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Irwin Redlener and Nicholas Kristof, thank you both for  starting us off. I really appreciate it. 

KRISTOF: Our pleasure. 

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us. He said  this week in "The New York Times" that America is losing the war against  COVID-19 but he believes there is way to turn that around. Zeke Emanuel  joins us next. 


O`DONNELL: Three days ago, Dr. Zeke Emanuel wrote in "The New York Times",  America is losing the war against COVID-19 but we can win it with decisive  and extraordinary actions now. 

Monday night at this hour, Dr. Emanuel will join me for the full hour and  he will lead us with the help of other experts in a special hour-long  discussion of the best practices we can use in confronting this pandemic,  best practices for our own personal health and for the public health of  this country, along with an assessment of the damage done already and the  repair work that will be necessary in the health care system and the  economy.

Joining our discussion now is Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He`s a veteran of the  Clinton administration, the Obama administration, and he is the vice  provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zeke, thank you very much for joining us tonight and a special thanks  already for what we`re going to team up on on Monday night. I want to get  your reaction to the president`s proposal which will be made possibly next  week, ranking the counties in the United States, counties, by low risk,  medium risk or high risk. 

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Well,  you know, I`m not sure what to make of it. I`m not sure how you decide what  to make of it. A lot depends I think as Irwin and Nick said in your  previous segment on do we have fine enough data on those counties t  actually make the ranking. That`s the first thing. 

The second thing is, you know, we have to understand that this virus is all  over the country and it`s going to spread and it`s spread by social  contact. You know, maybe we`re actually slowing down in some counties. I do  think that counties that have very, very low numbers of patients with  coronavirus that have actually good health care infrastructure can do  testing, can do contact tracing, can do isolation of those people who are  positive, this might make some sense. 

The problem is, I doubt that that`s a lot of counties in the country. When  you hear what`s happening about testing, when you hear what we don`t have  in terms of contact-tracing capability, it`s highly unlikely this is going  to work and work well. 

You know, just last week, who was talking about New Orleans or Detroit as  big outbreaks? And yet, here they are and, you know, everyone is talking  about them about to explode with it, large numbers of patients. 

So I`m a little wary that we`re going to actually have the kind of  information and the kind infrastructure to actually implement that. The  only reason to label someone green is that then they can actually, you  know, do contact tracing and actually isolate those patients and prevent a  spread, and you can maybe take the yellow counties down to green. But that  requires an infrastructure both of testing and contract tracing as I  mentioned that I don`t think we have. 

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci said tonight about what  the president is trying to do, his attempt to interpret the president. 


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS  DISEASE: I think that the president was trying to do, he was making an  aspirational projection to give people some hope, but he`s listening to us  when we say we really got to reevaluate it in real-time and any decision we  make has to be based on the data. 

When you have a situation when the cases today compared to tomorrow is  increased dramatically and then the next day increased is dramatically,  that`s no time to pull back. That`s when you got to hunker down, nail down,  mitigate, mitigate, get the people taken care of. That`s what you got to  concentrate on. You have to go with the data. 


O`DONNELL: Zeke, it sounds like Donald Trump is not going to get the  recommendation he wants from Anthony Fauci. 

EMANUEL: Yes, I mean, I think the idea that we`re going to open up the  country in time for Easter is, I think, it`s an ambition but it`s a pipe  dream. I don`t even think we could open up safely in time for Easter. 

Again, if you look at China and you look what they did in Wuhan and Hubei  province, you have this eight-week curve. You start out, you actually do a  lockdown, quarantine people and then the cases are still going up. They`re  going up for four weeks, and then they turn and then you don`t ease up when  it just turns, you have to wait for them to come down and then the last few  days, they`ve reported that they`re getting no new cases of coronavirus  there. 

That`s been an eight-week cycle from the end of January to the end of March  and I think that`s what we have to anticipate if we could actually get this  country to have a nationwide policy of shelter in place and limiting social  interaction, that`s probably what we could succeed in doing. But given the  fact that we have different statements going different places, we have the  governor of Mississippi saying, you know, we`re not doing that, it may look  good there today but it`s not going to look good there, you know, in a few  weeks. 

New York is the bleeding edge but it only the bleeding edge and the rest of  the country, especially if they don`t take steps today are going to look  like New York. That is a major reason to have a country-wide quarantine,  sheltering in place, so that we don`t have a Montgomery or a Mississippi  end up looking like New York. And I think that`s critical. And I think  that`s what Tony was suggesting. We`re not going to be there. We`re not  going to have an increasing number of cases. 

O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for joining us tonight and  we`ll see you here Monday night. 

EMANUEL: Yes, looking forward to it. 

O`DONNELL: On Monday night, Dr. Zeke will be back with us for the full hour  of special in depth coverage of the science and medical best practices that  should be guiding this country through this pandemic. That`s Monday night,  right here at THE LAST WORD at 10:00 p.m. 

And up next, Amy Klobuchar will join us. She cast a vote late last night  for the most expensive legislation in history and she got good news about  her husband today who has been hospitalized with coronavirus. Senator  Klobuchar joins us next. 



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Tomorrow we will go to the floor for this  legislation. But as I have said, there are so many things we didn`t get in  any of these bills yet in the way that we need to.

We`re still going to need to have more money for state and local  governments, municipalities and the rest. Then one of the important things  that just, we have to insist upon, we said free testing, free testing, free  testing, but with free testing is the visit to - to the doctor`s office,  the treatment that goes with it, and that has to be free as well.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Joining our discussion now is Democratic  Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You were one of the 96  votes--

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: --thank you, on that bill that Nancy Pelosi is going to take up  in the House. She wants more. I`m sure you wanted more. What is the case  for the bill that you voted for?

KLOBUCHAR: It was a compromise, like so many things, but we had to have the  backs of the people that are going to work every day. Those people that are  treating people on the front-line in those hospitals that didn`t have the  equipment, they still don`t have the equipment that they need. 

All the workers who`ve been laid off, they didn`t have enough for  unemployment benefits. And that`s part of why, Lawrence, we made a major  addition there for $600 more a week on top of what they would normally get  in their states, and also covering all these gig economy workers. 

You`ve heard about some of the drivers who`ve already died from  transporting people to the hospitals. And so, that is part of the need out  there as well, and small businesses that really have been the engine of our  economy.

So, there were a lot that brought us to the table that caused people, from  Bernie Sanders to some of the most conservative members, the Republican  Caucus, came together and voted for this bill. 

Of course, as Speaker Pelosi points out, there`s so much more work that  needs to be done, but we had to get something done.

O`DONNELL: I`ll never forget, Senator, and I`m sure it was said a lot last  night, the first time I heard, someone in leadership in the Senate in one  of these tense moments say "You can`t let the perfect be the enemy of the  good." 

And - and that is the moment and especially when for someone like Bernie  Sanders, who has a lot about this that he doesn`t like, he also saw there  things that were absolutely necessary that people had to have.

KLOBUCHAR: And could I add one more thing, Lawrence? 

We only got $400 million for early voting for voting at home, and we are  really going to have to ramp this up in every state in the country, so that  people don`t have to choose between their health and voting.

And that`s my bill that I have with Senator Wyden, and we`re really pushing  that to get reforms in place, so that we are ready so we can actually have  an election in November.

O`DONNELL: Senator, I know you have good news about your husband`s  condition. But - but tell - he`s been in the hospital for Coronavirus  treatment. How is he tonight?

KLOBUCHAR: He is at home. I guess I`ll wave to him because there`s still  rules because they don`t know if he`s still contagious, so I`m staying at a  friend`s apartment because she`s not here.

And so, but I am so glad that he is home. He was in the hospital for  something like five days after being sick, and having a temperature of over  a 100 degrees for 10 days, and it was really rough, and his oxygen was  very, very low. 

He had pneumonia. And that`s why he was in the hospital. So, he is  recovering now at home, I hope, following all the doctor`s orders, since  this is as close as I`ll get to him today. And maybe I`ll yell it down to  the window tomorrow.

But making light of it, we all know how hard this is. So many families have  people in the hospitals, just like us, they couldn`t visit, or people that  are in so much worse condition. A lot of people, thankfully, don`t have  this happen to them. They don`t have a series of symptoms, and that`s  great.

But I just say, follow the doctor`s orders because the more we can lessen,  and the orders of the governors, the more we can lessen exposure, you just  don`t know how someone in your family is going to react to this because my  husband`s only 52, he`s very healthy, and it just hit him hard. 

And you`re hearing stories like that all over the country. And we know for  our senior population or for people with pre-existing conditions how hard  this can be. 

So, I hope our story helps because we`ve really followed all the rules. We  have no idea how we got it. But, right now, he`s at home, and I`m thankful  for that, and all the kind words and prayers from so many people across the  country.

O`DONNELL: Senator, you`ve experienced what the rest of us are fearing and  then, tragically, many others have also experienced. 

But we`re - those of us who haven`t, are all fearing that phone call that  someone we love has tested positive, we`re all fearing a feeling in our  throats or anything that that gives us the hint that this might be it.  Everyone is on this edge both personally. 

What did it - what did it mean to you when you were trying to get this bill  to make more sense in the Senate and trying to get it across--


O`DONNELL: --with Republican resistance to what you were trying to  accomplish and - and that personal experience of what was needed--


O`DONNELL: --that you already had. What was it like to be in that fight  with that personal experience?

KLOBUCHAR: I just kept emphasizing that this can happen to anyone, and it  could happen to any of their loved ones.

And it`s what made me so focused on the testing because even, you know,  once he got really sick, and was coughing up blood, only then did he go in  to get a test, and it took five, six days to get the results.

And I`ve never gotten one because I didn`t qualify and I didn`t want to  test because I wanted to follow the rules, and I didn`t have the symptoms.  But so many people are waiting to get those tests.

So many people, are on the front-lines, don`t have the right equipment,  nurses, and doctors, and janitors in the hospitals. And so, it`s really,  really important to me, and that was a personal argument I could make to  them is that this can happen to anyone or to someone in your family.

O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, I can`t thank you enough for joining us  on this important night. And best--

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: --best to your husband and stay safe.

KLOBUCHAR: Well thanks for getting the facts out. We need more of those  right now, so thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Senator.

And when we come back, last night we brought you the breaking news from  "The New York Times" last night about the "Apocalyptic" situation at  Elmhurst Hospital in New York City. 

We`ll be joined next by the Reporter who went to Elmhurst Hospital, spoke  to some of the heroes who are treating the sick there, and watching too  many of them die. And she spoke to the people who have waited for days in  the line outside the hospital to be tested for Coronavirus. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: "I`m OK. Don`t tell mom and dad. They`ll worry." That was the  last text that Kious Kelly sent to his sister. 

Mr. Kelly, a Nurse Manager at a hospital in New York City had tested  positive, and was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit when he sent  that text to his sister. Days later, he was dead. He may have been the  first New York City nurse to die from Coronavirus. 

We know this tragic story from the extraordinary reporting of Somini  Sengupta at The New York Times. 

She is the Reporter who went out to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, and  described what she saw there in the story that we presented at this hour,  last night, including the description of the situation there as  "Apocalyptic" by Dr. Ashley Bray, who has had Coronavirus patients ranging  in age from 38 to their 80s die in her care.

Somini Sengupta spoke to people waiting in line outside the hospital  waiting to be tested for Coronavirus and reported what she found, this way,  in The New York Times.

"The line of people waiting outside of Elmhurst to be tested for the  Coronavirus forms as early as 6 A.M., and some stay there until 5 P.M. Many  are told to go home without being tested.

Julio Jimenez, 35, spent six hours in the emergency room on Sunday night  after running a fever while at work in a New Jersey warehouse. He returned  on Monday morning to stand in the testing line in the pouring rain.

On Tuesday, still coughing, eyes puffy, he stood in line for nearly seven  hours and again went home untested. "I don`t know if I have the virus," Mr.  Jimenez said. "It`s so hard. It`s not just me. It`s for many people. It`s  crazy."

Joining us now, Somini Sengupta, she is a Reporter for The New York Times. 

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. And  can you tell us when you were out at Elmhurst Hospital gathering this  information, how were you protecting yourself from infection, and  distancing, when talking to people?

SOMINI SENGUPTA, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Thanks for having me,  Lawrence. I`ve been to hospitals in some pretty risky places. I was in  Baghdad right after the U.S. invasion. I was in Bombay at a hospital  reporting after the terrorist attack there. 

But going to Elmhurst required a different kind of risk calculation. I  stood outside, taking precautions to be seven to eight feet away from  people in line. I had a mask on. 

I took their phone numbers. I spoke to them briefly outside. And I called  them later to do a more in-depth interview. And then I stood across the  street. And I watched the line, I watched people in line form for some  time.

O`DONNELL: And the - your reporting is just so extraordinary from - from  the scene. It is a grim situation. You were - you were there to report the  13 deaths within one 24-hour period, which was the record high at that  point. And is - what does the future look like at Elmhurst Hospital and  other New York City hospitals?

SENGUPTA: The - the story that you`re referring to was a team effort by  several of my colleagues. I was only one member of that - of that team. 

I certainly did not go inside the hospital. To do that would be not only to  take a risk, but it would be to get in the way of people doing their jobs  inside. But my colleagues and I spoke to several people inside the  hospital. And, as you say, they described a situation where they were just  stretched very, very thin. 

There was a video that - that, you know, a doctor took inside. They spoke  of a refrigerated truck that had been stationed waiting for - waiting for -  for corpses. They spoke of that record, you know, number of 13 people dying  in a 24-hour period. Some people were waiting in the emergency room. They  died in the emergency room before they were assigned a bed. 

It`s a very, very grim situation. It`s a public hospital. People - it  serves a neighborhood, a very densely populated neighborhood of working  people, many of those people I met, as you say, in line, and they stood for  days just to get a test.

O`DONNELL: Somini Gupta, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I  - I don`t mean to be presumptuous about this. But this is Pulitzer-worthy  work that you`ve been delivering, and it is really extraordinary reporting,  and it`s a real honor to have you here tonight.

SENGUPTA: Thank you for your interest. Be safe.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And when we come back, the heroes of this crisis are the nurses, the  doctors, the healthcare workers, who are on the front-line, fighting this  pandemic. Dr. Laura Dean will join us next. 

She is an emergency room doctor in Boston, where "The Boston Globe" has  broken the sad news tonight that now 160 healthcare workers have been  infected with the Coronavirus. That number has been going up all day in  "Boston Globe" reporting. It`s now 160. That`s next.


O`DONNELL: At the beginning of this month, Laura Dean stopped wearing her  wedding ring. She was afraid of what might be on it when she came home from  work each day. 

Laura is a graduate of Harvard College and Brown Medical School, and is now  a Resident in Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General and Brigham and  Women`s Hospital in Boston. 

And she is nine months pregnant, with her baby due to arrive on April 22nd,  perfectly timed for the end of Laura Dean`s second year of residency. 

Every day, this month, Laura Dean wiped down her computer keyboard, and  found some time to search for information about what happens to the unborn  child of a mother infected with COVID-19. Because it`s such a new disease,  she didn`t find much data on the effects on unborn children. And so, she  kept working, as her friends kept asking her "Why are you still working?"

And on St. Patrick`s Day, normally a noisy day in Boston, during a meeting  of medical residents, someone suggested that pregnant residents and other  medically high-risk residents should probably be moved off the front-lines  of emergency medicine into behind-the-scenes support roles.

Dugan Arnett tells the story of what happened next in his powerful article  in "The Boston Globe." 

"She was at home the next day when the call came from her supervisors,  asking what she wanted to do. 

Typically poised, she suddenly heard herself rambling, talking around their  question, unable to bring herself to say it out loud, until finally, one of  her supervisors stopped her.

"We need an explicit answer," Dean recalled her saying.

She was near tears when she said that yes, it was her preference to step  back from direct clinical care during the final weeks of her pregnancy.  Then she put the phone down and cried.

There is a part of her that feels some sense of relief. Her family,  certainly, is happy with her choice. But the guilt, that her colleagues  remain in harm`s way while she is not that she was given a choice they  weren`t, has not subsided. She is not sure that it ever will.

"I could`ve said, I want to keep going," she said, "And I didn`t."

"I don`t think I will ever be totally at peace with that decision."

Joining us now is Dr. Laura Dean. 

Dr. Dean, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And we - we see, in  your story, the dilemma that faces healthcare professionals now, especially  healthcare professionals in your situation. 

First of all, how are you feeling? How is the pregnancy going? And does  April 22nd seem still on track for delivery?


Everything has been so far so good. We`re looking forward to delivery,  hoping that our little baby boy stays in there a little while longer.  That`s been the easy part these days. Unfortunately, the rest of the world  seems to be burning down around us.

O`DONNELL: And what do you expect to be the situation for delivery of  babies generally in the Boston area by the time you get to April 22nd when  the hospitals could be more overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients?

DEAN: Absolutely. I think, unfortunately, in the - the preceding segment,  hearing about what`s going on in New York feels like some kind of awful  time travel to the future, giving us a sense for what it might soon be like  in Boston. We`re already seeing increasing numbers of patients like plenty  of (ph) patients right now. 

They`re still allowing single visitors to the labor floor, so my husband  still gets a pass. But there`s a very real chance that by the time I`m  delivering in four weeks, there will be no visitors permitted in the  hospital, which I know is the case in a lot of New York hospitals. And if  that`s the case, then that`s what we have to do to try to keep everybody  safe.

O`DONNELL: And, of course, you`ve been training for birth, and your  husband`s been training for birth with you. And - and by - when the day  comes, he might not be allowed in that room.

DEAN: Yes. It`s something we never could have imagined nine months ago when  we were so happy to find out we were going to be starting our family. But  we have to roll with the punches here and try to follow all the directions  that the hospitals and administrators are putting in place to try to keep  everybody safe.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I`m sure you know other tough decisions made by other  people. 

And, in fact, in my view, every doctor who goes to work now, in these  hospitals, every day, is making what I think is a difficult decision every  day to go to work, and to be exposed to this.

Tell us what it`s like for the medical professionals who continue to go to  work today, just as they went to work 90 days ago, before they had any of  this on their minds?

DEAN: I am so in awe and so grateful for all of my colleagues, every single  person who works up the courage to go to work every day, whether it`s, you  know, doctors, nurses, people who are cleaning the rooms, people who are  making the hospital run.

I was scared to go to work every day until I was reassigned. And I can`t  imagine how they continue to muster the strength to do that. It`s - it`s  scary. It`s real. It`s getting worse. And I cannot applaud them enough. I  think none of us can, for really putting themselves in harm way - in harm`s  way.

O`DONNELL: And the reporting tonight indicates that the big spike in  infections among medical professionals in Boston could actually be  happening outside the hospital in community spread. So, it might be a  situation where taking every precaution possible in the hospital still  isn`t enough because the larger community is so dangerous.

DEAN: That`s absolutely right. They`re really scary numbers. And I think  that people are acutely aware of the risk going to work, and they`re taking  every precaution they have available to them. 

But the spread right now is so fast and so unpredictable. We`re seeing so  many people in the community who are coming down with symptoms and very  severe forms of the disease. But it`s really hard to keep up with where the  highest risk even is.

O`DONNELL: And do you know any of these medical professionals, the 160 so  far that have tested positive, or do you know people who know them, that  are close to them?

DEAN: Certainly, you know, it`s a very close network of people. I hesitate  to talk about anybody`s particular health circumstances. But it`s a pretty  close-knit group of healthcare professionals, and I think everybody`s  feeling it really acutely.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Dean, I hope that you understand that I and, I think, all of  this audience, are very much at peace with your decision to protect your  baby, and I hope you find peace with that decision.

DEAN: Thanks. I really appreciate that.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Laura Dean gets tonight`s Last Word. THE 11TH HOUR WITH  BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: We start again with an image of a barren Times  Square in New York. Good evening once again.