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COVID-19 surge TRANSCRIPT: 4/2/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Amit Phull, Nicholas Kristof, Nahid Bhadelia, Kamala Harris, Rob Davidson


And I was -- I could have listened to your discussion with Governor Cuomo well into this hour if you kept it going. Really struck, really struck by so many things in it, we`ll be showing pieces of it in this hour, but his last line --


O`DONNELL: -- his last line mournfully, he said it didn`t have to be -- the situation we`re now did not have to be.

MADDOW: Yes. And, you know, I feel like part of the reason that Governor Cuomo has become a national leader and not just the leader of New York on this -- in this crisis and on this object, it`s because he`s not only speaking plainly about the challenges that are in New York and you can trust what he says and he doesn`t stay anything made up or aspirational. But he`s also sort of talking about things as a human being, in a way that is very relatable, talking about anguish and anxiety and fear and a lot of the other things I think other leaders are sort of afraid to talk about for fear of looking weak.

It makes him look stronger. It think it also makes him even more trustworthy when he`s conveying the terrible news that he`s been conveying but yes, he`s fully there, fully engaged with this crisis in a way that I think connects with people in a powerful way. It`s -- I think he`s modeling an important kind of leadership.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it`s really a moment where he has -- he basically every day delivers the best parts of himself as a person, as an experienced governor, as someone who worked in the federal government and puts all that to work every day. It`s really -- it`s really what we should hope to see from people in his position more frequently.

MADDOW: Yes, that`s right. And it`s not that New York has had a perfect response to coronavirus, far from it. But when it comes to communicates with the public what about is going on and what the challenges are, right, it helps to be real, it helps to know what you`re talking about, to cite reliable information and to be real about the facts and emotions that they bring up. It`s just -- it`s a -- I mean, these are -- these times will test us all but he`s modeling leadership in a way that I think is important.

Anyway, thanks, Lawrence. I appreciate it.

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

MADDOW: All right.

O`DONNELL: Well, Senator Kamala Harris will join us tonight on a day when the president of the United States once again ducked responsibility for leadership in this country`s coronavirus war. We`ll get Senator Harris` view where we are in that war tonight and if we have the time, we`ll ask about the decision by the Democratic Party to move the Democratic convention from July to August. Senator Harris is, of course, on the short list of all of us who have publicly guessed about who that convention might nominate as the vice presidential running mate.

We`ll also be hearing from some of the front line troops in this war. We`ll hear from an E.R. doctor in Chicago and another E.R. doctor in Michigan later in the hour.

We begin tonight with the numbers. As of tonight, there are 243,234 reported cases of coronavirus in the United States. We have every right to believe that at least double that number of people are actually infected with the virus at this time but have not yet been tested.

And as of tonight, there are 5,877 reported deaths from coronavirus in the United States. The total number of reported cases of coronavirus worldwide is now over a million, 1,013,839 and the number of deaths reported worldwide is now at 52,947. The United States now has the largest number of reported cases in the world and within a week or two, the United States might surpass Italy to have the largest number of reported deaths from coronavirus in the world.

And Donald Trump has conferred upon himself the title of war-time president. And certainly poetic license could allow for a president fighting this pandemic to be labeled a war-time president if and only, if the president was leading the country`s war against the coronavirus but Donald Trump said today in very plain English that he is not doing that. Donald Trump said that he is just a backup. He repeatedly said we`re a backup.

Meaning we, the federal government are just a backup for the states who have to fight this war and the hospitals in those states where the front line troops are fighting this war and risking their lives. Donald Trump is just a backup. Just a backup.

And the troops are troops like Rayburn Fairweather (ph) who was -- he is as respiratory therapist at a hospital in Brooklyn. He went to hell and back with the coronavirus. He became infected with the virus in mid-March, tested positive. He quarantined at home in Brooklyn, locking himself away from his wife and his 11-year-old son.

He fought the virus alone at home. He recovered and now he is back at work risking his life once again for his patients. In his country`s war on the coronavirus, Rayburn Fairweather didn`t hesitate to go back to work. He said I love my job and was very bored at home.

Donald Trump is not Rayburn Fairweather`s leader on this war in coronavirus. Donald Trump says we`re a backup. He said that in a tweet today. He then said it again repeatedly at the White House briefing today. He said it in a letter to Senator Chuck Schumer. We`re a backup.

Remember when President Franklin Roosevelt said we`re a backup in World War II? That`s not what war-time presidents say. The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Roosevelt addressed Congress as they voted on a declaration of war and said, we will not only defend ourselves to the utter most but will make very certain this form of treachery shall never endanger us again. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interest are in grave danger with confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our people, we will again -- we will gain the inevitable triumph.

Today, with more Americans dead from the coronavirus than died at Pearl Harbor, Donald Trump said we`re a backup.

At the darkest hour of World War II for the British before the United States entered the war, it seemed that a successful Nazi invasion of Britain was inevitable. At that time, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was being advised to negotiate some form of surrender to Hitler.

Instead, Winston Churchill got on the radio and tell the British people we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.

We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

And today, Donald Trump who calls himself a war-time president said we`re a backup. Donald Trump brought the imagery of war into the White House briefing room in the person of a Navy admiral who seemed to bring good news about the delivery of 200,000 masks to New York City hospitals.




POLOWCZYK: It will be -- it will be delivered tomorrow.

REPORTER: Question --

PENCE: Let me be clear on that. What Jared announced, what the admiral said is palates are being loaded right now to send 200,000 N95 masks to New York City to the public health hospitals.

POLOWCZYK: To the public health warehouse in New York City.

PENCE: All the health care workers, help is on the way.


O`DONNELL: Help may be on the way to the hospitals or the warehouse, no, we have no idea where help is actually going to go because in questioning by White House reporters, it turns out those masks are not being delivered by the federal government to any hospitals at all. No hospitals. Those masks are being distributed to commercial distributors, profit-makers who will sell them to the highest bidder including bidders in foreign countries.


POLOWCZYK: This product that we`re moving is primarily commercial product that would enter the commercial system and be distributed through financial business transactions between hospitals and these distributors.

REPORTER: But just to clarify, that explains why states say they are bidding like eBay because the supplies are going to the private sector and they have to go there.

POLOWCZYK: That`s normally how things work, right? So I`m not here to disrupt a supply chain.


O`DONNELL: Disrupting the supply chain is exactly what you are supposed to do in war, disrupting the supply chain is exactly what the governors and hospitals are asking for. They are asking the federal government to take complete control of this process. Not leave it to the war profiteers who have states bidding against each other to only have then the federal government come in and suddenly out-bid them all on the same masks that they delivered to that warehouse.

And when the federal government buys those masks back as it might, we`re finding that states that vote for Donald Trump and have Republican governor whose Donald Trump aligns himself with get whatever they want when they ask a federal government for it, even the states that haven`t been taking the reasonable precautions but New York and California have been taking and other state haves been taking. Those friendly governors, those Trump friendly governors like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have been rewarded by the Trump supply chain, rewarded for their recklessness -- the homicidal recklessness of allowing these spring breakers to crowd Florida beaches when the whole world, the whole sane world was telling the governor of Florida that he was criminally negligent in allowing these people to infect each other on those beaches as they did.

Everyone was telling the Florida governor that except Donald Trump who wants to be called a war-time president.

If Franklin Roosevelt told Winston Churchill we`re just a backup and never became a war-time president, leading the United States in war in Europe against Hitler, then German troops would very likely have marched into London the way they marched into Paris. American troops never would have liberated a Nazi death camp if Roosevelt told Churchill we`re just a backup. We`re going to leave Europe to Europe -- leave Europe`s fight to Europe.

If Donald Trump is a war-time president, then the phrase has no meaning, because Donald Trump is so profoundly ignorant of history, he has no idea how to even sound like a war-time president. He has no idea how to fake the role that he claims he wants for himself. And with no one in command of the American response to the coronavirus, the front line troops have to look to hospital administrators or their governors or their mayors or a friend they know who has a friend who can get them an N95 mask.

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez (ph) knows what the front line is like. Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez is an emergency room nurse in New York City and she knows what is happening statewide in New York, the state hit hardest, because she`s the president of the New York State Nurses` Association.


JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, NEW YORK STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: We are the warriors in the front lines fighting this pandemic. When you are at war, you know who your enemy is. You know who they look like.

We don`t know what this looks like. It a microscopic enemy and we do not have the arms and we do not have the armor to protect ourselves or the public from this enemy.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The New York Times", he has been interviewing the people on the front lines, doctors, nurses about the coronavirus. Also with us, Dr. Amit Phull, he is an E.R. physician emergency room physician at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

Dr. Phull, what is your sense of where we are on the front lines tonight, especially in terms of supplies, necessary supplies for the safety of the physicians, the nurses and others on the front lines and others working in the hospitals?

DR. AMIT PHULL, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN NORTHWEWSTERN MEDICINE: Hey, it`s a very difficult situation, Lawrence, I`ll have to admit. My own personal experience in the emergency department last week, I did not myself run into limitations having access to the equipment I needed personally but certainly, friends and colleagues of mine, a large study conducted by a company I work for that sampled the entirety frankly of the physician user base and responses from across the country, is reflecting the practical reality being somewhat disconnected from some of the things we`re hearing and some of the things frankly, that you covered in your opening there.

I think what is missing, frankly, is that plain talk. I appreciated the conversation you had with Rachel. We need to have a plain conversation about that reality in order to ensure that folks, particularly those first- line responders are aware that other people are aware of their circumstances at that front line.

O`DONNELL: And, Doctor, what about the medical equipment? In addition to the safety equipment, what about the necessary medical equipment that needs to be distributed to the states that need it the most?

PHULL: Yes, it`s a difficult situation. Again, I mean, it`s complicated when the United States answers that question holistically. I`ll say from my own experience in Chicago, we had the benefit of some time. We had a little bit of lead time but our colleagues and our brothers and sisters in New York and New Jersey did not really have.

I have a very close family friend that works at Elmhurst Hospital and the reports I hear from him are very dire in terms of shortages and I know everyone seen the pictures on the news as to how dire that circumstance is.

But what I can say is in Chicago we`re trying our best to stay at least one day ahead of the surge. Everyone is reflecting the modeling that`s up to date nationwide and individual states certainly make decisions based on that data, as well.

So we`re doing the best that we can but this pandemic certainly overwhelmed the health care system in a wide variety of places across the United States and we are not well-equipped frankly to respond with the appropriate amount of protective equipment or machinery, frankly.

O`DONNELL: Let listen to what Governor Andrew Cuomo told Rachel in the last hour about basically, the Trump position that the federal government Donald Trump is just a backup to the states. Governor Cuomo says that is not the way to do it.

Let listen to this.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Where we are now, 50 states all trying to buy the same equipment from China and then the federal government comes in with FEMA trying to purchase the same equipment. This is not the way to do it.


O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof, it sounded good at the briefing at first today when they said 200,000 masks, N95 masks on the way to New York. They`ll have them tomorrow. And then with questioning, you discover, well, they are going to a warehouse up there and then the bidding will start.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And indeed, it may be foreign bidders that may end up with the masks, not even American bidders. I mean, look, I admire people like Dr. Phull so much. I mean, the heroes at the moment at this time in the U.S. are those front line health workers, doctors, nurses, but also frankly technicians and cleaning staff.

And we do them an incredible disservice when we send them out without proper protective equipment, and I`m just pained to hear the stories they tell about putting themselves at risk because they can`t get basic equipment. And, you know, I mean, a protocol in this country are much less rigorous than those for Chinese doctors and Chinese nurses right now.

And maybe to top it off, when American doctors and nurses complain, they are now being fired or disciplined for raising those issues, for speaking up. I just find that, you know, unconscionable. And, you know, when you are dismissing workers at a time when you most need them, it`s not only unconscionable, it`s also idiotic frankly.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Nick, I read that in your reporting, speaking to people who run into trouble because they kind of publicly complained either on social media or otherwise about, you know, we don`t have what we need and then the hospitals they were working for had a serious problem with that. You report on one of them, anyway, when it became public they let that doctor go, they took that doctor back because they didn`t like the way it looked.

But it`s a very strange, strange situation when doctors are fighting for themselves on social media and other ways publicly and then they get in trouble with the administrators.

KRISTOF: And then they`re not only fighting for themselves, which they have every right to do, but they`re also fighting for patients because, you know, one way to protect patients is to have proper PPE for the physicians and to use it properly. And so, I`m glad that you have doctors in Washington who were raising these issues and now, he`s been terminated. He doesn`t know if he can be hired again at another Seattle hospital, and New York at Weil Cornell, you had an E.R. doctor who she didn`t even protest publicly. She simply wanted to bring in her own PPE to try to protect herself and she was sent home, you know, like a seventh grader violating the dress code.

And I just -- at a time when so many doctors and nurses and others are risking their lives for the rest of us, then to deny them the equipment that they need to keep themselves safe and in some cases to fire them for speaking out, is just outrageous.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Phull, can you give us any insight as to what hospital administrators are thinking in those situations? What is -- what is it they are so outraged by in these kinds of cases?

PHULL: Lawrence, that`s such a difficult question to answer. I`d like to say a couple things. I mean, first off, Mr. Kristof, thank you for your piece today. I read it.

Some of the things you reported on break my heart. It not consistent with my own personal experience, but I`m certainly aware of other colleagues in the field that have run into this kind of difficulty. And I mean, it quite obvious that`s not how we should be handling these situations.

You made a critical point in your statement there that it`s not just about front line health care workers, a sick provider provides a risk to a patient. The last thing you want a patient to have in the back of their mind is a consideration that they`re not only going to the hospital to potentially be treated for something, but they`re at risk of catching something from the hospital. That is just an untenable situation for us to get out on the other end of this.

To your question, Lawrence, it`s difficult to say. I mean, as an E.R. physician, you`re trained to handle a wide array of circumstances and more than anything else, you`re trained to stay calm. In this particular circumstance, I`ll say the training that`s most relevant in my background is also knowing when not to speak out of my depth. I don`t know what hospital administrators might be motivated by when it comes to dismissing a physician when as Mr. Kristof pointed out, the health and welfare of the healthcare force now critical to our actually solving this problem. So I don`t unfortunately have an answer for you what may be motivating that kind of response.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Phull, quickly before you go, how do you feel about your own safety day to day?

PHULL: So, I say, so far, I`ve felt fairly safe. I`m not going to lie to you, in my experience, again. That being said, I`m currently undergoing self-quarantine. When I returned from my last shift, I certainly was exposed in a fashion that I wasn`t necessarily prepared for and now I`m not at home with my daughter and wife and my parents living with us in their mid 60s. So I had to make the decision to separate myself from them for the time being.

I didn`t feel necessarily personally at risk, such that I had a sense of danger at the front of my mind at the hospital but I do know that that circumstance is not enjoyed by everyone who is in my position. So I can`t speak for everyone, but I do know there are some unfortunate situations, actually occurring on the front line.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Amit Phull, thank you for your heroism. It`s much more than thank you for your service tonight. We really appreciate it, and thank you for joining us.

Nick Kristof, thank you for your reporting and for joining us. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

And when we come back, what if -- what if you take the coronavirus test and the result is wrong? That`s next.


O`DONNELL: Is there a problem with the accuracy of coronavirus testing?

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, dealt with that question today after the "Wall Street Journal" reported, quote, health experts now believe nearly 1 in 33 patients infected are nevertheless getting a negative test result.


REPORTER: Experts are saying that a high number of these tests could be producing false negatives. So --


REPORTER: That as many one in three might be providing false negatives --


BIRX: That would almost be impossible with having 35 percent positives. If that was true, you would have 100 percent positive or 66 percent positive.

So what I can tell you is the number of positive tests is tracking very closely with the number of cases diagnosed. So I don`t -- I will look into that.


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and the medical director of special pathogens unit at Boston University School of Medicine. She`s an MSNBC medical contributor.

Doctor, what`s your sense of this? I want to go back to that "Wall Street Journal" reporting. It`s not a scientific analysis. It`s more anecdotal that physicians were telling a reporter that their impression was, in their experience, about a third of the negative test results were getting they were thinking were wrong.


This is interesting. It`s both the anecdotal. And one of "The New York Times" opinion pieces that I saw actually quoted a Chinese study that looked at testing of patients who had this disease and a certain number of people who were tested, even though they were confirmed to have the disease sometimes the test was negative.

So, this is complicated, right? I think for the person on the other end of it who is waiting for their test, it doesn`t matter what the reason is why it came out to not be positive when they themselves had the disease. But the reasons for why a test could be potentially false negative, the idea that it could be negative when there is disease there is multifold.

One is actually it the virus itself. How early in the disease are you getting tested? For a lot of these tests, if you`re early enough in your disease, it may not be as accurate because it`s not going to pick up because the concentration of the virus is not that high.

How is -- as the disease is progressing in a patient, how is the virus acting? That`s part of the disease we`re still learning about. How does the virus move through the body? Where does it concentrate as the person gets sick?

Then there is a test itself and it has been talked about before, a huge number of these tests that are on the market right now are looking for the genetic material, the nucleic acid test out there, they`re looking for the genetic material, and so, by the time a test gets an FDA, even an emergency use authorization, it has a little bit of, you know, guarantee that it will at least detect the virus to a limited detection, whatever that limited detection that they have set, want to set out.

Here is the toughest part, which is most of the times when there is no outbreak, we take a new test and we take it for a clinical test drive. We call that clinical validation of a test, just seeing that if it`s accurate in the laboratory, how does this play out in the real world and that`s where I think it gets more complicated.

So when -- how sick were you when the test was done? Was the test gathered in the right way? Was the test performed how it should have been and all the reagents that were needed in the laboratory were there and performed in the right way?

And then, lastly, by the time the sample came to the laboratory, was it appropriate enough to be tested to meet that limit of detection? All very complicated, but in the end, all this to say, we are seeing this. You know, clinically, we`re seeing those in our care here as well that there are portions of people who come in who clearly have this disease and on a subsequent test - this disease that early on may not be positive on the test.

O`DONNELL: As Dr. Anthony Fauci said this morning on "The Today Show" he still has a lot to learn about how this virus operates, as you all do. We`re at the beginning of our understanding of it. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it

BHADELIA: Thank you for having me.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Senator Kamala Harris will join us with her view of how the Federal Government is battling the Coronavirus pandemic? And why California seems to have a relatively low number of cases so far anyway though it has the largest population of any state by far?

And if we have time, we`ll try to squeeze in a word about the Democratic Convention being moved from July to August while everyone who has been guessing about the possible Vice Presidential Nomination includes the name Kamala Harris in that guessing game.


O`DONNELL: Today Donald Trump sent a letter to the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer who is the Senior Senator from New York, the state suffering by far the largest number of Coronavirus cases and the largest number of Coronavirus deaths and in that death Donald Trump put in writing his theme of the day.

Donald Trump said in writing "The Federal Government is merely a backup for state governments". Donald trump then attacked Senator Schumer for criticizing Donald Trump`s failure to lead on the war on this pandemic.

The Trump letter told Senator Schumer that Senator Schumer should have "Spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax" and Donald Trump closed his letter with a line that actually does seem to actually have been written by Donald Trump.

It says, "I`ve known you for many years but I never knew how bad of a Senator you are for the State of New York until I became President". Joining us now is the Democratic Senator Kamala Harris from California. She is member of Senate Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee. Senator Harris thank you very much for joining us tonight and your reaction--

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: --to Donald Trump`s theme of the day, which is we`re just a backup as he told Senator Schumer in that letter.

HARRIS: Everything about that letter is just yet again, another expression of ignorance coming from the President of the United States. Let me tell you something.

There is not a member certainly of the Democratic Caucus of the United States of America`s Senate that wouldn`t tell you that Chuck Schumer worked around the clock on a bill that eventually will deliver $2 trillion to the American people, to address this public health crisis to help hospitals, to help local and state governments and to help working people get on their feet or at least sustain their ability to get through the end of the month.

It`s just - Lawrence, listen. There`s so much about this crisis that is just every day present, it is every day the clock is ticking, the numbers are ticking up and I`m frankly I`m fatigued. I`m tired of thinking about Donald Trump. I`m going to tell you the truth because the reality is this guy doesn`t understand his job.

He doesn`t understand that the role of the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States in the midst of a national international crisis should be one of being a leader who speaks truth, who embraces truth, who embraces fact, science, who speaks with a sense about the solemnity of the seriousness of the moment and the need to lift up the American people and their spirits.

They need to see who they are, how they are suffering and speak to that in a way that is about supporting them and having some level of empathy. But what we have is a President of the United States who is continuously focused on himself and so, I`m done with that.

Let`s talk about where we are now? Where we are now is that we just heard that 6.6 more million Americans are going to be out of their job. What we - where we are now is that you - thankfully, thank you gave great praise for California leaders.

Our Governor Gavin Newsome, the Mayors of California, I was on a conference call with them just yesterday. The 13 Mayors who represent cities of more than 300,000 people, they are doing extraordinary work and why?

Because it has fallen on local and state leaders to carry on their new broad shoulders the brunt of the responsibility for helping the American people where there has been a vacuum of leadership in Washington D.C. from this White House.

O`DONNELL: Senator, what is your sense, California by far has the biggest population of any state in the United States. We saw the virus seem to first explode in the Seattle area. That certainly gave me the impression it was just going to move down the pacific coast.

San Francisco and Los Angeles because you have just as much cross pacific traffic, air traffic and otherwise in Los Angeles and San Francisco as Seattle does--

HARRIS: Right.

O`DONNELL: And yet, California`s numbers as reported so far are relatively low.

HARRIS: Well, what I think happened is that, you know, my colleague and a great Senator Patty Murray was sounding the alarms, Governor Inslee was sounding the alarms about what was happening in Washington as the first state to really be impacted by this and California leaders took notice.

So the London breath the Mayor of San Francisco was the first Mayor in the United States to say let shut it down. People stay at home. Gavin Newsom, the first Governor in the United States to do the same.

Eric Garcetti who was on Rachael`s show earlier has been a leader in saying what large cities need to do in terms of social distancing, in terms of what we can do to get aid to our hospitals immediately?

What we can do to address the homeless issue where that is an issue of concern. I`m very proud of what our Californian leader haves done. We were on a call today with the California Congressional Delegation. Of course, Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House but she is also one of the leaders of the California Delegation.

And the focus has been on what this is, which is a public health crisis. It is without a question also an economic crisis but the cause of that economic crisis is the public health crisis. So what I`ve seen California leaders do is address it then.

And focus on what we need to do to get resources to our hospitals to our clinics to our public health professionals. I`m on the phone with them on a daily basis around saying what the government and Federal Government needs to do to reimburse.

Again object failure of leadership. One of the tools in the tool belt of the President of the United States whoever he or she may be is the Defense Production Act. Because we anticipated there will be these moments of crisis where the President of the United States must have the authority to require the private sector to produce what is necessary to meet the demands of the crisis.

This President sat on his hands so then just recently, is using this as a tool to order the production of ventilators. Well, that should have been done weeks ago because what does production mean? It means just that they need to produce they need to manufacture it.

There is going to be a delay in time before it hits the streets where it is needed. And so but I`ve seen incredible leadership from California and I must say, I`m very proud.

O`DONNELL: Senator Kamala Harris, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. And we really appreciate it.

HARRIS: Thank you, take care, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back with a new record number of unemployment insurance claims filed last week, the Trump Administration announced the details of a plan that they hope will help businesses keep workers on the payroll and possibly even hire back workers that they`ve already laid off.

This could be very, very important to you if it works. Stephanie Ruhle will join us next with the details.


O`DONNELL: Today not surprisingly we learned that the number of unemployment claims filed last week was double the week before. 6.6 million new unemployment claims last week following 3.3 million unemployment claims that were filed the week before.

These are record numbers that the unemployment insurance system has never seen before. Nicole Ontiveros is a hostess at a Las Vegas restaurant and is now one of the millions of Americans newly unemployed.


NICHOLE ONTIVEROS, LAID-OFF HOSTESS: At my house we have me, my mom, my brothers my dad and my Uncle. Me and my mom and my Uncle are the ones who normally bring in the money to the household. Me and my mom work here at - and then my uncle works at Oliver Garden which also shut down the same day. So as of right now, there is nobody working at home. We`re all shut down.


O`DONNELL: At today`s White House briefing the Treasury Secretary suggested that there is hope for unemployed workers in small businesses like restaurants if those businesses apply for special loans now available to keep people like Nicole Ontiveros on the payroll.

Joining us now Stephanie Ruhle Senior Financial Correspondent for NBC News and the host of "MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle" at 9:00 am weekdays. Stephanie, translate what this announcement was today by the Treasury Secretary.

STEPHANIE RUHLE, SENIOR FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: So this $350 billion loan program was part of the Cares Act and listen, it`s gotten huge bipartisan support, banks are behind it.

Individuals are behind it because there is this idea, Lawrence, if we see scores of people which we are go on unemployment but during this we are - period of time, loads and loads of businesses, remember we have 30 million of them in this country go out of business, then when we`re on the other side of this, they will have nowhere to go back to work.

So they put together this loan program, as I said $350 billion and Mark Cuban calls this free money. For those who qualify for it and it`s a huge number of small businesses, you can borrow this money and contingent on the fact that if you keep 100 percent of your employees 100 percent payroll the government will forgive this loan.

Okay, this is tremendous. There are so many small businesses that have been praying for this, they`re elated. When you look at that unemployment number today, it would be significantly higher because there are so many businesses hanging on because they want to get this loan.

Well, Steve Mnuchin was at the podium today saying anyone should go out there and call an FDI insured bank apply for this it starts tomorrow. It is if you can just call any bank you can only call a bank where you`re currently a customer.

And today JP Morgan Chase one of the largest banks on the planet said not so fast. They were expecting to get hundreds of thousands of applications tomorrow as were other banks but they didn`t even have enough information.

People forget, Lawrence that banks are the most regulated businesses there are. You`ve got Steve Mnuchin on the podium talking like Oprah Winfrey, you get a car, you get a car forgetting that it just doesn`t work that way and this is a classic example of this administration being under staffed.

Under Steve Mnuchin, you got a number of top jobs that are sitting empty in the Treasury Department that is no deferment from the SBA and any other department in this administration. So here you`ve got banks who know they are going to be getting calls from hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in the next day and most of them aren`t even prepared to process these loans.

O`DONNELL: And Stephanie, we`re expecting you to keep following it and discover as we go through the next couple weeks, maybe, just what the degree of difficulty is in actually applying for these loans?

How complex that paperwork is and is it only the kind of richer so-called small businesses with the lawyers who can actually get that done? Stephanie, thank you very much for joining us tonight I really appreciate it.

RUHLE: Lawrence, that`s actually the big risk.

O`DONNELL: Okay. Stay with it, Stephanie. Thank you. And when we come back, an E.R. doctor`s video diary Dr. Rob Davidson will get tonight`s last word.



DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Hey, it`s Dr. Rob here. I worked in the E.R. last night, and it`s still amazing to me. The last day of March, and I still can`t get tests on the people who need tests.


O`DONNELL: That`s Dr. Rob Davidson. He is an emergency room physician in Michigan, and he has been posting a diary of sorts on Twitter. Here is some of what Dr. Davidson had to say last night after Donald Trump and Mike Pence refused to answer a question yesterday about why Donald Trump is not allowing people to enroll in Obamacare?


DAVIDSON: The fact that in the midst of a public health emergency and facing down the greatest recession in our country perhaps since - since who knows when, we have the Trump Administration today saying they will not open the federal exchanges for enrollment for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

We`re going to have millions of Americans losing their jobs, needing insurance, needing the ability to afford health care, and we had to listen to Vice President Pence yet again stammer his way through a non-answer about how people are supposed to afford health care in this setting?


O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Dr. Rob Davidson. He`s an emergency medicine physician in Michigan. He`s also the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Medicare. Doctor thank you for joining us once again tonight.

I want to get your reaction to the Trump theme of the day, which is, we`re just a backup. This should be left to the states. The President is just following and helping out where possible when Governors need it.

DAVIDSON: Yes. Thanks, Lawrence. You know, in my State of Michigan that may work out okay because our Governor has been doing such a great job. But this is a national crisis. This is a national emergency that he declared, and health care is a national problem.

Too many people - I think 7 million people have lost health care under Donald Trump. That`s what my Committee of Doctors has been fighting for. Now with the Coronavirus pandemic and the recession that is likely to be setting in, that is just a double - a double whammy for people, losing health care because they lose their employer-based insurance, and then potentially facing astronomical costs if they or one of their family members ends up in the ICU.

I think it`s just criminal that they will not provide a response by the Federal Government to help these people.

O`DONNELL: Of course Donald Trump doesn`t content himself to just be a backup. He also attacks Governors he doesn`t like, like your Democratic Governor of Michigan, who you say is doing a good job. Let`s listen to what Governor Cuomo said tonight when he was telling Rachael about how this should be done?


CUOMO: State emergency management does hurricanes, floods of moderate dimension. If they`re really big, the Federal Government comes in. That`s what FEMA is all about. States don`t do public health emergencies.


O`DONNELL: And, Dr. Davidson, the President just refuses to take that approach to this, and he does it on a daily basis and is justifying himself in doing it. What is that like for you out on the front lines when you know the backup does not go all the way to the President of the United States?

DAVIDSON: It`s extremely frustrating. I think a heard a doctor from Chicago earlier on your show talking about going into battle and feeling like you`re just not quite as protected as you should be. I know a lot of doctors speaking out about this.

You know, we go and put ourselves out there. Our nurses do. The people cleaning rooms and our techs, and yet we have a President who`s not willing to let the buck stop with him. As Governor Cuomo said, this is a national problem.

The virus doesn`t know state borders like; you know hurricanes affect a certain state or a certain region. This is everywhere in this country. The lack of a national shutdown is just unbelievable to me because, again, we need a national approach, national leadership, and Donald Trump has failed to provide that at every step of the way.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Davidson, I am in awe of every aspect of your work and how you do it. But one thing I`m wondering about is in all of this, how do you find the time to listen to these things that Donald Trump and Mike Pence say at the White House Briefing as you did yesterday because your comment on what they said about the Affordable Care Act was the most cogent comment on it that I`ve heard?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I tell you, I have a lot of people on different text strings shooting me texts and I sleep a few hours before my shift and when I wake up, I see my phone has blown up with the latest Doocy from Trump and Pence.

I know President Trump said that Vice President Pence barely sleeps may be works 20 hours a day. Well, if you sleep four or five hours a day you spend the rest of your time trying to work and then trying to be an advocate for those people around the country and our patients the people who need us out there advocating for them.

O`DONNELL: Doctor, I can`t thank you enough for the work that you do. I want to extend the country` thanks to you. We are all in deep admiration for just your ability to go to work in these circumstances. Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you for joining us once again tonight. We really appreciate it.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Davidson gets tonight`s "Last Word". "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,169 of the Trump Administration 215 days to go now until the Presidential Election.