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

Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Justin Wolfers, Angela Duckworth


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Do you need a best new thing in the world today? I do. We got one that`s plural. May I introduce the newest members of the "Rachel Maddow Show" family? Oliver James and Henry Joseph. Oliver James is the elder brother by four whole minutes, which we are hoping and expecting him to lord over Henry Joseph their whole happy lives.

Both kiddos are perfect as you can see and absolutely healthy and already speaking up on their own behalf. They of course, will be the beginning of a whole new adventure for our beloved associate producer Johanna. Johanna, we are so happy for you and for Mike and for these little bundles of joy.

It is a crazy time in the world, but these guys are pure joy. We`re so happy for you. Best new kiddos in the world today. All right, now it is time for a special hour here on MSNBC, "Life in the Time of Coronavirus" hosted by Dr. Zeke Emanuel and our own Ali Veslhi. Good evening Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, it`s these things that I seek out, right, these little great messages, these babies born, these people celebrating, people doing what they can for graduations and marking this change in this time of coronavirus.

We do need these things. We have to stay on the news and we have to hold power to account, but we do have to celebrate the fact that life will go on and one day will get back to normal so thank you for sharing that with us. Have a great weekend.

MADDOW: We have to check this stuff. We have to check this stuff. It has to be part of the way we understand this time. Thank you, Ali. Appreciate it my friend.

VELSHI: I totally do. Thanks, friend.

Well, the staggering tragedy of the coronavirus has in fact made us numb to some of the numbers -- 1.2 million cases so far, nearly 78,000 Americans dead in this short time -- 78,000 lives lost. Think of how many families, friends, communities have been affected. The number itself doesn`t tell that story.

The loss of 78,000 people whose lives were claimed by a virus that I bet most of them had probably never heard about three months ago. It is almost unimaginable and today we can add another unimaginable number to this pandemic, 14.7.

That`s the percentage of America`s unemployment in April, the worst since the Great Depression, probably worse today by the way because those numbers reflect a calculation that was taken a few weeks ago.

This is a health crisis. This is a security crisis. It`s the security of millions of people, their ability to feed their families, to pay their rent, to provide for their children.

As Rachel said, joining us again for the hour, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, vice president of Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and a veteran of the Obama administration.

Zeke and I are going tonight speak with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett who very early on this very show warned how bad this pandemic could become. Many of us didn`t want to believe what she said but she was right.

Americans are fighting through this and later we`re going to be joined by the renowned psychologist Angela Duckworth who has - got a lot to say about keeping your head in times like this, but first, the news. And there is a lot of it tonight.

Just in the last two days, two White House staffers have tested positive for coronavirus. Donald Trump`s personal valet who serves Trump his meals and we learned today the vice president`s press secretary, who is married to the close Trump aid Stephen Miller.

Donald Trump today claimed the positive test was proof that testing doesn`t necessarily work.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today, she tested positive. So she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests aren`t necessarily great.

The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it`s good and then something happens and all of a sudden she was tested very recently and tested negative and then today I guess, for some reason, she tested positive.


VELSHI: That is all entirely wrong. The White House might have the best testing and tracing in the country right now and it worked. By Donald Trump`s own explanation, the testing actually worked. There are no chance encounters at the White House. The Secret Service knows every person who comes into the West Wing.

Staffers go home at night. When they come back the next day, they are tested, hence, the first day they test positive, the White House is aware of it. The staffer can leave the building, go into quarantine and everyone who had contact with them can be tested immediately.

Now, imagine if that staffer worked anywhere else like at a grocery store without the testing and tracking that`s available to the Trump White House.

How many people would that staffer come into contact with before she showed symptoms, if she showed symptoms at all? How many of those people could ever be tracked down and told hey, you had recent contact with a person who tested positive.

That the virus can`t even be kept out of the White House, the best protected place in America shows how insidious it is. And while we are seeing a decline in the new number of cases and deaths in the early hot spots where I am in New York, several models suggest that there may be trouble ahead especially as states begin to reopen.

A leaked document shows that the CDC expects 200,000 new cases a day and 3,000 deaths a day by next month. The popular University of Washington model now projects more than 134,000 deaths in total. That`s almost double the number of people who have already been killed by this virus and they`re talking about this through the end of August.

Now, these new models come at a time when the Trump administration is muting the experts. The A.P. reports tonight that specific scientific CDC guidelines for reopening safely were quashed by top Trump White House aides.

We also saw a whistleblower complaint this week from vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright, who says he was ousted from his job at Health and Human Services for speaking up against the Trump administration`s response, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president touted over the objections of doctors.

Today, the Office of Special Counsel found sufficient evidence that Dr. Bright`s removal was retaliatory and should be stayed while the investigation plays out. Tonight, Dr. Bright spoke with CBS News.


RICK BRIGHT, FORMER HAELTH DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a headstart on developing life saving tools for Americans. I`m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. We see too many doctors and nurses now dying and I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those supplies to them sooner and if we had, would they still be alive today?


VELSHI: I want to bring in Dr. Zeke Emanuel, MSNBC senior medical contributor. Zeke, always good to spend Friday evenings with you. Let me just -- can we talk about modeling for a second because for those of us who don`t have modeling in our lives where we don`t know -- we just don`t deal with this stuff.

In your world, in the medical and scientific world, this is very common. They come with probabilities. They have caveats attached them, but it is how we make decisions in public health.

ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC SENIOR MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We make decisions in public health. We do it in economics. We do it in a lot of things. It`s how we`re trying to project the future as best we can.

And when we look at models like that IHME models, we`re trying to understand how nature is going to behave and how human beings are going to respond and get the best estimates we can.

And I would advice our viewers when they look at a model, first of all, don`t look at just one model. You`ve got to look at multiple models because they make different kinds of assumptions like how infectious and how easy is it to spread the virus.

Like how many people are likely to get very sick and need hospital care and God forbid, die from the virus. They make also projections about how people are going to respond, how many people are going to stay away from work. Stay away from restaurants?

And so no model is perfect, but they try to marry them together. And I would say, you know, when you look at a model, you got to look at are we on the upside of the curve or the downside of the curve? And you got to anticipate where we are and how big that curve is.

If we`re on the upside of the curve, that means we`re growing. It`s kind of scary. If we`re on the downside of the curve, the numbers of cases are going down, the number of deaths are going down. That`s a reassuring point.

But so, I`d say that, you know, take them more qualitatively. Looking at the numbers is helpful but remember, all of those numbers are like plus or minus, a big wide gap because this is a completely new virus and we don`t know exactly how people are going to behave over the long term. So the models are useful --

VELSHI: And I think this is an important --

EMANUEL: -- but they should not be taken as history.

VELSHI: Yes. And I think it`s important for people to understand that even though they are scientific and they area medical, they all take into account what people might do, how they might behave. If you loosen restrictions, there will be greater contact.

So, part of it is scientific, part of it is behavioral. Let`s bring somebody into this conversation, somebody I`m very excited to bring in, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett.

Now, I should explain why I`m so excited. This is Laurie`s first television appearance as an NBC News and MSNBC science contributor. I want to say welcome to the family, Laurie, but you and I have spent so much time together in the last few months that we`re like family.

We have ended a night, you know, together on T.V. and we start the next morning together. So, it`s great to have you with us. I have to remind our viewers, Laurie, about a conversation you and I had back on February 28th where you warned us about this. Let`s just play this for our viewers.


LAURIE GARRET, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST: The problem is we don`t have a standard and we would like to have everybody getting tested by the exact same standards that we can compare and we know and we think we have accurate information.

It`s worse than just, you know, do you manage to quickly test the identified suspected case. What we should be doing right now is using the tests to do some serious surveillance to figure out are we really missing a lot of cases?


VELSHI: Its February 28th. That was almost two and a half months ago and that wasn`t our first conversation about this, either. But to what Zeke was just saying about modeling, making presumptions and behavioral stuff, you have to start with good data in the first place.

And two and a half months ago you were saying why don`t we just get the good basic data on which we can make our assumptions and build our modeling and sadly, two and a half months later, that basic thing that you asked for has not been answered.

GARRETT: Yes, hi, Ali. It`s good to be part of the family as it were. You know, the real problem is we need to have directed studies where we`re saying what`s the policy we`re trying to figure out? What`s the strategic decision we`re trying to make? How do we collect data in a smart way to advice that decision?

So for example, we now know that about 65 percent of the new infections admitted this week into hospitals for COVID in New York City have actually been in lockdown. How did they get infected? We need to test their families. We need to test the folks that make deliveries to their homes or apartments and understand how if you`re on lockdown do you get infected with this virus?

And similarly, we know now that we should have been testing nursing homes all the way back in January. And we certainly should be testing in prisons and any place where you have concentrated co-housed individuals particularly vulnerable ones.

But we should be thinking about what are the other sorts of settings where there is likely to be concentrations of people that we might want to test in advance or set up models so that we understand what the risks might be.

You know, it`s really interesting the CDC study, that set of guidelines, 17 pages of guidelines that the White House has chosen not to allow the CDC to release. If you look at it, incredible detail.

I mean, I would think every restaurant owner would want a copy of these right now for all it tells you about what to worry about. Who to test? What to do if somebody tests positive? What steps to take? How to clean the restaurant and so on?

And they do this for one kind of work setting after another and America is not seeing the documents. This is craziness. You go down the list of everything you would want to be doing right now in order to be able to safely reopen and get our economy rolling, get people off the unemployment lines and the food lines.

And we`re not taking any of those steps. And Ali, we`re not taking them in any state. We`re not taking them in any location in the whole United States.

EMANUEL: Laurie, can I ask you a question? If we think about opening the economy, one of the necessary and related things is opening schools. How do you think those things work together and how would you, if you had the authority, actually choreograph the opening of the economy over the next few months?

GARRETT: Oh, boy, tough question. I mean, first of all, you have to ask where are the major places of transmission, who gives it to whom and how? And if you can really let loose your health department to come up with smart ways to answer those questions, then you can start saying all right.

Well, if this is -- if it`s the case that a 5-year-old is very unlikely to infect anybody, if we can really prove that, then perhaps kindergarten is safe as long as the teacher or the attendants in the kindergartner are well-protected and then you can decide how to do that.

If you look at the CDC guidance, they thought this through. They have incredible detail about schools and how schools can open. I think the problem is, and it was in that clip of tape Ali, that you played of the president when he said, well, I don`t understand, you know, she tested positive today but she was negative on the last test and the one before that.

Well, Mr. President, that`s the point. You can`t use testing to decide this person is safe and this one isn`t because as the day goes by, you may be exposed to the virus and then the next day and then the next.

And so of course, you might be test negative on Monday and test positive on Tuesday. This is why testing alone isn`t going to ensure that any workplace is safe or any school is safe.

You have to have smart strategies that say look, we can`t guarantee absolute safety to everyone, but we can guarantee a lower risk threshold for this setting, this setting, this setting. And you know, I`ll tell you the setting that has me right now --

VELSHI: I want to ask you - go ahead.

GARRETT: -- if I may, is a few people seem to be aware that in addition to the two aides we`ve heard about in the White House who have tested positive, 60 members of the Secret Service are on quarantine right now and 31 have tested positive.

So, I mean, my goodness, if the Secret Service has that high an infection rate and they are in closest contact with the president, I have to say this is looking like a security threat and this is looking like a high-risk setting.

VELSHI: Let me ask you about - there are a number of models we`ve all - I think the three of us have read and I agree with you, Laurie. People who are not medical experts like me, they can be read. They often - they`ve got an abstract to them that`s easy to read.

There is the University of Washington, there is Johns Hopkins, there`s the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. University of Pennsylvania, in deference to Zeke, has one. I like it because it compares model one, model two, model three.

Model one is staying at home. Model two is partial reopening. Model three is all states fully reopen. The second line is the number of deaths by end of June, right. They are all higher than we are right now, obviously. We`re at 78,000. The first one is 116,000. The second one is 161,000. The third one fully reopened, no mitigation, 349,000 deaths by the end of June.

Nobody is planning for that. But look at the last line, 18.6 million jobs lost if everybody stays home. Fewer jobs lost if we partially reopen and the fewest amount of jobs lost if we completely open up. Laurie, this has been since day one the calculus in the president`s head, right. Saving lives versus saving the economy. I don`t think it has to be binary like that, but he has caused a lot of people to think about it that way.

GARRETT: Well, it depends on what you mean by saving the economy because certainly early on, the president seemed more worried about the stock market, which is one part of the economy than employment figures. And so let`s focus in on the individual health and survival and group health and survival.

Obviously, if people don`t have affordable access to good food, if they`re living under the high stress of inability to pay their rent, to feed their children, then of course, that`s a health risk as well as a social risk. And you don`t want either.

You don`t want high unemployment, you don`t want virus, and you don`t want death due to virus. And you have to have policies that deal with all of these at once. And the problem is that every single time I`m in meetings where the likes of Mnuchin are speaking and we are hearing the way the conversation is proceeding, it`s more about Wall Street and stock prices.

VELSHI: Zeke, I want to get your quick comment on that because the modeling as you pointed out does take into account people`s behavior, right? So if we let up some restrictions, there are going to be some people who just like to get outside because they are tired of being, you know, stuck sort of at home or close to home.

But people are going to work because people need work. They need their money. And that does ultimately more people going back to work could mean greater spread of infection.

EMANUEL: But, Ali, you`re only going to have work if there is demand, if the customer is going to come back. And the data we`ve seen coming out this week is that people stayed home and stopped going out to work and stopped shopping well before the stay-at-home orders because they were worried about their health.

VELSHI: Right.

EMANUEL: I don`t think people are going to be rushing out to businesses to make purchases if they`re worried they could get COVID and God forbid, die. So, I`m a little dubious that you`re going to have all those people going back to work and all that economic activity return without the public health measures in place.

And I think that`s a false distinction between the economics and the public health. They`ve got to work together otherwise you`re not going to have economics.

VELSHI: Yes. Well said. Laurie, great to see you. Thank you for the strong support you have shown us and the smart things that you`ve told our viewers and congratulations on becoming NBC`s newest and MSNBC science contributor. Thanks a lot.

All right, coming up, the massive unemployment numbers that were revealed today wasn`t really a surprise, but it was still a shock. One month of job losses wiped out all of the recovery since the Great Recession. The economist Justin Wolfers joins us next.

And it`s not too late to learn lessons from overseas. We`re going to give you a fascinating look at how South Korea is reacting to the coronavirus over there.


VELSHI: With the jobs report today showing losses rivaled only by the Great Depression and the president clamoring for states to get their economies going again, you might expect widespread frustration and impatient with these continued restrictions.

But as Zeke was just saying, for the most part, that`s not what the public appears to be feeling. A new poll from ABC News and Ipsos finds 64 percent of people say opening the country under current conditions is not worth it because reopening now as we are will mean more lost lives. But how do we get from where we are to a point where the public does feel safe going back and going out?

Well, today, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers diagnosed the problem this way. "Bottom line, the economy is in a massive hole caused by the reality that being close to others could kill. The only pathway to a robust recovery is to fix the public health crisis. We have no economic tools as powerful as our public health tools."

That`s part of his twitter feed and if you`re not on it, you should be on it. Justin is very good on twitter. Joining us now is Justin Wolfers. He is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan.

Justin, Zeke teed you up perfectly because he said all of this modeling does not take into account that people were staying home before there were stay-at-home orders and that doesn`t matter how many trillions of dollars you put in and you make the stock market go up as it has been doing, it doesn`t matter.

If people think they are going to die by being around other people, they will alter their behavior and that will stifle the economy.

JUSTIN WOLFERS, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Right now there is exactly one economic problem, leaving the house isn`t safe. That`s bad news for consumers because they`re not going to go out and spend.

It`s also bad news on the supply side of the economy, which is no one wants to go into work and responsible companies don`t want to be taking risks with their work forces so they are staying shut, as well. This is a public health crisis first, second and third.

EMANUEL: Justin, how would you then open up the economy? What are the measures we need to get people to begin feeling comfortable going back to work? You say public health measure, but one in particular, a vaccine which is 12 to 18 months away.

WOLFERS: So, it`s not just we need people to feel comfortable. We need to actually be comfortable. We need the reality to be that it`s safe for them to leave the house. You know, you`re much more medical than I am, Zeke, but you know, obviously, contact tracing, extensive testing, greater socialization with the use of masks.

You know, the thing is we get a little bit better at social distancing and all of these sort of partial solutions every day and anything we can do to keep the spread of the virus down makes venturing outside our homes into the workplace is safer and the safer it is eventually that more likely it is that we`re going to be able to return to work.

EMANUEL: Justin, do you think we`re going to have -

VELSHI: I want to talk to -- sorry, go ahead, Zeke. Go ahead. After you.

EMANUEL: Do you think we`re going to have a V-shaped recovery where we`re going to -- once we get some of these measures in place, we`re actually going to have a bounce back and we`re going to see those 20 million jobs return or do you think it`s going to be a different shaped economy when we sort of begin to have these public health measures in place and people feel confident in them?

WOLFERS: Look, that`s the most important economic question there is out there and so let me tell you the truth. We economists are paid to look over-confident, pretend that we know what we`re doing. In this case, I can think of two extreme possibilities and the reality could lie anywhere between them.

We know that you can shut an economy down overnight and it will come back to life a couple of months later. We know that because, listen, that`s what happens in Paris every summer. Everyone leaves Paris. The Paris economy shuts down. And a couple of months later, it`s not as beautiful in the French country side. Everyone comes back and the economy can get straight back to work.

Look, that`s the good news, perhaps a little too sunny for today. The opposite extreme, just as plausible is, in a couple months we lift the restrictions, maybe a few weeks, and we discover that people have spent down all of their savings. They see the need for a rainy day fund.

The businesses that used to exist were very profitable six weeks ago may no longer still exist in six weeks time. And so there is no businesses and there is no consumers, and then we get stuck in that terrible recessionary track where people don`t want to spend money because no businesses are hiring them and businesses don`t want to hire people because people don`t want to spend money.

And that`s sort of traditional recession. That dynamic can take hold and drag out for not just months but years. So the reality is we know that we`re on the way down. We know we might be close to the bottom of the first round here, but where we end up in that spectrum between the French summer and the ongoing depression, frankly nobody knows and no one is going to know until we see the recovery starting.

VELSHI: So Justin, I think we can agree that history indicates to us, we`ve already seen markets come back. We don`t know how volatile that will be, but we come out of recessions. We do grow. We even have gotten past pandemics in life and we were able to get past it in 1919. We will get past this.

But as Zeke points out, we don`t know whether that`s a year or two years and when the damage is done from the economy, whether that`s three or four or five years. What`s the bridge to that look like because we have a bridge that lasts until about September 30th. The PPP and the loans to airlines -- the grants to airlines to keep people on payroll, that all comes to an end at the end of September. This is not going to be over by the end of September.

WOLFERS: Absolutely. So, look, this is the most important thing, which is the government`s response both on fiscal and monetary policy has been really pretty serious and potentially even up to the scale of problem right now, but all of those responses were put in place at a time of just enormous uncertainty.

And it`s obviously the case that as we learn more about this pandemic and its effects on the economy, we should be willing to adjust as we go. At the moment, there`s a range of measures all of which are set to sunset. That makes no sense.

Not since the amount of fiscal stimulus we have will depend on the political will of Washington to keep going as opposed to when we beat the bug. So, what we should really link all of these things to let`s keep stimulating until we`re finally beating the bug.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It could be a long way away. Justin, good to see you as always. Thank you for joining us. Economist Justin Wolfers. At a programming note, I`ll be hosting a town hall tomorrow morning on the Covid-19 economy. My special guests taking your questions.

Our personal finance expert Suze Orman; Shark Tank host, Kevin O`Leary and host of the Work Life podcast Adam Grant. We`re going to answer your personal finance and your small business questions so if you have a small business and you`ve got questions about how to get money, how to reopen and how to deal with your staff, send them to

It`s a special Virtual Town Hall tomorrow at 9 A.M. eastern. Coming up next tonight, in South Korea, they are playing baseball, they`re playing soccer, people are eating out. You`re going to want to see what we can learn from how officials there are handling the pandemic. That`s next.


VELSHI: In February, South Korea had the largest outbreak of coronavirus infections outside of China. South Korea has used widespread testing and contact tracing as well as strict public health and quarantine measures and the country has successfully slowed the spread of the virus to just a handful of new cases, most days and taking action whenever spike occurs.

This week, South Korea cautiously began to ease social restrictions moving to what it calls distancing in daily life protocols. Kelly Cobiella has more from Seoul.


KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: In South Korea tonight, soccer is back with new rules. No spitting, no handshakes and players tested for coronavirus before the game.

American Paul Rader is getting his first terror cuts in weeks. His family in Seoul looking forward to just getting out role.

PAUL RADER, SEOUL RESIDENT: I think we`re all excited about kind of resuming some normalcy in that respect.

COBIELLA: Getting back to school, getting back to work, in a different way, I guess.

RADER: Exactly.

COBIELLA: When I was here back in February, South Korea had the most cases in the world outside China. Today a flattened curve, fewer than 20 new cases a day for 21 straight days.

COBIELLA: Why is mass testing so important?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diagnostic testing is the only weapon that allow you to fight Covid-19. About 30% to 50% of patients can be asymptomatic at the time of detection.

COBIELLA: And still spreading the virus.


COBIELLA: More 650, 000 have been tested including me three times but there`s more to their strategy, a two-week quarantine for nearly everyone coming from overseas. For foreign visitors like me it means staying in our rooms at government facilities.

The first of breakfast.

A smart city system for pollution and traffic alerts shown to me by Seoul`s mayor in March now tracks Covid patients where they are and where they`ve been with street cameras, credit card data and smart phones. So health officials can find other people who might have been exposed.

I`m about to walk into our local grocery store. Paul and his family saw it in action, a government alert that someone at the local supermarket tested positive.

RADER: We got such specific information like she was there on Wednesday at 4:05. She bought peppers and then she went over to the milk aisle and then self-checked out and left and so you`re like OK, I wasn`t there Wednesday.

COBIELLA: Knowing where the virus is also means no lockdown. Owner Jonathan Kim kept his restaurant open even when cases reached a peak laying off some but not all staff and blocking off tables for social distancing. After the initial shock, business was back up to 50 percent of pre-Covid levels and last weekend.

JONATHAN KIM, SEOUL RESTAURANT OWNER: They`re all out. Our restaurant had long waits. You know up to 45 minutes to an hour wait.

COBIELLA: But Jonathan says they`re not out of the woods yet. The unemployment rate is picking up from 3.3 percent in February to 3.8 in March and today a new cluster. 15 cases tied to a man who went to a nightclub near Jonathan`s restaurant last weekend without a mask and tested positive this week. Tonight it was slow again.

KIM: I don`t think we`re all clear. We have to continue to be disciplined, not only as business operators but as consumers and individuals.

COBIELLA: It`s now Saturday morning in Korea and the Korea Center for Disease control have put other daily numbers. They say they`ve identified 18 new cases on Friday, unclear how many of those cases are directly tied to that person at the night club but it`s likely a lot of them. They`re having to contact trace for hundreds of people who may have come into contact with this man.

They`ve closed one night club, closed his place of business because a Covid-19-worker has tested positive and now they`re considering delaying the re-opening of schools because of this one cluster. Now Ali, all along last week when health officials were talking about easing social distancing restrictions, they were saying it`s really important to continue to wear masks as the Vice Health Minister put it, ink spreads swiftly in clear water.

He said anyone can become the drop of ink that spreads Covid-19 and I think they`re seeing that play out right now. Ali.

VELSHI: It`s vivid but easy to understand Kelly. Good to see you as always. Thank you so much for joining us. Kelly Cobiella from South Korea. Coming up next, best-selling author and Speaker Angela Duckworth is with us. You may have watched her Ted talk on the power and the passion of perseverance.

She`s going to talk about how those things are in all of us can help us get through this crisis. That`s next.


VELSHI: The coronavirus pandemic`s having a massive long term impact on the mental health of people across the country and around the world. So much anxiety and despair and pain and that`s for those of us who are still home, working or with our loved ones.

A lot of people who are vulnerable before this hit, think about those who live with a domestic abuser, those who were battling addictions, those for whom home is not a safe place for them to shelter. Well, at the bottom of the screen we`re featuring messages from across the country about how people are facing these uncertain times.

We`ve been talking about the unemployment rate now rising to 14.7 percent and we wanted to hear from college graduates now trying to enter the job market in an economy that has been crippled by the pandemic.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been really frustrating and nerve wracking and it`s been making me anxious because I`m - I`m about to graduate. My original plan has basically been thrown out the window.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything really in the realm that my degree would be worth putting towards is not hiring right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be like a writer or novelist someday but this aspiration sort of feel like they have to be on the back burner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just really tough not knowing what`s next, not knowing how long I`m going to be living in my parent`s house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m competing now with people who have been laid off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to take out student loans to finance my education, graduating into yet another recession and it`s quite scary.


VELSHI: Joining us now Angela Duckworth who is a colleague Zeke`s at the University of Pennsylvania, where she`s a Professor of psychology. She`s also the CEO of the Character Lab and the author of a great book called `Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.` And again Zeke, in deference to you and the fact that there`s a fellow Pen professor on, take it off for us.

ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So I wanted to ask you Angela, is all of this stress, distress, uncertainty, is that natural and what are we supposed to do to try to cope with it during these weeks and months ahead?

ANGELA DUCKWORTH, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIV OF PENNSYLVANIA: Generations and generations of evolution have given us the stress response and that is the natural as you put it Zeke, the natural physiological and psychological response to threats and if you`re not feeling stressed right now, then something`s wrong with you, right?

And I think people need to hear that when you`re having trouble sleeping, when everything is disrupting, you`re not yourself, you`re irritable, that`s the stress response and I can explain why but it`s - it`s actually part of survival, it`s actually if you manage it the right way, adaptive.

VELSHI: Angela, when - when we talk about people suffering, one of the things you said is that in this crisis each of us has a choice between feeling like nobody understands how we feel or in contrast feeling like we`re all suffering together and that`s a tough one because when you`re actually physically alone, when you`re actually not with your schoolmates or with your - your co-workers, you can feel like you are going through this alone except much of the world`s going through it with you.

DUCKWORTH: You know I think it`s not only that Ali. I think that`s a big part of it, right? And - and there are some people who like haven`t seen another human being in quite a long time but I think just as difficult, it`s that the pandemic is affecting different houses, different individuals, different countries, differently.

So some people, the thing that they wake up in the middle of the night worrying about is the bills that they won`t be able to pay the next day. There are other people like the college graduates who just like they have slightly different worries. Am I going to get a job? What`s going to happen to my career?

Then you have people who are you know caring for sick relatives or worrying about relatives, that they think are sick but they can`t go and travel to see so I think the isolation isn`t just physical, it`s actually in part that you can kind of think a lot, if you choose to pay attention to the fact that your suffering is so different.

And I you know, I`ve been on Zoom calls where people are like complaining about Zoom fatigue and I`m sure that if they were unemployed people listening to that, they would feel like that was totally tone deaf but you know each person is suffering in their own way.

It`s easy to feel like there`s a lot of - there`s a lack I should say of empathy.

EMANUEL: So Angela, what do we do to manage this stress? Are there you know, to get us control over our life and to get us control so that we can think that things are going to be OK in the future even though we don`t control all the variables?

DUCKWORTH: Well, just extending what I was saying about feeling alone because I think the stress response is normal but when you experience the stress response and you feel like you`re in it by yourself as opposed to in this you know predicament with other people, it`s much, much worse.

And I`m thinking in particular of a study that was done at West Point, the oldest military academy in the United States and this is now 20 years ago but researchers wanted to understand the stress response and they were looking at biomarkers of stress from these cadets and here`s the interesting finding.

The scientists thought that at the time when you first start training, that was going to be the peak of all these stress biomarkers, that was going to be the hardest part of West Point, it`s when a lot of people drop out but actually in fact, there was no difference between that really objectively stressful time and base line and actually later on during finals, when you`re surely going to stay at west point, that`s when stress peaked.

Now they were really puzzled, they were confused and so they actually started interviewing these cadets and here`s what they learned. When these cadets were going through this really, really hard training and right, some of them were dropping out. In fact they felt like they were all in it together. They felt like they were as a group battling a common enemy which was training.

Then at finals, they felt like they were pitted against each other being ranked and that`s why when they felt like they were together, the stress biomarkers were low but when they felt like they were in things alone against one another, they felt like stress was you know - the markers went high.

And I think that`s a lesson particularly for our country because we seem so good at being polarized and fighting with each other. I really do feel like paying attention to the fact that really the pandemic is influencing every single person, nobody is coming out of this unscathed and I think that might help us manage the stress response in an adaptive way.

VELSHI: Angela, you`ve written so much about it, you`ve spoken so much about it. You`ve even compressed so much of it into - into a Ted talk and I`m going to ask you to compress it into less than a minute now. What`s the one thing you can tell people where they can channel their insight, their passion.

The stuff that you`ve - in The Grit, you say is accessible to all of us but we really need right now.

DUCKWORTH: So yes, thank you. I will try to say something that`s especially helpful in the current situation and that is this. You know what I study really gritty people who come through adversity and failure better than - than others, you know one thing that`s characteristic is that they understand that there is a lot that they cannot control. They understand that there is chance and they understand that there`s misfortune too.

But they choose to also pay attention and maybe disproportionately pay attention to the things that they can control and I think what that looks like today is you know, you don`t know what`s going to happen economy. There`s so much you can`t control but you can make your bed, but you can wash the dishes.

You can send one kind email. You can unload the dishwasher. You can write in your journal. I think trying to think about and - and actually take action on the subset of things in the universe that you can`t control. That`s what a gritty person would do right now.

VELSHI: That is a remarkable way to look at this because I think the number of us are doing things that we otherwise wouldn`t do because we can and you can feel some sense of accomplishment from doing it. So that was, you did it Angela, you gave us a minute`s worth of good advice on how to channel our own grit. Thank you. Author and psychologist Angela Duckworth.

If you haven`t read her book and you haven`t read - seen the Ted talk, do it now because we`ve got some time on our hands. Still ahead, the next best thing you can give your mom on Sunday.


VELSHI: Zeke, we are making our way through our first real holiday of the coronavirus crisis or at least the one that really matters. It`s Mother`s day on Sunday and that`s going to be great for some people. It`s going to be really hard for others.

EMANUEL: Yes. I certainly remember as a kid, getting up early to cook breakfast for my mom. My brothers and I would go quietly, well, as quietly as three wild boys could go to the kitchen. One of us would set the table, the other two would get the eggs ready, pour the orange juice, measure Folgers coffee grinds, get the machine ready to brew.

When we were done, we would put the flowers in the vase, the gifts on the table and race down the hall to wake my mom and after breakfast, the whole family would drive over to be with my grandmother. This year certainly lots of children will do their best to have a celebration like that.

But Mother`s day definitely is going to be different. It`ll be tinged with separation and loneliness, especially for our grandmothers. I`ve been getting emails and calls from friends with grandchildren, rattling off all the physical distancing measures they`re actually doing, asking if it means that they can see their families again.

If they can hug her grandkids and smother them with kisses. They want permission. Is that OK? Just this one day? I know my mother`s loneliness is palpable. She`s been texting, emailing, calling way more these past two months. She loes the picture she gets up for grandchildren and especially of her great grandchildren but having only pictures can`t substitute for a morning filled with hugs and kisses.

The other day she recounted to me how concerned family and friends drive by in the morning, leave a container of soup at the door, ring her doorbell and rush back to their car when she comes out. They wait, they exchange a few greetings and enquiries. Then they drive off. It`s very touching and caring but it`s not the same as sharing a bowl of soup with friends and family.

This weekend, especially for mothers and grandmothers, there`s a hole in their heart that`s not being filled. Phone calls, even video calls only go so far. So what else can we do? If you`re lucky enough to live near your mother or grandmother, a physically distance visit outside, a picnic in the park sitting six feet apart with separate meals or a distance visit in the backyard or on the front porch can provide some much needed in-person interaction.

If you don`t have a mother nearby, maybe there`s some other person in the neighborhood who needs a visit from you. Don`t forget to wear your mask to these Mother Day events and most importantly, don`t forget. Call your mother on Sunday.

VELSHI: I mean Zeke, it has been one saving grace that the internet didn`t break and that they`ve created ways where we can communicate on our phones or we can see the faces of our loved ones easily so that people who are not digital natives could at least figure that out.

So do what you have to do as you said with your own mother, your own grandmother or someone else`s mother but be a member of the community on Sundays. Zeke, it`s always a pleasure to spend the evening with you. Thank you again. A reminder. If you want more of Zeke`s insights into the coronavirus, check out his podcast, `Making the call.` New episodes every Wednesday. A reminder to watch my Virtual Town Hall in the morning, 9 A.M. eastern, The Covid-19 Economy. My special guest Suze Orman, Kevin O`Leary and Adam Grant.