Gov. Cuomo TRANSCRIPT: 4/1/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Luciana Borio, Ron Klain, Bina Venkataraman, Adam Schiff, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Gaby Araica, Tracy Mchale-Araica

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

And Chairman Adam Schiff is with us tonight. He`s going to be talking about basically everything you`ve been talking about in the last hour, and that he`s very interested in doing basically an after-action report sometime in the future when the situation is clear enough to go back and figure out everything the federal government did right, everything it did wrong. I think we have a feeling the section on what it did wrong will be longer than what it did right, but that`s what he`s going to do when he gets his chance.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I have some suggestions for topics in the table of contents of that report, I can tell you right now.

O`DONNELL: I think they`re taking notes watching your show, Rachel. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Like I said, Chairman Adam Schiff will be with us tonight. We`ll get the latest situation from him on his congressional district in Los Angeles area and Chairman Schiff has a new plan for what Congress needs to do about the failures of the Trump administration in defending us against the coronavirus pandemic. Chairman Adam Schiff will join us later in the hour.

And at the end of the hour, we have something special tonight. We`ll be joined by my favorite mask maker. She`s already gotten appreciative attention of her congresswoman and her senators and she`s in fourth grade at St. Brendan`s School in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, which is the school that I walked to every day when I was in fourth grade.

And so, there will be a little bit of St. Brendan`s School pride on display when Gaby Arica joins us at the end of this hour. You`ll want to see what an amazing job she`s been doing, making masks with sewing machine and distributing them to first responders in Boston. You`ll see that end of the hour.

Tonight, we begin with the numbers. As of tonight, there are 211,149 reported cases in the United States with 4,735 reported deaths from the coronavirus in the United States. And so, as of tonight, the total number of reported cases is about the same number of deaths from coronavirus that this country could experience over the next month or two, according to some projections of what is to come, 200,000 or more deaths, if -- if we do everything perfectly, from last week forward.

And it`s already too late to do everything perfectly last week back when the governor of Florida was still refusing to close down basically anything in his state and insist on social distancing and ban people from Florida beaches. The governor of Florida finally issued that order today but we don`t know how many people were infected in the last week in Florida. We still don`t know how many people were infected at these packed Florida beaches when the Republican governor of Florida was doing absolutely nothing to stop those people from infecting each other, doing nothing to protect those people. And we now know that many of those people did infect each other at that beach.

Finally, today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a 30-day stay-at- home order that starts at midnight tomorrow night, that tells 21 million residents in Florida to stay indoors, unless they`re pursuing quote essential services or activities.

"Washington Post" reports that there is a growing disparity between what Republican and Democrat states receive from the federal government. As states across the country have pleaded for equipment from a key stockpile, Florida has promptly received 100 percent of its first two requests with President Trump and Republican Governor DeSantis both touting their close relationship.

States including Oklahoma and Kentucky received more of some equipment than requested, while others, such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of requests. It`s a disparity that`s caused frustration and confusion in governors` offices with some officials wondering whether politics is playing a role in the response.

And if you`re wondering, if politics is playing a role in the response, then you have not been paying attention to Donald Trump.

"The Boston Globe" says corruption and incompetence has also played a role. "The Globe" said that in an editorial that says, quote, the president has blood on his hands. The author of that editorial will join us later in this hour.

According to "The Boston Globe", Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is pressing the Trump administration, quote, "for answers on why they seized at least two of the Massachusetts recent orders for protective equipment, charging that it appears they are still interfering with states efforts to track down medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Senator Warren also pointed to at least two instances in which Massachusetts lost orders for ventilators and hundreds of respirators after the federal government stepped in, a situation Marylou Sudders, the state`s health and human services secretary, described as they take what we order.

Illinois` Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker, says the federal government sent the wrong masks to Illinois. After promising 300,000 N95 masks, the most protective masks, Illinois got a shipment of standard surgical masks instead. N95 masks are much more protective against the coronavirus.

Tonight, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says because Trump administration officials have failed at medical supplies, military should be put in charge of the federal system of distributing medical equipment in this crisis.

With some counties in Georgia now ranking in highest per capita rate of infection in the country, the Republican governor of Georgia finally announced today that starting Friday will do what it obviously should have been doing for a month now, starting Friday in Georgia, nonessential businesses will be closed and Georgians will be ordered to maintain social distancing weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York imposed those rules on the entire state of New York from Montauk Point, over 100 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean from New York City, all the way to Niagara Falls, Governor Cuomo shut it all down weeks ago when he had exactly the same scientific information about the coronavirus that was available to the governors of Florida and Georgia.

Today, Governor Cuomo said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: What we`re looking at now is the apex, top of the curve, roughly at the end of April, which means another month of this. People say, well, when is it over? Two weeks, three weeks, four weeks? This model projects you`re going to have a high death rate through July. If this model is correct, this could go through the summer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNEL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Dr. Luciana Borio, the former national security director for medical and bio defense preparedness before that office was disbanded under President Trump. And Ron Klain is with us. He`s former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He served as the so-called Ebola czar during the Obama administration.

Dr. Borio, I want to get your reaction to what Governor Cuomo just said there about this could easily go into July and he expects us to still be seeing a very, very significant death rate in July.

DR. LUCIANA BORIO, FORMER DIRECTOR, MEDICAL & BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: That`s right. I think that we are going to be dealing with this pandemic and this epidemic for the foreseeable future, for several months. It may actually get worse in the fall and winter time. And we cannot afford right now to lift any of the measures that Americans have been amazing to do, which is to shelter in place for this long.

And what I ask them to do is to do things more perfect than before because they need to protect themselves, their families, communities and importantly health care workers who are completely overwhelmed right now. They`re amazing professionals, been completely overwhelmed to do their job. They deserve a chance to care for sick patients. So, we all have to do our part. We`re all public health right now.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Borio, what would have been different in the White House if your office was still operational where you were basically in charge of keeping an eye on pandemics possibly developing anywhere in the world, what would you have been doing in this office in the White House in, say, early January when the information was coming through clearly through our intelligence services about what was happening in China?

BORIO: Look, I think it`s important to realize that a public health crisis of this magnitude would have been challenging to anybody in administration. And there will be a time to look back and the actions that were taken or not. But right now, I would like to focus on how we are going to be able to contain this epidemic so we can get to the other side. It`s nowhere in sight right now and we won`t have a vaccine that is protective for mass distribution for several more months and we have limited public health tools right now.

And they are highly disruptive, society is paying a cost. We have to focus on what to do next. In addition to the public health effort I mentioned, I think we have to really focus and triple our efforts now to get the diagnostic tests to where they are needed to isolate the sick and we can actually trace into the contacts and isolate them, as well.

This is how we`re going to be able to control this very rapid spread that we see in almost every state.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain, are you expecting the kind of curve that Governor Cuomo was talking about today?

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR ADIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, I think that the models differ somewhat but I think that what Governor Cuomo was talking about today is basically on point. I think it`s important to remember when people say, hey, the peak will be April or May, the day after the peak is the second worst day of this thing and the day after that is the third worst day of this thing.

So, people have to remember, we`re not just looking where the apex is but a long way down from that apex. I also think as Dr. Borio said, this isn`t one hill up and down. I think if there is one thing we`re seeing in public that`s misleading is these curves look like the parabolas you drew in high school geometry, they kind of go up, go straight down.

Instead, when we look at the history of epidemics, they`re more like a series of waves. We`re going to see up again and then down, and then up again and down again, and up again and down again. I think this is just something we`ll be dealing with many, many months, hopefully with less intensity than we`re going to see in the next month but this is not going to go away quickly.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Borio, what about the way Ron was describing the waves? Do you expect -- that sounds like what Governor Cuomo is saying, we`ll see something that feels like it going down but that probably won`t be the end. There will probably be more movement upward to some degree.

BORIO: That`s right. I mean, he`s exactly right. Every day after it, we`ll still be losing lives. And we really -- the goal is not to lose lives.

So, it doesn`t matter where the apex is, because it is helpful to know you reached the worst at this moment but you`re still going to continue to see a tremendous amount of lives lost and disruption because of this virus.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, when will we know if the heat of summer is going to be a helpful factor?

BORIO: I think we`re going to have to go through the months to see if we see a little bit of a respite in the rapid spread. I think we can use any good news that we can -- is available but still, we can`t just -- even if we see a little slow spread, we have to remember there is so much to be done in terms of diagnostic testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment, ventilators, drugs and vaccines.

We can`t -- there`s no day that we should approach this crisis with any less urgency because of a little bit of good news that day. We have to prepare for the worst. We know this is going to be with us for months, and I think that everybody involved in the response, again, needs to work every day as if, you know, they have no more time left because it with great urgency that we need to approach this.

O`DONNELL: And, Ron Klain, with that timing that is so unique to the Trump administration, they have announced that they will not reopen the health care exchanges when they`re supposed to be open for people to join Obamacare, for people to obtain coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It was a question about that in the briefing today. Mike Pence droned on and didn`t answer a word and Donald Trump congratulated Mike Pence for not answering the question in any way and then Donald Trump said that it did sound unfair to him and he would think about it. That`s as far as we got.

And I just saved the audience about six minutes of White House briefing in what I just summarized.

But, Ron, this care, this availability is more crucial every minute of our lives now.

KLAIN: Yes, you know, Lawrence, the one consistent thing about Donald Trump and his presidency is trying to undo anything Barack Obama did, including in middle of a pandemic, rolling back air pollution rules and today announcing that they will not allow the extension of Obamacare for people who want to sign up and get coverage.

Even in plaintiff right now, they are in court still trying to get the entire program wiped out in the middle of a pandemic, trying to have people who have coverage lose their coverage by taking this to court. And so, you know, I think, as you said in the outset of this show, one thing about President Trump`s handling of this unfortunately is playing politics.

He`s playing politics in the allocation of aid and resources to our medical workers. He stands up there and says basically the governors have to pay homage to him if they want to get the help their states need. He plays politics by taking about that he hadn`t heard about a testing problem when his own Republican governors say that this -- they told him about it and it`s a big problem and now playing politics with people`s health coverage.

This is, as Dr. Borio says, this is a pandemic. Obviously, it`s a national crisis and it`s time to put politics aside and do right by the American people. Get them health care coverage, get them the equipment they need without regard to the political affiliation of their governors and make sure every person in this country is as safe as they can be.

O`DONNELL: Ron Klain and Dr. Borio, thank you for sharing your invaluable expertise with us tonight. We really appreciate it.

KLAIN: Thanks so much.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, "The Boston Globe" editorial board has a new important editorial that they have published tonight. It makes the case that Donald Trump, quote, has blood on his hands. That`s the phrase "The Globe" shows to describe Donald Trump`s role in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. The editorial board member who wrote that editorial will be our next guest.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: "The Boston Globe" says that Donald Trump has blood on his hands. The editorial board has published under the headline: A president unfit for a pandemic. Much of the suffering and death coming was preventable, the president has blood on his hands.

The editorial fittingly begins with a line from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, wrote W.B. Yeats in 1919. A century later, it`s clear, the epicenter cannot hold. Catastrophic decisions in the White House have doomed the world`s richest country to a season of untold suffering.

In that Yeats poem that "The Globe" quoted, these lines immediately follow the line that "The Boston Globe" quoted: Anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loose, and everywhere, the ceremony of innocence is drowned.

Donald Trump conducts a ceremony of innocence every day at the White House briefing in which he has denied any responsibility for the failures of his administration`s response to a pandemic that they knew was coming since the first week of January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don`t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: In his daily ceremony of innocence, Donald Trump pretends that he never said that the coronavirus was not going to be a very deadly pandemic in the United States. He pretends, he pretends he never said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s a pretty good job we`ve done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "The Boston Globe" has been recording every word Donald Trump has said about the coronavirus and everything Donald Trump has done and not done about the coronavirus and "The Globe`s" editorial board reached this conclusion.

The months the administration wasted with prevarication about threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the president has blood on his hands.

Joining us now, Bina Venkataraman, the author of that editorial. She served as an advisor to President Obama during the Ebola epidemic. She`s now the editorial page editor for "The Boston Globe."

Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

What brought you to the point of going this far in your language to the "blood on his hands" language that you`ve chosen?

BINA VENKATARAMAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: It`s not language we chose lightly and I thank you for quoting more of Yeats than I could fit on the page and in print, but I -- we really were looking at the facts, and the president has been trying to revise history as it happening, as you noted through press conferences and making insinuations about hoarding at hospitals to excuse his lack of getting supplies to states and cities for their hospitals.

And it`s important as he tries to recalibrate expectations so that suddenly, hundreds of thousands of deaths are being expected and being declared a measure of success by this administration, so we don`t take that for granted and look back at two months ago when the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the U.S. and the president said it just one guy coming from China. It`s no big deal. This will amount to nothing.

The colossal failure to act to get testing underway, if we contrast the way the United States, the world`s richest country, with the most sophisticated medical facilities and research institutions, the world`s leading scientists -- contrast that with the way South Korea and Germany have rolled out testing, isolated cases, done contract tracing to contain the epidemic on their shore, the United States has failed to do that.

And in epidemics, in pandemics, timing is everything. Timing is the difference between a contained outbreak that can be controlled within weeks and a devastating and deadly epidemic like the one we`re seeing unfold and we`ll continue to see unfold over this coming month and that is because epidemics, outbreaks grow exponentially. If we had contained those early cases, if we identified them, if the president hadn`t been so worried about seeing the stock market dip, if he had been not trying to count or test the cruise ship passengers aboard that ship on the Pacific coast of California because he didn`t want our numbers to look high, we might have been able to contain and address this crisis much sooner.

But you can look at subsequent missteps through February into March, including how he`s failed to really seize the role of the federal government in a crisis like this where the role is really to help coordinate among states and distribute supplies. Instead, states including Massachusetts, which by the way, as you know has a Republican governor, but it`s a red governor in a blue state, our own governor had trouble getting access to those supplies, mere fractions of what requested from the national stockpile have arrived here in Massachusetts.

And that`s true in states and cities around the country. What they`re needing, and the supplies to protect their hospital workers, their nurses, their doctors, their first responders, are not being supplied by the federal government. In fact, the federal government has out-bid states and governors, and trying to get supplies, he stepped and taken away ventilators from states, and that is I think just a -- just a catastrophic use of the federal government`s power when in fact they should be coordinating and making this easier.

O`DONNELL: We have polls showing Trump supporting voters and Fox News viewers took the coronavirus threat much less seriously than other people, no doubt because of the messaging they were getting from Fox channel and from President Trump.

Does that -- is that part of your case that in effect, more people are sick tonight, more people are dying tonight and more people are dead tonight because Donald Trump was president at this time?

VENKATARAMAN: Absolutely, Lawrence. And information, scientifically valid information is critical in outbreaks. It`s critical in public response and having the president down play this for weeks and weeks, for months really, and having Fox News be a sort of megaphone for that misinformation certainly has cost lives.

You know, the Florida governor taking so long to close down beaches I`m sure it`s going to have an impact. I think we`re already seeing the impact of various leaders not having taken seriously the information and various individuals not having taken seriously the information. Where -- contrast that with where governor of California, Gavin Newsom, took early measures with social distancing to help.

So, I think this really amounts to an abuse of the bully pulpit, and to using -- misusing that megaphone that the president has in fact, not to reassure the public and not present scientifically valid information but obfuscate, to misinform.

O`DONNELL: Bina Venkataraman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

VENKATARAMAN: Thanks so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, will Donald Trump be held accountable for everything that he were just discussing? House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff will join us to discuss his plan for a non-partisan 9/11-style after the fact commission investigating the Trump administration`s response to the coronavirus. Chairman Adam Schiff joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): His denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where it is - it continues. His delay in getting equipment to where it is needed is deadly. What did he know and when did he know it? That`s for an after-action review. But as the President fiddles, people are dying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, ANCHOR MSNBC: Today, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, announced that he has begun work on the after-action review that Speaker Pelosi was calling for there. Chairman Schiff tweeted, "After Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we looked at what went wrong to learn from our mistakes. Once we`ve recovered, we need a non-partisan commission to review our response and how we can better prepare for the next pandemic. I`m working on a bill to do that."

Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congressman from California, Chairman Adam Schiff.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. When do you expect a 9/11-style commission would be able to begin going to work in this situation?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): That`s really the most difficult question that we`ve been wrestling with. We`re using the 9/11 legislation as our model. We adopt the same appointment mechanism to make the commission as non- partisan and apolitical as possible.

The commission won`t involve any current elected officials, anybody currently working in the government or at the time of the commission`s formation. But the most difficult challenge is when should they begin their work. We want to make sure their work doesn`t interfere at all in the response. We want to make sure that it doesn`t have a political cast to it.

And so one of the things that we`re considering is having the commission reformed after the election, having it certainly not make its report until well into the new year. After all, the 9/11 commission itself wasn`t established by legislation until more than a year after 9/11. So we may have the start date as late as early next year.

We really want to make this as objective as possible because we want the recommendations to come out of it to be accepted by the public, and if it has any veneer of a partisan aspiration, it won`t have the same level of public acceptance.

O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow said at the beginning of the hour, when I discussed what you were planning, that she has many suggestions for the commission for possible chapter headings as she put it. What are the main issues you would think a commission like this would be looking at?

SCHIFF: Well, we obviously I think are very ill-prepared for this pandemic. And there are a lot of reasons that went into that. I think we know already that the disbanding of this pandemic office at the National Security Council and the White House was a profound mistake. And that would have been one of the tripwires.

But when it became publicly known, which was as early as late December, and then reports started coming in January of this new respiratory virus in China, we lost precious weeks in getting the testing ramped up. There were flaws in the original testing. We didn`t have enough protective gear. We don`t have enough ventilators. So we were ill-prepared before this crisis hit.

When it did hit, the administration moved very slowly. The President, even into March, was downplaying the significance of this and comparing it to the ordinary flu and talking about people being back in church by Easter. And so there is I think a long list, but it`s important that this commission do more than focus on the President`s actions or failure to act but look broadly at how the country was prepared for this.

We`re reviewing, for example, as part of our oversight function what the Intelligence Committee knew and what it was reporting early on. And I think we`re going to have to examine, does the intelligence community need to give greater attention to health threats when it`s traditionally focused more on hard targets, on terrorism. And I think that`s just one small piece of it. But the commission ought to look at the overall whole of government response, its lack of preparedness, and how we can assure this doesn`t happen in the country again.

O`DONNELL: Mitch McConnell said that he believes that the impeachment trial in the Senate slowed down the federal government`s response to the pandemic. What`s your response to that?

SCHIFF: Yes, the President said something similar, which was an interesting acknowledgement that the administration screwed up this response. And I think the facts are quite clear that the President`s weeks long, maybe months long, delay in taking this seriously has had catastrophic consequences that we`re only now beginning to see the scope of, but they should stop making excuses.

The President found plenty of time even during the impeachment trial and its perfunctory period to play golf, to go on vacation at Mar-a-Lago, to do campaign rallies. He clearly wasn`t distracted from doing the things that he loves to do.

But the bigger problem is, even after the trial was over, the President continued for weeks and weeks to say this is no problem, he`s got it under control, he`s got it contained, and that this isn`t going to have a big impact on the country. Of course, he was ignoring the advice of the health experts, the epidemiologists, the CDC, his own people and - with catastrophic consequences.

O`DONNELL: Congressman, what is your sense of what the big difference is between your district in the Los Angeles area and New York City? Because Los Angeles is a major port of entry just like New York City. It`s open to the pacific. Tremendous amount of traffic, air traffic from China into Los Angeles airport. And it`s - it is somewhat surprising that there seems to be a much better situation at this stage of our understanding of the numbers in Los Angeles than in New York.

SCHIFF: Well, maybe a few things. It could be, for example, the topography of Los Angeles is very different. Los Angeles is often pejoratively characterized as being - characterized by sprawl. A big spread-out city whereas New York is very dense with population living very close to each other. That is, I think, more conducive to the spread of a virus.

It may be that we were fortunate in learning from the experience of others and locking down our population, go into social distancing, and having the benefit of seeing the travails that other parts of the country were going through. But it could be quite as simple as topography and just when the virus hit and where it hit.

Certainly, we`re seeing worrying signs even in Los Angeles. We hope that we`re bending the curve, but we won`t know for sure for some time. Our Mayor continues to be greatly concerned about the spread within Los Angeles. I`ve lost constituents to this virus.

When I look within my own district, though - and this may give you again an indication of the differences between states and cities - in my district, when I look at the parts of my district like West Hollywood that are very densely populated, they have a higher incidence of the virus than other parts of my district that are more sparsely populated where the density is much less. And so factors like that can be playing a strong contributory role in the spread.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, new guidance on wearing masks. This seems to have been shifting over time. Should everyone be wearing masks when they are outside of their homes? That is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last night, Dr. Anthony Fauci answered Savannah Guthrie`s question about the CDC`s current position on wearing masks this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The guidance that`s out there has not changed where the CDC says people who are health care providers should be wearing it. If you have someone who`s infected and you want to prevent them from infecting a person in the health care setting, they should wear them.

What is being actively discussed, and it is being actively discussed today and we`ll be talking about it tomorrow, given the fact that there is a degree of transmission from asymptomatic individuals who may not know that they are infected, we need to at least examine the possibility as long as - you said correctly - as long as we`re absolutely certain we don`t take the masks away from individuals who are health care providers who need them have some sort of facial covering. It doesn`t need to be a classical mask, but something that would have someone prevent them from infecting others. So this is actively being looked at.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. He`s an assistant professor of medicine and an oncologist at Columbia University. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning author. His latest must-read article in "The New Yorker" is entitled, "How Does the Coronavirus Behave Inside a Patient?"

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. The question of masks is very much related to the question that is the headline of your piece in "The New Yorker" about how the virus behaves. So what`s our answer to the mask question and how the virus behaves in relation to the mask?

DR. SIDDHARTHA MUKHERJEE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY & PULITZER PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR "THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES": Look, it`s very clear from studying dozens of respiratory viruses, including SARS, which is the closest cousin of SARS-CoV-2, which is this particular virus, that respiratory masks are protective. The first priority is to give masks to health care workers. And health care workers need the kind of mask that is the most protective, the so-called N95 mask. This has a built-in filter and ensures that you don`t get infection from the virus when you have high viral loads being deposited on you, as you might when you`re a health care worker. That`s very clear.

Now, for the general public, it is also clear that wearing a simple surgical mask, not an N95 respirator but a simple surgical mask, which costs maybe $0.25 to $0.50 to produce, is also protective in situations of other respiratory viruses.

So it would seem to me that the evidence suggests that we reserve N95 masks and provide health care workers with these more stringent masks, and we also simultaneously provide essential workers who are out to work with the simple surgical masks and provide them with instructions - specific instructions about how to decontaminate those masks once they`re done with the use every day.

And I would suggest that this doesn`t have anything to do with removing the guidelines on social distancing or on the use of gloves or on hand sanitization. All of these work together. But it seems to me that we prevaricated too long on the use of masks in the public. We should stop it.

There should be a simple guideline issued by the CDC about the use of masks in the public and that these masks should be bought and distributed publicly free-of-cost so that there is no stigma or cost associated with wearing a mask in public.

O`DONNELL: So, for example everyone on an airplane should be wearing a mask if I`m hearing you correctly?

MUKHERJEE: That is correct. I think that if this is not adopted universally, I think there will be exceptions and exceptions to exceptions and so forth. But I think, right now, in the middle of the pandemic, I think everyone should be wearing not N95 respirators, which should be reserved for health care workers, but simple masks. Everyone should be wearing them. Everyone should be wearing gloves.

And there is a mountain of evidence that suggest that in cases like this where there`s an asymptomatic carrier or there`s a respiratory virus that can be carried through air should be contained by a mask and gloves and social distancing and hand hygiene. If you do all of these things, you can bring down the infection rates radically by 80 to 90 percent.

O`DONNELL: Very helpful guidance, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. Thank you very, very much for giving us that guidance tonight. We really appreciate it.

MUKHERJEE: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, my favorite mask-maker is with us. She`s a fourth-grader at St. Brendan`s School in Boston, which is the school that I attended when I was in fourth grade. First responders in Boston are very grateful to the fourth-grader, who is making masks for them tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Here is Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley talking about the shortage of masks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): In Massachusetts, one of the communities in my district is Dorchester. And there`s a young girl there, Gaby, who`s 10 years old at St. Brendan`s School, who`s been personally sewing 24 masks a day. Listen, I`m grateful for that benevolence from our children and from our private sector. But it is not going to meet the scale and scope of this pandemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The "Dorchester Reporter" tweeted this photograph of Gaby Araica sewing masks and identified her as a fourth-grader at St. Brendan`s School in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. And that is the same school that I walked to every day for eight years from grade-one to grade-eight.

And when I was in Sister Catherine Patricia`s fourth-grade classroom at St. Brendan`s, none of us did anything as important as what Gaby is doing now. And so I am bursting with school pride, as we are joined now by 10-year-old Gaby Araica and her mother, Tracy Mchale-Araica.

Gaby, what gave you the idea to decide to get your sewing machine working on masks?

GABY ARAICA, 4TH GRADER, ST. BRENDAN`S SCHOOL & HAS SEWN 120 SAFETY FACE MASKS: Well, my sewing teacher, Deanna (ph), from In Stitches, posted a tutorial, and I thought it would keep me busy. And I knew my Aunt Samantha (ph) was a nurse. And I thought I could help out by sewing mask and I wanted to help as much as I can.

O`DONNELL: And Tracy - and I emphasize the Mchale part of your name because I know the Mchales have delivered an awful lot of people to the Boston Police Department. I think one of your relatives was a Boston police officer when my father was a Boston police officer, and all the way down the line through the generations. I`ve read that the Boston Police Department is one of the beneficiaries of your daughter`s masks.

TRACY MCHALE-ARAICA, HELPED DAUGHTER SEW 120 SAFETY FACE MASKS: Yes. I am a retired Boston police officer and my husband is a police officer as well. I am third generation police officer. And my grandfather and my dad, both worked with your dad. And there are currently four Mchales on the Police Department. And yes, the community service officers at C-11 in Dorchester saw Gaby`s story on your show, and they came and brought material for her and requested masks for them and for the EMTs.

O`DONNELL: And Gaby, what has been - have you had been struggling getting supplies for your masks? I know elastic has been not easy to get.

G. ARAICA: We`ve been able to get some of the elastic. And I have a lot of material because I just love sewing. And we also bought some material, and we had some donated by the Boston Police.

O`DONNELL: And Gaby, how are you keeping up with schoolwork these days at St. Brendan`s?

G. ARAICA: It`s - I`m keeping up with it well. It`s a little hard online, but I`m making sure it gets done and I`m making sure I do it before I do anything else.

O`DONNELL: And about how many masks have you now made?

G. ARAICA: Over 820.

O`DONNELL: Wow! That is really amazing.

Tracy, were you surprised when Gaby started working on masks?

T. MCHALE-ARAICA: No, I really wasn`t surprised because her sewing teacher had posted a tutorial - her sewing teacher, Deanna (ph), from In Stitches in Quincy posted a tutorial. And Gaby, when she sets her mind to something, she does it. She likes to practice. She`s very determined. So this was a way - since gymnastics and dance and sewing were all canceled, this was a way for her to do her sewing and to get something done.

O`DONNELL: And Gaby, when you go back to St. Brendan`s, do you think you`ll be bringing masks if they need them for your fellow students in fourth grade?

G. ARAICA: Definitely.

O`DONNELL: And Gaby, is the fourth-grade classroom up on the top floor like it used to be?

G. ARAICA: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And it was a big event when I was at St. Brendan`s when you get out of third grade, you were allowed to go upstairs finally to the higher grades. Is that the way it still works there?

G. ARAICA: No. There - like grade-five is the - it`s the highest grade, but it`s downstairs. It`s the highest grade downstairs.

O`DONNELL: OK. Well--

G. ARAICA: But sixth grade and fourth grade is up there.

O`DONNELL: OK. We could go on and on about this, Gaby, and I think we`re going to have to sometime.

Gaby Araica, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you for the work you`re doing. I know the Police Department is grateful for it.

Tracy, you should be very proud. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

G. ARAICA: Thank you.

T. MCHALE-ARAICA: I am. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END