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CDC TRANSCRIPT: 4/21/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

CDC TRANSCRIPT: 4/21/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

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

Maybe we now know why no one from the V.A. is a regular participant in those White House press briefings. Boy, do I wish to be a question in tomorrow`s briefing about what you were reporting tonight.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS":  I will tell you that our own beloved colleague Stephanie Ruhle has managed to score an interview with V.A. Secretary Wilkie tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

And, of course, we`ve been, you know, beating down the door trying to get him to do an interview with me, and everybody has been chasing him. He`s been unwilling to talk until quite recently. So I`m very much looking forward to seeing Stephanie Ruhle go one on one with him tomorrow.

O`DONNELL:  Yes, we will both be watching tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., that`s for sure. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  All right. Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks.

Well, it`s all about testing now. That`s how the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, sees it. For him, coronavirus testing is his number one issue. And that is why Mr. Cuomo went to Washington today, to meet with the president of the United States.

Here`s what Governor Cuomo told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC immediately after his meeting with the president.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK:  The meeting went well. And I think it was productive. The big issue was testing, as everybody knows that`s going to be the next step as we go forward. And how do we separate the responsibilities and the tasks on testing, vis-a-vis as stated in the federal government and the acknowledgement that we will need to work together on this. It has to be a real partnership. And I think we had a very good conversation.


O`DONNELL:  Governor Cuomo maintaining diplomatic relations with Donald Trump, did not mention anything specific that the president actually agreed to. And the president didn`t mention anything specific that they agreed to when the president appeared later at the White House press briefing.

Governor Cuomo did say that he believes New York state has to double its current rate of testing from 20,000 tests a day to 40,000 tests a day.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us later to discuss a new action plan from the Rockefeller Foundation, proposing what it calls, quote, an ambitious, but achievable goal of rapidly expanding testing capacity to 30 million tests per week over the next six months.

Dr. Emanuel is one of the contributors to that Rockefeller Foundation action plan. Thirty million tests per week is over 4 million tests per day. A new Harvard university study shows that we should be conducting at least a half a million tests per day, or more over the next 30 days. We are currently testing about 150,000 people a day nationally, without any national coordination for the testing process at all.

Fifty states compete not just with each other, but virtually every other country in the world for testing kits and equipment necessary to do the testing. The testing crisis comes as the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, gave an interview to "The Washington Post" in which he said a second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than what we are seeing now.

He said, quote: There`s a possibility the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will be even more difficult than the one we just went through, and when I`ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back. They don`t understand what I mean. We`re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time, he said.

We`ll ask Dr. Harvey Feinberg, an expert on infectious diseases, in a moment what that second wave could look like.

Today, Donald Trump said, quote, we`re going to do very significant testing. We`re going to do very significant testing. And by "we", Donald Trump does not mean Donald Trump or the Trump administration or the federal government. By we, he means he intends to watch governors and mayors scramble to find ways to protect people and ways to do test enough people so that governors and mayors can make careful decisions about when people can go back to work or go back to school safely.

The county coroner in Albany, Georgia, told the New York Times that the coronavirus "hit like a bomb." That leaves the mayor of Albany, Georgia, who will join us later in this hour, scrambling to protect his community now that the Republican governor of Georgia decided to allow the opening of some small businesses in Georgia, non-essential businesses.

So beginning on Friday, if you really want a massage or a haircut, or a tattoo, the governor says those businesses can all open everywhere in the state. And after you get your tattoo, you can go to the bowling alley, which is also allowed to open on Friday.

Dr. Deborah Birx was asked about this at the White House briefing today, and once again, Dr. Birx gave the kind of answer that a Republican Party lawyer would give, an answer designed to protect any Republican office holder with a bad idea. Dr. Birx actually said that it`s perfectly OK to open those businesses as long as you can maintain social distancing inside those businesses -- social distancing for a massage, social distancing for a tattoo, social distancing, six feet away for haircutting.

Dr. Birx actually pretended that all of those things are possible.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  If there`s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don`t know how, but people are very creative.


O`DONNELL:  That is a purely Trumpian answer. Dr. Birx is saying someone can cut your hair from six feet away.

Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, whose names appears on a lot of political commentators` list as a possible vice presidential choice for Joe Biden will join us later in the hour to discuss the new package of relief legislation Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to support, along with the Republican leaders of Congress.

The new legislation finally contains some money for testing, $25 billion to support testing. When Mitch McConnell first tried to bring the Republican version of this bill for a vote in the Senate, it did not contain one penny for testing, not one penny. The $25 billion to support testing in this country is in the legislation only because Democrats forced it to be in the legislation. And when President Trump signs this bill later this week, he`ll probably once again invite no Democrats to the signing and not acknowledge any Democratic input in the legislation, and claim full credit for the testing provision in the legislation.

In his "Washington Post" interview, the director of the CDC, Dr. Redfield, said this when asked about protests against stay at home orders. He said, quote: It`s not helpful.

Donald Trump was asked about that today.


REPORTER: The director of the CDC said that protests against stay at home orders are not helpful. You`ve encouraged some of these protests. What are your thoughts on the CDC director saying that he thought --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, people, look, it`s not a question of helpful or not. People want to get back to work. And I`ve watched some of the protests, not in great detail, but I`ve seen that, and they`re separated, there`s a lot of space in between. I mean, they`re watching, believe it or not, social -- they`re doing social distancing, if you can believe it.


O`DONNELL:  If you can believe it.

If you can believe it is one of those Donald Trump signatures he frequently attaches to his lies. When President Trump says if you can believe it, you cannot believe it.

The protesters are not doing social distancing. Everyone in that room knows that the protestors are not doing social distancing. They are not carefully six feet apart. The protests are protests against the very concept of social distancing.

If there was a serious public health official in that White House briefing today with the president, that person would have raised her voice and said something to the effect of, I have seen the pictures of those protestors and they are not social distancing and they are all risking their own lives by doing what they`re doing, and they are risking the lives of other people in their communities, their neighbors, and their families who they might come in contact with after being in the thick of one of those reckless demonstrations.

But everyone in that room working on the Trump team knows, being a Trump team member requires keeping their own safe distance from a truth like that.

Amy Pacholk is a surgical trauma nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island. Here is some of the video diary she`s been keeping for us.


AMY PACHOLK, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL SURGICAL TRAUMA NURSE:  All the ICUs are still full. They`re full. The sickest people are still there. Some people are getting extubated.

But the truth is, is that there is still people on the floors who need to be intubated and come to us. So, I mean, we may have a bed or two available, but it`s not like we`re emptying out.

If -- you know, if we choose to open too soon, we`re going to be at capacity. We`ve already used our reserves. There`s like nothing left. We are maxed out.

We can`t open this country. We can`t open the tri-state area, that`s for sure. None of us in the down state area of New York can handle anything more. There`s no way. We`re full.

And frankly, we`re tired. And there`s nobody to be able to do our job. If you want to live, you stay home.

My God, don`t open up this country. It needs to be closed until at least June. Please.


O`DONNELL:  Tonight, the number of reported coronavirus cases in the United States is 803,553, and as of tonight, there are 44,564 reported deaths linked to coronavirus in the United States.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Harvey Fineberg, the former president of the National Academy of Medicine and the former dean of Harvard School of Public Health. He is the chair of the National Academy Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

And Ron Klain is with us. He`s the former senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. He served in the Obama administration as the chief coordinator in the fight against Ebola during the Obama administration.

Dr. Fineberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I want to start with what the director of the CDC said about the possible second wave and how the second wave could be worse than what we`ve been through already because of the way it might interact with the seasonal flu.

What can you tell us about that?

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE FORMER PRESIDENT:  Lawrence, every virus is its own thing, and has its own property. So looking to the future, what will happen with this particular virus is intrinsically speculative.

There are reasons to believe that we are in for the likelihood of a second wave. One of those is experience in the past with influenza pandemics, and particularly the great pandemic of 1918-`19 when the second wave was much worse than the first wave. In addition to that, many of the models that project the way in which the virus and disease will behave do show this tendency to wane, that is to go down, and then at a certain point in time as it builds up, it can rapidly escalate.

So there`s reason to worry about a second wave. It`s prudent to plan for the likelihood of a second wave. But nobody can guarantee what will or will not happen.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, Joe Biden tweeted today, rather than execute a swift and aggressive effort to ramp up testing, Donald Trump is tweeting incendiary rhetoric about immigrants in the hopes that he can distract everyone from the core truth, he`s moved too slowly to contain this virus and we are all paying the price for it.

Ron, Governor Cuomo went down to Washington to talk to the president about testing. He was, of course, the diplomat that he has become in dealing with Donald Trump so he didn`t reveal very much how that conversation went.

Joe Biden is making testing his number one campaign issue, and yet, the president still refuses to pick up that issue and run with it as he is uniquely empowered to do.

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Yes, Lawrence. I mean, it`s kind of hard to understand at one level. The president says he wants to open up the economy. He wants people to go back to work.

And almost every expert on the left, on the center, on the right, Republicans, Democrats, all agree that the initial condition for reopening the country is more testing so we can separate the sick from the well, so we can monitor where the disease is flaring up, so we can know when a second wave is coming, where it`s coming. We don`t test. We`re not going to find it.

And so, testing is the essential quality. As you said at the outset of the show, Lawrence, what`s really stunning about this is not just that we started slow on testing. That is what it is. It`s that for the past month, we have made virtually no progress at all.

The past month, there`s only been one day we`ve tested more than 150,000, 160,000 people in this country. Otherwise, we`re basically where we`ve been for four weeks. And you can`t get to a goal of 500,000 or 750,000 or a million tests a day if you don`t make any progress at all.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Fineberg, give us your assessment of where we are on testing, and where we need to go on testing.

FINEBERG:  The first thing to understand about testing, Lawrence, is that we have to understand the purpose of the testing.

Do we want to identify patients who are coming down with this infection or have recently contracted it? Do we want to identify individuals who had it in the past and might be now resistant to coming down with illness? Do we want to understand in the community how widespread this virus is?

We need different kinds of tests to answer those different questions, and we need all of them in much greater volume. More importantly even than that, is that for the new serology tests that look at antibodies, we need to validate carefully whether these tests perform in the way that the manufacturers claim.

And right now, the FDA is allowing these tests to come to the market because of the enormous need for them. And yet, we need to validate their performance or we`re going to get misled potentially.

So, we need more tests, we need to understand the purpose, we need to deploy them where they`re needed. And we need to validate their performance.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Fineberg, stay on that for a moment.

At the White House briefing today, Dr. Birx was asked about validating these tests and how the FDA is basically allowing them to rush out with tests, saying that the companies who are producing the tests have the job now of validating themselves, and I don`t think there was anything in Dr. Birx`s answer that we could make sense of. She seemed to be saying that when you get that test, if you get your hands on that test, the manufacturer somehow has to have a document on it that will, to some extent, indicate the reliability of the test. But it was also vague, it was hard to tell what she was saying.

FINEBERG:  Yes. Lawrence, we need independent validation of these tests. And even from a single manufacturer`s performance result, you want to compare different kinds of tests at the same time against standards. Because we`re going to be using these different tests in different parts of the country, and we`re going to need to know is the result in place one, using test A meaningful and similar to the result in place B using test B.

So we need to validate these tests. It`s a little like Ronald Reagan used to say about the Russians. Trust but verify.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, you know when you were working on a possible outbreak that one of the things that was necessary was to figure out what the benchmarks the public would need in order for the public to feel safe. And so, when you sit here tonight, if you were working in the White House and the question of what do we have to do to enable universities to invite their students back to living together in dormitories in late August, what are the kinds of things that you would think the public would need to see and have available as information before deciding to let their children go back to those dormitories or the universities welcoming them back, given that so much of the faculty is old enough to be in the high risk group.

KLAIN:  I think there are three really important preconditions, Lawrence.

The first is, the amount of diseases a to go down. The incidents of the disease has to go down. I think one thing about what we`re seeing in Georgia is, no matter what you think about the White House standards, and I`ve been a critic of them, the problem with what`s happening in Georgia is they don`t even meet the White House standards for reopening.

Fourteen days in a row of decline in disease, I think that`s a low bar to reopen, but that hasn`t been met in Georgia. We need to see much less disease before we reopen places.

Secondly, you need to have testing, and the kind of testing Dr. Fineberg was talking about, all varieties of tests. We have to know that these serology tests not only work, but it`s a meaningful result in terms of whether someone has immunity. And then finally, we have to have the health care system in these places strong. The nurse on Long Island who you talked to, we have to know that hospitals can deal with flare up of cases when they come.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Fineberg, quickly, before we go, let me put this in personal terms to you. If you were a parent of a student who is considering going back to college, going back to the college dorm in August, or going back to high school in August, what would you need to know about what that student would be facing at that school?

FINEBERG:  I would want to know that the school, my child or grand child was going to had taken all the steps that they could to protect the health of that child. It means keeping physical distance where you can. It means using masks. It may mean testing temperatures. It may mean screening on regular intervals to make sure students are coming down with illness are able to be isolated and separated from others.

Basically, all of us in any industry, including schools, need to take these kind of steps to protect our students, our employees, our customers, our visitors.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a real honor to have you join us tonight. We really appreciate it.

Ron Klain, thank you very much for joining us again with your expertise. We really appreciate it.

FINEBERG:  Thank you.

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back -- thank you -- Congresswoman Val Demings will join us to discuss the new relief bill that congressional leaders have agreed on. She`ll explain what is not working in the bill Congress has already passed because of Republican design unemployment systems like the one in Florida, which makes it impossible for many Florida workers to obtain the benefits they should be getting. That`s one of the many flaws in the relief bills Congress has already passed.

Congresswoman Val Demings is next.


O`DONNELL:  There`s already serious criticism of the abuse of the small business relief package that Congress has already passed into law. When Donald Trump was asked about this today, he pretended that he didn`t like what was happening in the abuse of the small business program, abuse that was specifically and deliberately allowed by the Trump regulations. And instead, Donald Trump condemned another recipient of federal money obtained under a completely different provision of that law, a provision specifically designed to help poor college students harmed by the shutdown of their colleges, which in some instances left some of those poor students with nowhere to live.


REPORTER:  You said about the small business program, Harvard is going to pay the money back. How confident are you that you can claw back money --

TRUMP:  We`re going to have to look. I don`t like Harvard, that has I think a $40 billion endowment, or some incredible amount of money, that Harvard gets this money. Harvard should pay that back. I want Harvard to pay the money back, OK?

If they won`t do that, then we won`t do something else. They have to pay it back. I don`t like it. I don`t like it. This is meant for workers.


O`DONNELL:  Harvard University did not take one penny that was meant for workers, not one penny. In the $2 trillion relief package that was passed by Congress, about 7 percent of that bill was a specific set aside for the higher education emergency relief fund aimed to help students, not the universities. Through a formula in the law, Harvard was allocated $8.6 million, 100 percent of which they have dedicated to students in financial need. Most students who go to Harvard cannot afford it, 2/3 of the student body gets financial aid from Harvard. And much of that aid in effect comes from the university`s endowment.

Donald Trump specifically said he did not want to mention anyone else who he thought was abusing federal money, so he didn`t mention the university with the second largest endowment in America, which is the University of Texas, which has a $31 billion endowment. The University of Texas got $172.5 million in that legislation, which Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn bragged about. The University of Texas didn`t take any of that money away from workers, either. And we can hope that the University of Texas is using that money honorably and passing it along to students in desperate financial need.

In the new legislation that Congress has agreed on today, it will provide $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion for the emergency grant and business loan program, $75 billion for hospitals, and $25 billion to support coronavirus testing.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida.

Congresswoman Demings, I went through that story about Harvard that Donald Trump was lying about today just to point out that there are always surprises about what happens in the legislation, and one of the big surprises is how much the small business fund is being abused.

What can the new legislation do to protect the small business fund to actually go to people in real small businesses and what can it do to protect people`s paychecks?

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  Well, Lawrence, thank you. It`s good to be back with you.

And look, when we passed CARES I, we passed it with the primary goal being to protect America`s workers, and particularly those small businesses that are most vulnerable in our communities.

Obviously, our $2.2 trillion package, the largest passed in American history, was not enough. We quickly realized that. And so, we`ve got to regroup and make sure that we have processes in place and procedures that will make sure that the money that we will pass hopefully tomorrow in the interim relief package will go to those who need it the most -- that those dollars are specifically designated for those small businesses who, all over the country, are struggling just to stay afloat.

And so, we have much work to do. Of course, this package is not perfect either. As you`ve already mentioned, it includes testing. And if we`re ever going to get back to any degree of normalcy, we`ve got to make sure that we do, as the speaker said many weeks ago now -- testing, testing, testing will allow us to get there.

And then we need to take care of our hospital and those health care workers who you see are struggling every day to keep us safe, to keep us healthy. We need to look at hospital capacity and make sure that we`re able to meet not only the needs of the epidemic or the pandemic now, but to be able to address any future needs.

And so, we still have some work to do. But we hopefully will pass this legislation either tomorrow or Thursday.

O`DONNELL:  Congresswoman Demings, "The Miami Herald" is reporting in your state of Florida, over 1.5 million at least have applied for unemployment benefits, and only 40,000 have actually received any unemployment benefits. Forty thousand sounds like what you would get in a normal month.

DEMINGS:  Lawrence, Florida taxpayers paid over $77 million for our current unemployment system. Under Governor Rick Scott, he was advised there was some major problems with the system, that the system was difficult to navigate, that there were over 600 system errors, that there were problems with the system. And he did nothing about it. There`s no evidence that he did anything to correct it.

Last year, Governor DeSantis was informed of the problems by state auditors with the system. He did absolutely nothing. It appears there`s no evidence that he did to correct the many numerous flaws and errors. And now here we are, with the pandemic as you mentioned, that has caused over a million people to be unemployed who desperately need those benefits.

They`re being kicked out of the system. They cannot navigate it. Now, the Governor has hired some call takers. But the problem we are seeing in Florida deals with fundamental problems with the system that were never, ever addressed. And we find ourselves as basically the worst at the bottom of the list in terms of how we deal and how we process unemployment benefits in our state and we got to do better.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Congresswoman Demings, before you go, you`re on many speculative lists as a possible choice for Vice President for Joe Biden as a possible Vice Presidential Candidate. Would you accept that offer if Joe Biden made that offer?

DEMINGS: Well Lawrence, in my career, in my lifetime, I have chosen tough jobs and when we look at what`s going on in our country right now, I have certainly been a crisis manager in numerous situations. I would consider it an honor if asked to serve my country alongside Vice President Biden.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

DEMINGS: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Georgia`s Republican Governor wants people to go to movie theaters next week. That`s after they get massages, tattoos and haircuts this weekend. Some Mayors in Georgia are outraged by the Governor`s decision to allow some non essential businesses to reopen. Albany, Georgia has been hit hard by the Coronavirus. The coroner there says it hits like a bomb. The Mayor of Albany, Georgia, will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors in Georgia will be allowed to reopen at the end of this week. And on Monday, restaurant, dining rooms, and movie theaters in Georgia will be allowed to reopen. But who will show up at those restaurants and movie theaters and tattoo parlors if they reopen?

As of tonight, Georgia has 20,166 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. And 818 confirmed deaths from Coronavirus. The latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll finds 58 percent of Americans worry about lifting stay-at-home orders too quickly while 32 percent worry it is taking too long to lift those restrictions.

Albany, Georgia, a city of 75,000 people, three hours south of Atlanta has suffered one of the worst Coronavirus clusters in the country. And joining our discussion now is the Bo Dorough he is the Republican Mayor of Albany, Georgia. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What are your concerns as Friday approaches?

MAYOR BO DOROUGH, ALBANY, GEORGIA: I`m not a Republican, Lawrence. I don`t know who told you that.

O`DONNELL: It was in my teleprompter, so it must be true. Sorry, go ahead, Mr. Mayor.

DOROUGH: Yes. Well, our concern obviously is to assure the safety of employees and the customers are protected during this period of transition. Our particular concerns are those businesses you mentioned beauty shops, barbershops, the theaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys. We intend to assure that these businesses understand the restrictions that they will be operating understand.

O`DONNELL: And what would those restrictions be? I mean, we heard from the White House today Dr. Birx saying that they have to maintain social distance. Well, that`s at least six feet. How do you cut someone`s hair if you`re standing six feet away?

DOROUGH: Well, that`s obviously impossible. Some of these businesses, there is physical contact between the customer and the employee, no doubt about it. But the Governor has implemented 20 measures, which should be followed. And that is the conditions we`re referring to.

But more importantly, with barbershops, beauty shops, I think you`re going to have to have spacing of the patrons in waiting rooms and probably protective gear but for the beauticians and for the beauticians and the barbers.

O`DONNELL: Mr. Mayor, there`s two sides of this I mean, when the Governor says these businesses are allowed to open, it doesn`t mean that every one of these businesses will choose to open. Some business owners might find it too risky. Some workers might find it too risky. And plenty of customers might find it too risky, so the customers might not show up?

DOROUGH: That`s particularly true here in Albany where a large number of our people are obviously apprehensive about returning to theaters or going to a restaurant or getting a haircut when friends and family are in the hospital on ventilators struggling for their lives when we`re in the midst of a pandemic.

But that is the Governor`s Executive Order, and that order specifically says no municipality no county can enact provision which a more stringent than the Executive Order. So we have to live with it and we have to do the best we can. I can tell you that some citizens who own beauty shops and barbershops have declined to open.

I am very proud to say that our faith-based community some of our larger churches have announced that they will not have worship services in the sanctuary until May 17th, and they intend to insist upon social distancing when they have those services.

Many of our churches are requesting that their elder members make provisions such as watching the service online rather than attending for the foreseeable future because they`re out to protect those members.

Also, I can tell you that - of course, our big manufacturers, they have company policies that protect the employees, which are far more stringent with what the Governor is doing. But we have seen some of these businesses, Mr. O`Donnell, that have been warning - had been very vocal in their opposition to our shelter in place ordinance, which we had one here in Albany that was enacted two weeks before the statewide ordinance because of our situation.

A gentleman that owns a gym he has removed all the equipment the bikes, treadmills, and repositioned everything so that it`s eight feet apart. These people have been saying we can comply with these restrictions and now we`re going to see if they can.

O`DONNELL: Albany, Georgia`s Democratic Mayor Bo Dorough, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I hope you and your community stay safe in the weeks to come. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.

DOROUGH: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll ask Dr. Zeke Emanuel how much testing we will need before we can cautiously reopen some of these non- essential businesses as they are now doing in Georgia? We`ll be right back.



DR. STEFAN FLORES, ER PHYSICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Just like COVID-19 affects anybody and everybody, we also need to test anybody and everybody. Only then can we think about reopening the economy, let alone this country. Otherwise, we`re setting ourselves up for failure, resurgence, and a second wave of COVID-19.


O`DONNELL: So far the United States has tested 4.2 million people that are just over 1 percent of the American population. The Rockefeller Foundation consulted with experts, including Dr. Zeke Emanuel, to create a national plan to increase the number of Coronavirus testing to 30 million people per week.

The plan is estimated to cost $100 million, which the study calls a modest investment under the circumstances. The second part of the plan calls for a paid COVID Community Health Care Core of up to 300,000 workers to perform contact tracing. The third part of the plan envisions a common data and digital platform to share real time analysis of resource allocations, disease tracing results, and patient medical records.

Joining us now is Dr. Zeke Emanuel he served in the Clinton Administration and Obama Administrations. Dr. Emanuel is now the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and an MSNBC Senior Medical Contributor.

Zeke, the Rockefeller Foundation plan is the most ambitious I`ve seen. How do you get to that level of testing?

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC SENIOR MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they don`t suggest that it would happen overnight. They have suggested that you would ramp up over time that you would have an emergency next eight weeks trying to increase the testing capacity, mostly by utilizing labs and universities and other places and optimizing labs.

And that they would create an accelerator so that we could figure out better ways and faster ways to test over the next six months. So it`s really looking at 30 million a week over the - to get to the next six months.

And importantly, they sort of don`t just pull this number out of the hat. We looked at what South Korea is doing? And if you tie very, very strategic contact tracing with testing, you can probably get away with about 2.5 million tests per day, multiply that by 7 and you`re at 17 million and then there`s reasons to go up higher than that.

But they`re pretty strategic about how many tests you need and try to peg it to find out who`s spreading the disease so you`re not just going blindly forward. So I think it`s a very thoughtful report in that regard.

O`DONNELL: And this Rockefeller Foundation report that you participated in says in Taiwan, there have been 132 tests conducted for every confirmed test. In Australia, the number is 62, in the United States, it is 5. That is a shocking number for the United States. What does that mean for us going forward?

DR. EMANUEL: Well, it means what we`ve been talking about for a long time and what you and I have talked about for weeks, which is, we have an inadequate testing infrastructure. We have, you know, not done it well made many mistakes along the way.

And that if we`re really going to get to a situation where we can open up the economy, we`re going to have to have a much more robust testing infrastructure. I think you made an excellent point in your interview of the Mayor of Albany, Georgia, which is look, you can open these stores.

But unless people are feeling safe, they`re not going to come out. Are you going to risk your life to have a meal in a restaurant? No. And so that is the problem. You want to get the economy working, you can`t simply open stores. There`s a lot of stuff that has to go into it, and people have to feel secure.

And the only way they`re going to feel secure is if we have the right testing regime in place, and we can assure them we have minimized risks. Just like Harvey Feinberg said about sending kids back to school. You have to assure people they are going to be safe in the environment in which they`re going.

You can`t just say we`re open for business, and you know by the way you might get sick and you might die from a disease you caught at the store or at the university. That makes no sense. So to get the economy moving, we have to get the public health in the right position to screen and contact trace people to minimize the number of cases.

And that`s something I don`t think that Governor of Georgia has gotten and many other politicians who are rushing to - we`ve got to open the economy.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for joining our discussion tonight. Really appreciate it.

DR. EMANUEL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, I don`t know about you, but as Zeke was just saying, I don`t think I`m going to be comfortable sitting in a theater or at a crowded restaurant again or a stadium probably until there`s a vaccine.

Jon Cohen, an expert on vaccines, joins us next with the latest on how far away is that kind of return to normal that could only be achieved with a vaccine?


O`DONNELL: The Governor of Georgia wants movie theaters to open next week. If movie theaters opened in your community, would you go, or is that the kind of business that can`t really recover until we all have the safety of a vaccine?

Joining us now, Jon Cohen, Staff Writer for "Science" magazine, he has covered infectious diseases and vaccines for over 30 years. Jon, where are we in the chase for the vaccine?

JON COHEN, STAFF WRITER SCIENCE MAGAZINE: I`ve never seen a more rigorous chase for any vaccine. There are over 70 efforts under way right now. Five have already started clinical trials. The clock starts on January 10th when the virus is first publicly described with the sequence.

That`s a remarkable period of time. I mean from now to then, I`ve never seen anything like this. So there`s a tremendous amount of activity. There`s a lot of investment. There are a lot of very smart people trying to do it.

But, you know, the question you`re raising is when are we going to be able to go to a movie theater with the vaccine in our bodies and feel great? I don`t know. Nobody knows. And anyone who tells you they do know isn`t telling you the truth.

O`DONNELL: And in the competition, is this is a competition, or is this kind of a cooperative effort among different researchers on getting to a vaccine?

COHEN: I - I think there`s a remarkable attempt to coordinate this and to collaborate. Scientists don`t always get along and don`t always collaborate. There always is competition. Some of it`s healthy. Some of it isn`t. We have to wait and see.

Right now I see several organizations attempting to organize the field. But it`s going to be a big question how you narrow down from more than 70 to one, two, three that are going to be produced? I mean I don`t know in the end how many will work. I don`t know if any will work.

I`m hopeful that we`ll have a vaccine. It doesn`t look like that tough of a scientific nut to crack. But there`s a lot of uncertainty, and that`s hard for people to accept, but that`s reality.

O`DONNELL: And if we get to the point where that nut has been cracked, as you put it, and there is a vaccine and it`s a vaccine that seems very reliable and actually gets to the point of being proven to be reliable, how do you scale up the manufacture of that to deliver it not just to the 330 million Americans who want it right away but the whole world wants it right away?

COHEN: Yes, that`s a huge challenge. And people are fortunately putting some thought into that now. Bill Gates has talked about even financing building plants for vaccines that never get made so that that problem doesn`t occur.

Questions of equity and access are going to become real if there is a working vaccine. There are big pharmaceutical companies in the game. There also are some old-fashioned technologies that are here that most everyone could do. So we have to just wait and see what proves effective.

I think it`s important to talk about it now because equity and access are hard to talk about after the fact.

O`DONNELL: Well, I mean equity, if we just looked at it in national terms and didn`t think beyond our borders, for example, how African countries can possibly compete with us to get the vaccine?

Just within the United States, how long do you think it would take to get from the privileged where it would surely begin in terms of distribution all the way through to the poverty population of America?

COHEN: I`ve never seen anything hit the entire world the way this virus has hit it, and maybe climate change has, but some people don`t even believe in that. Everyone believes in this virus. I don`t think we`re going to be able to silo ourselves like that as the United States.

So let`s just say what`s the timeline for any country? And it could well be China, to make a vaccine and prove that it works. The estimates are at least a year if everything goes well. I`ve watched a lot of vaccine development.

Things don`t go well most of the time. There are small problems that crop up even with something that`s a good vaccine. So say it`s a year, say its 18 months, and that`s optimistic. There are attempts to speed things up more quickly, to make some shortcuts. They`re inventive, and they could work. But we`re talking big gambles.

O`DONNELL: And let`s say the vaccine is developed. Does it take another year after it`s developed for it to be distributed to all Americans or more than a year?

COHEN: Not necessarily. I mean we could ramp up production depending on the technology that`s being used. We could ramp up production to hundreds of millions, if not billions of doses if we prepare properly.

And I think the discussions are happening now. I`m heartened to see that. But, you know, I`m a skeptic. I think we have to remain skeptical about this until we really see the plants are built and are running and people are doing these things.

Lots of little things can trip up production of a biological product like a vaccine. This isn`t making a drug with chemicals, you know. It`s taking the virus, reformulating it in a way that it helps us rather than attacks us.

O`DONNELL: Jon Cohen gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks Lawrence.