IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 3/27/2020

Guests: Michael Osterholm, Laurie Garrett, Katie Porter, Betsey Stevenson, Thea M. Lee, Rebekah Gee, Anthony Almojera

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: In California in Fresno County, officials 

announced today they`re planning on makeshift hospital on local Fresno fairgrounds with 250 beds. In Florida, Miami-Dade County construction well underway on a 250-bed field hospital on the fairgrounds there -- we reported on that several days ago.

Officials are expecting construction there to wrap up today. Also on the state fairgrounds in Oregon, the National Guard, Oregon National Guard, is well underway to opening a makeshift hospital there to handle the surge in hospital patients. We are seeing cities and counties all across the country build out field hospitals in all kinds of places.

And as it turns out in some parts of the country, you can also sail hospital capacity into port. Once again, the U.S. Naval ship "Mercy" already arrived in Los Angeles as of today. We just spoke with its commanding officer. The USNS Comfort will be arriving in New York City we believe by Monday.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Be well. Now it`s time for "The Last Word" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, we have for the last three and a half years thought about how we are covering stories that journalists like us have never covered in our careers and we end another week thinking the same thing. Rachel, please be safe. We`ll see you Monday.

MADDOW: You, too, my friend. Thanks Ali.

VELSHI: Tonight, while Donald Trump was in front of television cameras singing the $2 trillion -- signing, I`m sorry -- the $2 trillion economic relief bill with a $500 billion fund for his businesses, his administration quietly posted a statement that said it does not consider the congressional oversight provisions to apply.

You just heard Rachel ask Speaker Nancy Pelosi about that. Congresswoman Katie Porter on the Oversight Committee, this is her job, is going to join us with her response to the Trump administration. And coming up, plus the emerging coronavirus crisis in New Orleans where one parish now has the highest per capita death rate in the country.

And at the end of tonight show as coronavirus ravages New York, people are still having heart attacks and strokes and falls, but the 911 system in the city that responds to the usual medical emergencies is receiving twice as many calls as normal.

A paramedic is going to tell us what`s happening, another frontline of this crisis in tonight`s "Last Word." But tonight, the United States has reached a sobering milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. We`ve now passed the 100,000 case mark.

There are now 100,993 reported cases of coronavirus, more than any other country in the world and 1,573 reported deaths in the United States from coronavirus.

As these numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate, President Trump continues to spread mixed messages and disinformation about the pandemic and his response.

Today, it was unclear for instance whether Trump was invoking the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to produce ventilators to deal with increased hospitalizations from the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we did activate it with respect to General Motors and hopefully, maybe we won`t even need the full activation, we`ll find out. But we need the ventilators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Maybe we won`t even need the full activation. What does that even mean? We don`t really know. When a reporter tried to get a straight answer about the virus-stricken Americans being able to get ventilators, here is how Trump responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody who needs one will be able to get a ventilator?

TRUMP: Look, look, don`t be a cutie pie. Okay? Everyone who needs one. Nobody has ever done what we`ve done. Nobody has done anything like we`ve been able to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Don`t be a cutie pie isn`t an answer to the question as the president continues to evade and lie his way through this process. Governors have been taking charge and leading the fight to combat this deadly virus, but the governors can`t do it on their own. They need the help of the federal government. Many of these governors have written to and called the president begging for help.

But if these governors don`t beg in the right way it seems like the president has no problem denying them critical supplies that could save lives. Governor Gretchen Whitmer suggested today, she`s from Michigan, suggested that a growing rift with the White House is affecting shipments of medical supplies to Michigan.

She told a local radio station, "What I`ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff to Michigan. It`s really concerning."

The president said he doesn`t even want to call Whitmer or the governor of Washington State.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mike Pence, I don`t think he sleeps anymore. These are people that should be appreciated. He calls all the governors. I tell him, I`m a different type of person. I say Mike, don`t call the governor of Washington. You`re wasting your time with him. Don`t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn`t make any difference what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t call the governor of Washington?

TRUMP: You know what I said? If they don`t treat you right, I don`t call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, responding to Trump tweeting, "I`m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters, beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy."

All right, let`s be very clear, the people who are the victims of Trump`s inconsistent capricious handling of the federal response are not the governors, even the governors he doesn`t call. It`s the people who live in those states.

The 7.5 million residents of Washington, the 10 million residents of Michigan, some of whom voted for him, all of whom he is supposed to serve as president and some of whom are very sick tonight or working another exhausting overwhelming shift in the E.R. tonight.

Here is the reality of the situation tonight. Here in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, there are 44,635 cases of coronavirus. There have been 519 deaths so far. Health care workers and first responders are on the front lines combating this crisis.

Hospitals have already begun to be overwhelmed by patients. The emergency call volume is the highest this city has ever seen. More than 200 New York City firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus. So have more than 500 NYPD officers.

And now there`s a new concern about hot spots in the American South and the Midwest including New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. A new national survey of U.S. mayors reveals how under-prepared cities are to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

According to the survey, 91 percent of U.S. mayors from 41 states say they lack sufficient test kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers. Eighty-five percent say they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Michael Osterholm. He is the director of the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. He`s the author of the "Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs."

Laurie Garrett joining us as well, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter covering global pandemics. She`s a former senior fellow for global health at the Counsel on Foreign Relations in New York. Dr. Osterholm, let me start with you. What`s your evaluation of where we stand tonight?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY: Well, you know, as much as we keep talking about these numbers, we`re going to look back one day and think wow, I wish it was only this bad.

Things are going to continue to deteriorate for the next weeks and months ahead of us and we`re really in this for the long haul. And I think the other thing I just want to reflect on is because I`ve heard all day about the numbers.

We must never forget and I know you don`t, is the fact that each one is a father or a mother, a brother or a sister or even in some cases a child of those we love and know and we got to always keep that in mind. That`s what is happening right now.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes. It not sheer numbers. These are in fact, lives. Laurie Garrett, I had had a moment today. Look, we`ve been working, you`ve been working endlessly, we`ve been talking about this for weeks, but I had a moment today that actually made me sad.

It was -- Deborah Birx appeared in an interview on Christian Broadcasting Network. Deborah Birx is someone this country has come to rely on in those press conferences where Donald Trump goes off and says whatever he wants and you look to Fauci and you look to Birx to say what is really going on. This is what she said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH BIRX, WHTE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: He`s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details of the data. And I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business is really been a real benefit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Laurie Garrett, if that were true, you and I would have no business talking on a regular basis. In fact, most of what you and I do is interpreting and correcting the record for what Donald Trump has been telling this country.

LAURIE GARRETT, FORMER SENIOR FELLOW GLOBAL HEALTH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: It`s really hard to hear that. I don`t know exactly what`s going on inside the White House. None of us do. We`re not there. And there is a huge swirl of speculation and misinformation around all the details.

But the one thing we do know and Mike pointed this out in an opinion piece he had in today`s "New York Times," one thing we do know is there`s no strategic plan. The plan seems to change every day, every press conference.

We get a different we shall march down this road. We shall march down that road. I don`t know if you can hear around me, but all I hear all night long here in Brooklyn is sirens, all day long.

VELSHI: That`s right.

GARRETT: A steady parade of ambulances. And anybody, any idiot can stick their head out the window and see we can`t keep up. This can`t just keep endlessly, you know, racing to find a ventilator, racing to find masks, we need a strategic plan.

And the key to having a strategic plan that might have success to controlling this now completely out of control epidemic in the United States is to really come up with epidemiologically-based study so you can answer fundamental questions that will guide the policy decisions.

There is so much we don`t know about how this virus is spreading, about whether a person can be reinfected or are they permanently immune, about how physicians are being exposed.

We have brand-new study just came out that shows that the entire room in which a patient is laying still and not coughing because they have a respirator covering their face, even so the entire room is full of contagious viral particles. And they reside all over that room for hours.

We have to have plans that allow us to study the details and figure out how do you ameliorate one situation after another in some methodical way. And instead it feels like we`re just endlessly racing to catch up with the next big step from the virus.

VELSHI: Dr. Osterholm, reasonable people like yourself and others in your field can disagree on what we should be concentrating on and you wrote about this today, whether it`s using the Defense Production Act to make more respirators, whether we need to test a larger piece of the population, what surveillance looks like.

But to Laurie`s point, we`re not having that discussion. Right now, what`s the thing that concerns you most? Laurie talked about the sirens that she`s hearing. I`m in Manhattan. I`m hearing the same sirens at a level that I haven`t heard since 9/11.

There are medical professionals. There are front line workers being exposed to this and getting sick. What`s your biggest concern right now? What should we be doing most immediately?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, I want to just preface it by saying we`re going to get through this. We as a nation going to get through this, but we got to stop the happy talk. We got to stop saying everything is okay because it not, because that`s what`s keeping us from getting on and doing what we have to do.

For example, just take the Defense Production Act, which you know, right now has become this political theater about are you for it or against it. Take one mechanical ventilator. That machine is so critical.

To make one of those takes over 156 parts that comes from at least 14 different countries and is made each of those parts by experts who have the machines specifically for that part.

And to suddenly to ask General Motors to do that is absolutely like asking you and me to go become brain surgeons because we at one time or another held a knife in our hands. And so we got to get off of that.

What`s going to make a difference? You know, as a former defense secretary once said, when you go to war, you don`t get to go to war with what you want. You have to go to war with what you got.

And we have to understand we`re going to have a very major shortage of ventilators. We`re going to have a major shortage of protective equipment for health care workers. They are putting their life on the line every day.

And we got to have a plan that says this is the reality. Let`s go with it. If we keep talking happy talk about, you know, how everything is going so well, we`ll never get to the plan and in the end we`ll all suffer.

And finally, let me just say and the public will lose faith. We know absolutely clearly that any leader who will approach a topic with honesty, even if it`s tough, the public will stay with him when they provide that leadership.

GARRETT: I think that`s a really --

VESHI: Yes. And that by the way is the natural instinct in America. Go ahead Laurie.

GARRETT: It`s just that I think Mike is raising a key point because everything falls apart in public health if there is not a bond of trust. If the public doesn`t trust the government and the government doesn`t trust that the public will respond to its directives and what it indicates is the right thing to do.

We have a complete breakdown in trust and it`s really, really distressing to me to see that surveys are showing a partisan divide in the nation over whether or not people think the epidemic is something serious, something they should worry about.

So, literally based on whether you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat, you`re more or less likely to take the epidemic seriously and believe that it`s something that imperils your life and the life of people you love and care about.

That`s unbelievable. I can`t think, you know, I`ve written histories of epidemics for ages and I can`t think of any outbreak ever where you had a literal belief system based on political ideology that decided whether or not people were prepared to respond to an epidemic.

VESHI: Michael, let me ask you one thing. There is something in your op-ed that stood out to me. I understand you`re saying that we should focus on using what we have and developing a strategy. But you expressed doubt that we can make these respirators, these ventilators for instance. Look at what we did in the war. I mean, we can turn factors around to (inaudible) stuff out. Should we not be thinking about this?

OSTERHOLM: You know, Ari, this is a really, really important point. Think about this. In World War II, which I agree we didn`t have quite the same technology. When our Pacific fleet was destroyed in Pearl Harbour, it took almost three and a half years before we got that built up again and we worked 24/7, 365 a year.

We need ventilators now. We need N95 respirators now. There is nothing that`s going change the fact that we`re not going to have next week or next month or several months from now. Even if we increase the production of these ventilators, we`re talking about scaling up from a couple hundred a month to maybe closer to 1,000 a month.

And you`re hearing already we`re many thousand short. So, all I`m saying is let`s just be realistic. If I know what this enemy is and it`s the virus, and I know what tools I have to fight it with so then I can plan realistically, that`s what we need to do.

And can I just add one piece to what Laurie just said, which I think is very important that she illustrated. We right now have a blue and red condition on this. If you look, the major hot spots are all blue countries and counties and states in the United States.

But let me just tell you, as we see with seasonal influenza, that happens all the time where the virus starts to emerge in large cities. It will be in the red states in the next several months and they will then see this was not a blue or a red issue.

This is an on-fire issue and closing down a little hospital in rural Iowa that has 35 beds that is an absolute anchor for that community is going to happen. It won`t be New York City but it will be just as bad.

GARRETT: And I want to suggest to --

VESHI: Thank you to both of you, Dr. Michael Osterholm. Laurie, I`m sorry, we got to get going, but Laurie Garrett, we appreciate you have been for weeks helping us out with the coverage of this.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he doesn`t consider the oversight provisions that Democrats fought for to be mandatory. So does that mean that we can`t ensure that companies that get taxpayer help keep their end of the bargain when it comes to maintaining payroll or that we won`t be able to ensure that taxpayer money is going where it`s needed rather than to friends of the president or to the president`s personal businesses.

I`m going to ask Congresswoman Katy Porter. She`s standing by about all of that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VESHI: Today Donald Trump signed into law $2 trillion in coronavirus economic relief, a package that was passed just hours earlier overwhelmingly in the House with bipartisan support.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played an integral role in forcing Republicans to make concessions on accountability for how the $500 billion to large corporations would be spent including -- this one is going to turn out to be very important, the appointment of an inspector general and a congressional oversight commission to scrutinize the lending.

But in a statement posted tonight, the Trump administration says it doesn`t recognize the congressional oversight as valid. One such provision requires the inspector general to report to Congress if any government agency fails to provide information about loans.

To which Donald Trump says, "I do not understand, and my administration will not treat this provision as permitting the special inspector general to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision."

And as for the requirement that Congress helped choose who will run the pandemic response accountability committee which will oversee the federal government`s response to the pandemic, Trump says this, "My administration will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory."

Speaker Pelosi was asked about the president`s comments in an exclusive interview with Rachel Maddow tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOS (D-CA): It`s not a surprise to anyone, but Congress will exercise its oversight and we will have our panel of House -- appointed by the House in realtime to make sure we know where those funds are being expended.

But let me just say that the president`s statement is indicative of the difference between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill. The bill was jujitsu. We just took their bill and turned it around, and so they signed it in the White House as if they had some real (inaudible) to what was in the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Joining us now Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter from California. She is a member of the House Oversight and Financial Services Committee. She sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi today requesting to be appointed to the Oversight Commission to scrutinize the lending of billions of dollars to corporations.

Representative, before we get to that which is very important, I`ve had a lot of tweets from people asking how you are. You had isolated yourself because of symptoms that you were concerned might be coronavirus. What`s your health like?

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I`m recovering. I feel better each day. The test came back negative for coronavirus. So, we assume that`s not what it is, but the doctor cautioned that false negatives are possible and so to go ahead and stay home until my symptoms have fully gone away.

And of course, California is in a stay at home order, stay shelter order so, I`ve been recovering and I do feel much better yesterday and today.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, let`s talk about this oversight commission. You are known for the detail that you bring to your work. You know, when there is an 800-page document, you find something 640 pages in. So you`re known for this.

So I think there are a lot of people who would really like someone with your attention to detail to be on the oversight committee. What do you make of this comment that the president made that he would take this as hortatory. I`ve never heard Donald Trump use that word before.

But that sort of means that it`s a recommendation, it`s an encouragement, it`s not mandatory. That`s not what the rest of us thought this bill was about.

PORTER: No, and this bill was negotiated in good fifth on a bipartisan bicameral basis. And, you know, it`s very clear President Trump didn`t write that statement. That statement is coming from the administration`s lawyers who at every turn for years now have resisted any effort out of tripartite government, any efforts of Congress to do its work in creating checks and balances.

And so what we`re seeing from the Trump administration lawyers are the same kinds of resistance, the same kinds of lack of respect for the checks and balances in the Constitution that we saw with impeachment that we`ve seen with oversight of appropriation spending.

But what it really means is, what he`s pushing (inaudible) specifically is that the inspector general, the appointment of a special inspector general and this advisory counsel -- this oversight counsel. What that means is the congressional oversight commission where the members are going to be appointed by Congress itself is going to be the most important tool because arguably the president has no authority to restrict the work that it does.

VELSHI: What are you worried about could happen? I mean, look, this is our money as taxpayers, the money of all my viewers and all of your constituents, you, our representatives in Congress, and if $500 billion is going to go to companies, we need certain things to happen. We need to make sure that their executives are not compensated before taxpayers are paid back and before all their payroll is made.

We need to make sure that money goes to payroll and not laying people off. We need to make sure there are no stock buybacks paid out with that money. There are basic things we need done. What are you worried about the president not following this directive or these instructions is going to lead to?

PORTER: So look, the bill provides for some of the basic guardrails you mentioned. It says for example, there can be no increases in executive compensation if a company receives a loan. There can be no stock buybacks during the period that a company is receiving a loan, but that`s about it.

So what it doesn`t do is provide any conditions that the loan money be used to keep people on payroll, which is really the point of doing this, is to keep people on payroll to allow those businesses to continue to operate. And so it`s really going to be important.

I don`t think that there is rigorous oversight, but then it`s done quickly. The treasury has the ability to move this money extremely quickly. There is nobody that Secretary Mnuchin has to ask. He can decide $100 billion to this industry, $100 billion to that industry.

Meanwhile, he could be ignoring some of the industries that most desperately need the money and that are some of the largest employers in the country. So there is a real potential here for the administration to play favorites and there is a real potential here for the money to go out the door long before this oversight commission even gets set up, long before the inspector general can do its work.

So especially in light of what President Trump said about his intent to ignore these oversight provisions, we in Congress need to be appointing people to this congressional panel immediately and they need to be starting their work this evening and tomorrow, getting staff up, being ready day by day to see what Secretary Mnuchin is doing with our $500 billion in taxpayer dollars.

VELSHI: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you. I`m glad to hear your health is improving and that you tested negative. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Coming up, 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims for the first time last week and economists believe that is actually an under representation of the number of people out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Up next, two economists are going to tell us what the $2 trillion package just signed today could do to help people who are struggling and how soon. Plus, what lawmakers need to do to help battle this economic crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, from Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle to Boston to New York, the restaurant industry is getting devastated. This is just, we`re in a crisis. We need federal help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Business is down so I did have to ask a few people not to come into work today and that`s probably the worst part of the job is telling your dishwasher that he can`t come in to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got a nice meal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we`re not going to be able to eat until about 8:00 tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Coronavirus has brought untold economic despair. Many are struggling to afford rent, food, health care and other basic necessities. Last week, a record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits, an increase of 1500 percent over three weeks and more than three times the peak during the 2008 recession.

Now the real numbers are likely higher because many laid off workers say the system was overwhelmed and they couldn`t apply for unemployment benefits. We`re going to get a better number a week from today when the March jobs report is released.

Even that won`t be entirely accurate because this stuffs all lags a little bit the biggest relief package in American history is expanded unemployment insurance because Democrats aggressively fought for that. This is a rolling crisis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting ready for the fourth relief package what passed today was phase three because the worse is still yet to come Ezra Klein the Co-Founder of VOX put it in stock terms on this program earlier this week.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER OF VOX: This is - as some comes and said to me. It what happens if you mix a recession, a financial crisis, a natural disaster and a war.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VELSHI: Joining me now Betsey Stephenson, Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan. She was the Chief Economists at the Department of Labor under President Barrack Obama Thea M. Lee is the President of Economic Policy Institute.

Betsey, I certainly don`t want to be polonaise about this, I`m trying to - at some points draw some silver linings around some clouds and I`ll remind people that on a five-year basis just looking at my charts here, the stock market is still up 25 percent on a 10 year basis up 120 percent.

So these things do have a way of adjusting themselves. The issue is how long they take. But with respect to the money being loaned out, what are the things that you`ll remember from top, the troubled asset relief program during the recession is that not only was that all paid up, not only was the auto loans all paid back but they were paid back with interest with a rate of return to the U.S. investors. So, if things go well, this could work.

BETSEY STEVENSON, FOMER CHIEF ECONOMIST, U.S.DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: Absolutely. I would say that it wasn`t a great rate of return on top but I still feel that it was the right thing to do and all the money was paid back.

And, when we`re looking at the stimulus package right now when we see 2 trillion, we should realize a lot of that money will hopefully going to get paid back. And, it really incredibly important right now that we don`t have a liquidity problem turns into a solvency problem.

And, we don`t want to see bank runs we don`t want to see bankruptcies. We don`t want to see liquidations. We want to sort of put the whole economy on pause, battle the virus, and then be able to pick up where we left off and the only way to do that is if we can help people get through with the kind - get through the kind of payments that they need to get done even when they don`t have revenue coming in.

VELSHI: So Thea here is the problem, when we look back at these 15 years from now, we`ll have said wow we got through it and will probably see a stock market higher than it is today. We don`t know whether this takes two years or three years or five years or six years to recover from.

When I walk outside in Manhattan, 90 percent of the shops are closed. 100 percent of the small businesses that depend on anything other than food or a corner store are closed. These aren`t statistics. These are businesses. These are individuals. These are people who are losing their livelihoods. How much do we need to do to prevent this from becoming a disaster?

THEA M. LEE, PRESIDENT ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: We have to do everything in our power to protect the people who have done the right thing. This is an induced recession. We are telling people to stay home.

We are telling businesses to close. It is all for the public good. It is to save people`s lives but what we can`t do is have the health crisis turn into an economic disaster. And we are, you know, we know there is going to be a lot of job lost. We know people lost income.

But the federal government can and should and has taken some pretty important steps to make people whole again and that is what is crucial. We can limit, mitigate the economic harm that happens from this crisis if the federal government and the state local governments act appropriately.

And today`s relief bill was an important step in the right direction incomplete but a step in the right direction for sure.

VELSHI: And in fairness, everybody involved it knew it was incomplete. There is nobody who is saying this is the last go at it. Betsey, I`m a financial Journalist. We look at first-time unemployment claims regularly but the public doesn`t usually.

They get an unemployment number which we will get a week from now? What`s the relationship between these first-time unemployment claims and what`s going to happen to either our unemployment rate or more importantly than the rate itself, the number of people who were going to learn lost their jobs in the month of March?

STEVENSON: So, I`m really glad you brought this up because I don`t think we`re going to see a really big rise in unemployment reports. So the week that employment report is based on what people were doing in the week that included March 12th.

When we looked at the initial unemployment insurance claims that week, the week that included March 12th, they went up. They went up to 281,000 from their previous amount around 200,000. But what we just saw this Thursday was a rise in claims up to 3.3 million. It`s a big difference between 281,000 and 3.3 million.

VELSHI: Yes.

STEVENSON: That difference is not going to be in the employment report. So it`s not going to be the employment report we see next week that`s going to shed a big hit, it`s going to be the month after that.

I`ll tell you that when you have 212 million Americans who have been ordered to stay home, 3.3 million is just a drop in the bucket of the number of people who need to be getting unemployment insurance.

VELSHI: Right.

STEVENSON: So we`re going to see those numbers continue to be astronomically high. The hope is, though, that it doesn`t go on for months and months and months, because it goes on for weeks or a few months and to put that in perspective, if you look back in the 2008 recession.

We never had any kind of number like this but what did have two years of week after week after week of there being two to 400,000 extra people that were filing for first-time unemployment insurance claims.

So, week after week after hundreds of thousands of more people than normal add up over 24 months, our hope is this is something that will last maybe five weeks.

VELSHI: And Thea while it took a few years before we got back to reemploying people, not having extra people, it took more than five years before we started to see things that people might consider meaningful increases in their paycheck.

At this point, we are back to a structural problem and a lot of people say look, we`re putting trillions of dollars into this. This is not something that it is going to happen often. Should we try and fix some of the structural inequality that exists in our labor market?

You know, it was a quant thing when Andrew Yang talked about universal basic income but hope on to problem to be universal basic income are saying why don`t we start thinking about this now so that people, their income isn`t an emergency matter in times like this and their health care is not an emergency matter in times like this?

LEE: I think that`s one of the most important things we can do coming out of this crisis is to make the kind of permanent structural changes that we need in our social safety net, in our health care provision, in our emergency preparedness that - this crisis has lay bear all the weakness and the dysfunctionality and inequality the underline inequality in U.S. economy.

That means that we were ill prepared for this crisis but we shouldn`t be ill prepared for the next crisis and I hope that lawmakers, once we get beyond the immediate emergency of dealing with the loss of income and the loss of business and the loss of revenues for state and local governments that we can take those steps to learn some lessons, to put in place for example paid sick leave for everybody and to put in place a health care system that doesn`t cause people to go bankrupt when they get sick.

And make sure that our unemployment insurance system really does cover all the people those who need it. And I think those are important steps we can take coming out of the crisis so we`re better prepared the next time.

VELSHI: And that is the discussion that we should be having now. So perhaps, in the fourth phase of the relief bill that comes out or the next phase of it, we should be having these discussions. Thanks to both of you for joining us Betsey Stevenson and Thea Lee.

All right, coming up, New York is the epicenter of the Coronavirus crisis in the United States but there`s an emerging alarming crisis in other states. Coming up next, we`re going to talk to a doctor in New Orleans which now has the highest mortality rate in the entire country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were saying something to the folks of New Orleans who are probably watching you this morning, what would you say to them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d say hang in there and maintain hope and obviously, we`ve been through a lot of tough times together whether it`s hurricanes, oil spills, floods, this is just another one of those bits of adversity that we`re going to come out better on the other side but we got to stick together right now. And obviously and they get a little bit worse before better but at the end of the day, we`ll become better because of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: That`s New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees this morning on "The Today Show." Reason is his wife Brittney announced a $5 million donation to provide meals to people of Louisiana who are in need throughout the Coronovirus health break.

Now the donation highlights the dire situation across the state especially in New Orleans as Coronavirus cases start to overwhelm the city`s health care system. "USA Today" reports throngs of revelers may have brought the coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations here but the city`s poverty rate, lack of health care, affordable housing and high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions may be driving it explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. Epicenter of the outbreak.

Currently the city of New Orleans has 1,170 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 57 fatalities. Joining me now Dr. Rebekah Gee she is the CEO of the Louisiana State University Health Care Services and Former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health.

Rebekah thank you for joining us. Can you give me your evaluation of what`s happened in New Orleans? Why Louisiana and New Orleans specifically has become such an active center for Coronavirus?

DR. REBEKAH GEE, CEO LOUISIANA HEALTHCARE SERVICES: Yes, I think we`re going to find that out later on when we have time to research it. You know, I don`t know why wasn`t it Disney World? Why wasn`t it a marathon that was happening?

The bottom line it`s here and we have some of the highest rates in the world, one of the highest increases in rates in the world, higher than New York, higher than the initial rates in Italy and that`s leading to very concerning numbers of people on vents, people on ICU`s and a great concern that we`re going to run out.

In fact, the Governor estimates we`re going to run out of vents before one week is done. And so we have about seven days to get vents here. He`s asked for 12,000. So far we`ve gotten 192. So far from what we need to make sure that the people who need them are able to stay alive through this crisis.

VELSHI: In fact, the Governor as you said has suggested that by April 2nd or 3rd, that`s next week given the trajectory Louisiana is on, they are going to run out. Donald Trump was asked about that today and here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are going to have plenty and if for some reason, if for some reason you`re going to need even more, we`re going to be prepared. If there is a mad rush in New York or may be in Louisiana or may be someplace else, we don`t want to have given out all of the units ventilators and in those sections we give them to Iowa but they didn`t have a problem in Iowa.

We have given them to Idaho. We have given them to lots of different places and now we have to try and get them back which is never easy to do. John, what I`m saying is this; we are prepared for things that nobody has any idea that we would be prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Dr. Gee, this is the problem. Every day we hear things like this. We are prepared for things that no one would imagine we are going to be prepared except you`re seeing it. You are right now in Louisiana what you see this thing is spreading in a rate.

I mean, New Orleans has half, almost half you know, a little more than a third of all the cases in Louisiana, 1170 cases, 57 deaths in New Orleans itself. How does that translate? What exactly has to happen right now because the President is saying, the Governor saying he need the ventilators, the President is saying we are prepared but it should not happen.

GEE: Well, I hope he`s right. He`s saying the Defense Production Act which is very appealing. It`s GM who will have to manufacture these. The question is can GM manufacture them in time and if not, does the nation have a stockpile to send us? That`s the key question right now.

We`re staffing up the Memorial Convention Center, 500 beds and the Feds are sending a strike team down to help staff it. All of that`s helpful but that is not intensive care. What we need now are intensive care specialists to come help us.

We need vents to make sure we can take care of the patients we`re going to have. The Governor is using the best available evidence that`s we need 12,000. Let`s hope we get a heck of a lot more than the 192 we have.

Now we have some of the best doctors and best medical systems in the country. LSU, I`m very proud to be at, our doctors and nurses on the front line. Our CMC a fantastic Governor and Mayor and a wonderful Congressional delegation I think next you`re going to hear from Congressman Richmond.

All of that is fantastic but we need equipment. I mean, we`re fighting a battle. We need to be armed with the right tools. We need medicine. We need personnel. We need protective equipment, which we`ve been struggling to do. Last week some of us had to order, in my network, bunny suits on EBay to protect them from this virus.

We were having to source masks from China, making masks in a furniture store in New Orleans, taking plastic covers from office depot, punching holes in them and making face shields, makeshift face shields. That should not happen in America in 2020.

VELSHI: No.

GEE: That needs to be changed. It is changing. It`s getting better, but now we`re really focused on the ventilator issue. So we`ve got to get those here.

VELSHI: Yes.

GEE: And so--

VELSHI: Dr. Rebekah Gee, thank you for joining us. Go ahead.

GEE: Thank you very much. I hope that the nation continues to understand. I think people understand how big this problem is? That`s why more deaths here than in Manhattan. We have a quarter of the population.

VELSHI: Yes.

GEE: Although there are other places that have a problem, this is where the real national focus needs to be now so we can solve the problems and prevent avoidable deaths.

VELSHI: We`ll make sure we keep the focus on New Orleans. Thank you. Dr. Rebekah Gee. Coming up, there has already been some discussion about what happens if you`re pregnant and you need to give birth in a hospital during the Coronavirus.

What happens if you have a heart attack? What happens if you have a stroke you fall you need an ambulance? You call 911 but here in New York City, 911 is overwhelmed. We`re going to talk to one first responder about the impact that the pandemic is having on workers who are always on the front line, next in tonight`s Last Word.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: New York City`s emergency medical technicians and paramedics are responding to the highest number of 911 calls since September 11th. On Wednesday, the city received 6,550 911 calls that 40 percent increase from New York daily average.

The city is on track to beat that record today all while 2,000 firefighters and paramedics and 4,000 members of the NYPD are out sick. More than 550 NYPD members and more than 200 members of the FDNY have tested positive for the Coronavirus.

In New York City, emergency medical services, EMS, is part of the FDNY, the Fire Department. The FDNY is urging New Yorkers to only call 911 during an emergency and to call 311, which many cities have, if they are sick or have Coronavirus symptoms if they can`t otherwise contact their doctor.

Joining me now, Anthony Almojera he is a paramedic in Brooklyn. He`s the Vice President of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union, Local 3621. Anthony, you and I talked yesterday, I believe, and you were warning me about how serious this matter is, about the fact that you said then you`re running beyond capacity, and this worry about supplies and about how people are?

Where are you today? What is the situation for EMS`s like yourself today in New York?

ANTHONY ALMOJERA, PARAMEDIC, BROOKLYN: The situation is the same. We are running out of supplies. The city and the Mayor has failed to hear us, our concerns in regards to providing us the N-95 masks that we so desperately need. We are going to go over 7,000 calls again today.

We anticipate this to go on for the week, two weeks, as long as this epidemic is going on. We`re doing what we have to do. The members of EMS, not only in New York City but nationwide, are here to help we`re doing it.

But we`re running low on resources, and we`re working night and day, and the answer to your question before is, correct, today is not the day to call for the stubbed toe. Today is the day to call for when you are sick.

But if you do call, we will be there. We will be there. So the concern is great, the members are tired the city and the department has been a little lack luster in our concerns in addressing them. But the members, they`re going to be there for when the citizens of New York need us.

VELSHI: You always are. I was here for 9/11, and I know what you have done, and I know that you`re doing it now. I think it`s important, Anthony, I know you wouldn`t bring this up, but I think we need to. Across the country but even in this city, EMS workers are generally speaking not highly paid.

ALMOJERA: Correct. You know, right now in this epidemic, we`re the tip of the spear. We`re the ones on the front lines. Every other day we`re the ones on the front lines as well. We are the lowest paid of the 911 services.

We are considered a stepping stone to the other 911 or even other agencies within state, city, and federal government. That has to be corrected. There`s no reason that that should be. When you call 911, you get a choice of three options.

We are one of them. So not only in New York City but Nationwide, that has to be corrected tomorrow if not sooner. This deserves to be, this job deserves to be a career path. You don`t want people coming into your home who are here leaving.

You want people who are 15, 20 years. You go to a hospital because that doctor has 20 years experience and can help you. We bring the hospital to you. You want 20-year people to be training new people and training you and your families.

And unfortunately the way this city has treated EMS, that`s not the case. But we are doing the best we can.

END