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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/8/2021

Guest: Rochelle Walensky, Stanley Dunlap

Summary:

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is interviewed. Republican lawmakers

in Georgia were gearing up to pass a sweeping voter suppression bill that`s

being called the most restrictive voter law since Jim Crow.

Transcript:

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That`s "ALL IN" on this Monday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much

appreciate it.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Monday.

This weekend, the great state of New Hampshire got 11,000ish doses of the

one-shot, one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine for COVID. And they decided

to use it all instantly in one big mass vaccination blast.

And they targeted an interesting group of people. Everybody eligible for

the vaccine in New Hampshire who had already signed up to get a vaccine but

had been put at the end of line, they`ve been told that hey couldn`t get

their shot until April or May. The state called all those people in the

state. Everybody who had late appointments and said, we know you`re

interested in getting a vaccine, how about this weekend instead?

And in one weekend, they did a drive-thru mass vaccination clinic for more

than 11,000 people. And they did at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the

NASCAR track, which is a place that my brother-in-law Paul is intimately

familiar with.

My brother-in-law loves NASCR. Loves it. He loves all kinds of car racing,

everything from Formula One to drag racing to like motorcycle stuff and

everything, but mostly, he loves NASCAR.

And I am absolutely convinced that that is why my brother-in-law Paul is

now vaccinated against COVID-19. He heard that they were doing this at the

racetrack and he was like, oh, it`s a racetrack? And so, yeah, the answer

from him was yes please. I will get up early and go get my vaccine there.

And the big news in our family is because Paul decided he was going -- drum

roll, please -- Susan`s mom agreed that she would go too. She would go with

Paul.

Susan`s mom is in her 90s. She has a bull`s eye on her terms in

vulnerability to this virus if she ever got it. We`ve been calling and

calling and calling, and calling, and we were seriously stressed about the

fact that she did not have an appointment to get vaccinated until well into

April.

But then she got the call that she could come this weekend instead because

of the Johnson & Johnson shipment to New Hampshire. And so, Susan`s mom, my

brother in law, they went together. She and Paul both stuck their arms out

the car window and now, they`re done. One shot, done and dusted.

Eleven thousand-plus New Hampshire residents fully vaccinated in one

weekend at the NASCAR track, all with the one-dose vaccine. They`re all

done.

And that is just one little snapshot of one little corner of the country

that happened to intersect with my family and some of my greatest family

COVID concerns.

But something has clearly ticked over for us as a country. I mean, you`ll

remember here last week on the show, we reported that the U.S. had finally

hit a really big benchmark. The U.S. had finally hit two million vaccine

shots administered in a single day. We talked about that in the show last

week. We hit that 2 million shots in a day record for the first time last

week.

But then this weekend, on Saturday, we as a country shattered that record.

We just hit 2 million last week. Saturday, we hit 2.9 million shots in one

day. Absolutely fantastic. And that was on the day the Senate passed the

COVID relief bill as well.

So, we get this $1.9 trillion relief bill and we get 2.9 million vaccine

doses all administered that day. That`s a great day. That is -- that is

more where we need to be.

And, you know, numbers can be alienating. Particularly, big numbers can be

alienating. But, man, does this have a personal affect on people?

If you have been vaccinated, I haven`t yet been vaccinated. I will as soon

as it`s my turn. But if you have been vaccinated, if the people in your

family who you are most worried about have been vaccinated, you know how it

feels when they finally got their shots, right? I mean, it`s like you

didn`t know what that stress had been doing to you until it`s lifted.

I mean, for me and Susan, I know that Susan`s mom is one who got the

vaccine this weekend, but Susan and I were so happy and so elated by it. We

felt like we were the ones who were on drugs. I mean, it`s just -- it`s

such a relief when somebody who you`re very worried about, somebody who you

love and you know is in danger gets that protection, it is such a relief.

It`s just this very unfamiliar feeling of hope.

And one thing that`s nice is that you can also see the effects of that in

health care workers, in the doctors and nurses who are signing up for

vaccination duty to give people their shots, whether it is just the hours

that they are doing shots at particular health care facility or it is one

of these mass vaccination clinics. They are psyched. They are so happy to

be able to do it.

I mean, after a year of catastrophe for health workers and, you know,

irresolvable, retractable illness and menace to themselves and so much

death, here is something that they are now doing that just unequivocally

good that people cry happily about when they finally get to their place in

front of the line.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control put out guidelines -- we expected

these maybe late last week but they came out today -- advising people who

have been fully vaccinated what they can do now that they couldn`t do

before. Among other things, if you can get vaccinated and the people you

want to hang out with can also get vaccinated, you really can hang out with

them together, at home, without masks and without social distance.

Small groups of fully vaccinated people can be together in the home without

taking COVID precautions, that means without taking masks. I mean, if

everybody is fully vaccinated, that means yes to a poker foursome, mom and

dad. That means yes to a hug.

I mean, still, they`re saying no in terms of unnecessary travel. So,

getting vaccinated doesn`t mean you can hop onto next flight to the place

you most missed visiting. CDC also says no change as well for vaccinated

people in terms of still needing to wear a mask and do social distancing

when you are out in public. But some things in your life will start to open

up.

And let`s talk about that. Let`s talk about that and much more with the

director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC director,

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who`s here tonight for "The Interview".

Dr. Walensky, it`s real privilege to have you here. Thank you so much for

taking the time.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me. Always great to

be with you.

MADDOW: So, roughly 20 percent-ish of the country has at least one dose of

the vaccine. Just under 10 percent of the country is fully vaccinated now.

Tell me about the bottom line of import of CDC`s new guidelines about how

life can change for people who are fully vaccinated.

WALENSKY: First, I just want to indicate the stories that you just told

are the inspiring stories we`re hearing every day. We`re up to nearly 3

million people vaccinated a day and we`re really -- we have more and more

supply of vaccine coming and we really just want to encourage people to

roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated when it`s your turn.

As you indicated, we`re nearly 10 percent of the population vaccinated, but

that also means we have 90 percent of people who are not yet protected. And

so, we intend to take baby steps to make sure that people have hope, people

who are vaccinated can be back with their loved ones in their -- in their

homes and the privacy of their homes, while still being cautious because,

in fact, 90 percent of the population is not quite there yet.

MADDOW: In terms of the sort of how far the guidance went today for what

people are vaccinated can do and what ways they still need to be cautious,

talk to me a little bit about the travel decision because it seems to me,

if fully vaccinated people are protected from becoming seriously ill

themselves, they are protected in -- to a very large, from getting sick

enough that they potentially could die from COVID. But there`s still a

slight chance that they could infected with mild or asymptomatic infection.

There`s a slight chance that maybe they can pass it onto somebody else.

That understanding about what vaccines do -- how does that map on the

guidance that people shouldn`t travel? I think I expected today when this

guidance came out that vaccinated people would be told it`s OK to fly.

WALENSKY: So, this is the first initial step of our guidance. And we do

need to -- we will need to and will update the guidance as more as more

people get vaccinated. We`ll update as if we information about how the

dynamics of his disease are changing through the country over time.

And as we have more emerging evidence, here`s what we know about travel. We

know that right now, there are a lot of variants here in this country. Some

have brought in from travel. Others have emanated from inside the country.

We know that after mass travel, after vacations, after holidays, we tend to

see a surge in cases. And so, we really want to make sure again with just

10 percent of people vaccinated that we are limiting travel. We`re avoiding

the upcoming surge just as we`re trying to get more and more people

vaccinated.

MADDOW: When you said that this today at the White House, when you said

this was initial guidance and that you did expect that this may evolve,

this may change over time, what you just reiterated here -- what is the

data that we`re waiting for in terms of how this -- how this -- how advice

to, again, vaccinated people may change? Is it that we don`t necessarily

know how the variants will behave in various populations? Is it that we

don`t know enough yet about whether or not vaccines protect people from

actually getting the virus and being able to transmit to others even if it

doesn`t make you, yourself, sick?

WALENSKY: That`s exactly right. So, we know from the clinical trials that

people who are vaccinated do not get severe disease. They don`t get

hospitalized. They don`t die.

We don`t know that they don`t get disease at all, these breakthrough

infections. And, in fact, when we have seen data from other countries,

emerging data from Israel, we see that people can get infected once they`ve

been vaccinated. And when they do, they tend to have a lower amount of

virus. So, breakthrough infections, you tend to have a lower amount of

virus than people who are unvaccinated.

Even so, those asymptomatic vaccinated people with a low amount of virus

might still be able to give disease to somebody else. And that`s really

what we want to be able to see is, is that possible? Can they still

transmit disease because that does have implications for who they might be

unmasked with and whether they are at high risk for disease?

And then the other point is exactly as you said, the more virus that`s

circulating, the more variants that are possible, and those variants can

emerge and diminish the effect of the vaccine. So, while we`re vaccinating

people, we really do want to make sure that there`s less and less virus

circulating that doesn`t put our vaccine efficacy at risk.

MADDOW: And so, I feel like when -- especially those of us who aren`t

health care professionals, those of us who aren`t doctors talk about the

vaccine and the variants, a lot of what we talk about is whether or not the

variant strains are susceptible to the vaccine or whether or not they`re

going to defeat the vaccine in some way. But it sounds like we should be

thinking about it the other way too, that we need to vaccinate as many

people as fast as possible as -- really as suddenly as possible. We need --

we need a mass vaccination rate in part to prevent the emergence and

circulation of the variance -- of the variants, is that fair?

WALENSKY: You are exactly right. So, we know that mutation -- that RNA

viruses mutate and they mutate the more virus you have. So, the more virus

that is out there and replicating in an individual person and in all of the

society, the more likely that variants are going to emerge which is why we

really want to keep the case numbers down. We really want the keep the

amount of virus down. That will keep the amount of mutations down.

And as we do that, those mutations won`t emerge that put the risk of

efficacy of our vaccines.

MADDOW: So, that makes clear what we`re in is race. That it`s the virus,

and specifically the mutating virus, that we are racing against with our

vaccination efforts. That makes me happy that we are speeding up our

vaccination efforts, that we hit 2 million, then 2.9 million and hoping --

hoping we`re still going to increase that pace.

Dr. Ashish Jha from Brown University said last hour on MSNBC that he`s

hoping that we can get up to 4 million doses a day.

How fast do we need to go on our side of the race in order to out pace the

mutation -- the mutating virus?

Dr. Michael Osterholm has a terrifying interview out with "New York

Magazine" right now in which he says that we`re losing the race. He`s

predicting another big surge over the new few months, saying that the

variants are transmitting fast enough, that our pace of vaccination right

now isn`t enough to stave off another big surge.

What -- how fast do we need to be going? What are you aiming at in terms of

how fast our vaccination efforts need to get?

WALENSKY: I think we need to understand that March and April are critical

periods here. We have variants in this country. Those variants are

increasingly transmissible. We know that they are more transmissible than

the wild type virus.

We also have more and more vaccine coming. And this is really why we have

said for the next couple of months, while we are scaling up vaccination as

much as we can, as fast as we can, as much vaccine as we can, please, wear

your mask, continue with the mitigation strategies and give us a fighting

chance of making sure we can get vaccine into possible as soon as possible.

And as individuals, when that vaccine is available to you, you roll up your

sleeve and get it so that we can really be sure that we are winning this

race.

MADDOW: I will say, just on psychological level, something uncomfortable

and annoying like mask wearing is easier, at least for me, to do. It`s

easier for me to take as a public health imperative and as a sort of good

citizen request if I know that I don`t have to do it forever.

Being told, like, listen, these next couple of months are critical, we can

get there. The end is, at least, reasonably in sight provided that we can

push through and finish strong, I feel like that`s actually quite

motivating, that people who may be tired of it ought to at least feel like

we`re doing it for a reason and we can get to a place where a lot of these

measures can be relaxed safely because we go a low enough amount of virus

circulating and high enough level of immunity that we`re okay.

WALENSKY: I think you`re exactly right. And I would say, you know, today

to me was a really hopeful day. Yes, it was baby steps. But people can

finally start seeing what a life without mask might look like. People -- I

can`t tell you how many people texted me on my cell phone while I was

giving the press conference to say you mean I can go see my mom again.

Those baby steps matter a lot. We can spend time with our loved ones again.

MADDOW: Now, at the same time, last week, CDC released an MMWR that said,

among other things, that mask mandates are associated with decreased

transmission and decreased deaths from COVID. It was essentially a fairly

definitive result. And then we get the news out of Texas and out of

Mississippi and out of now Wyoming. They are dropping their mask mandates

anyway, just at the time that you`re saying is sort of a crucial, finish

strong last couple of months. They`re dropping not only mask mandates, but

also almost all, in some cases -- in Texas, all the business restrictions

designed to limit the transmission.

Did these states consult with CDC at all before they made these decisions?

WALENSKY: I was not aware of any consulting they did with us specifically

on these decisions.

What I will say is every state, every governor has to make these decisions.

I think our guidance has been pretty clear. I think science has been pretty

clear. We are asking people to wear masks.

And, in fact, I have said before and I`ll say again, I do not wear mask

because my governor tells me I need to wear a mask. I wear masks because it

protects me, it protects my loved ones, it protects my community, and

because I want to be out of this.

MADDOW: Uh-huh.

Let me ask you about a policy thing that I can sort of see coming or

anticipating is coming that is going to potentially be an interesting

either point of conflict or opportunity here depending on how you look at

it.

If OSHA -- which was sleepwalking, forgive me, for much of the Trump

administration on COVID, in particular -- if OSHA comes out with rules that

say workplaces need to protect their employees by requiring masks from

everybody on the premises. I can`t -- I don`t know that OSHA is going to do

that. I can definitely anticipate that as a possibility from this it ration

of OSHA at this time of the pandemic.

If that happened, would that effectively create a sort of federal mask

mandate at all workplaces, I mean, regardless of what`s happening in

individual states? If OSHA is requiring that for all workplaces, that would

mean all restaurants, all bars, anywhere anyone works, wouldn`t it?

WALENSKY: Yeah. I mean, I think we`re going to have to take this based on

where we are at a given period of time. I think we need to be wearing masks

right now. I think it`s the right thing to do to protect the public, to

protect one another as we have more and more people vaccinated, as

vaccinations become -- you know, vaccines become available all around the

country for anybody who wants it. I think the calculus in that is all of

this and who should be wearing masks and when will change, and I really

look forward to the day we get to make those decisions because so many

people are vaccinated.

MADDOW: The last time you were here, Dr. Walensky, we talked about

teachers and CDC guidance about reopening schools safely, concerns among

people -- adults who work at schools whether it`s teachers, school

staffers, janitors, counselors, you know, school bus drivers that whatever

the CDC guidance is about how to safely reopen schools, they were concerned

about not being vaccinated before that happened.

So, Dr. Kessler -- Dr. David Kessler was here on the show last week and

said starting this week, March 8th, teachers and school staffers and school

bus drivers and janitors and child care workers would all be eligible for

vaccines no matter their comorbidities. And we saw this with this directive

go out from HHS telling all states, whatever else is going on in terms of

your eligibility rules in the states, by the end of March, we expect

everybody who works in a school to have one dose of a vaccine.

I just wanted to ask you, if this is live and active? If you think it is

plausible that everybody who works in the school can get at least one dose

by the end of March? Are you on track to make that happen?

WALENSKY: I`m really enthusiastic about this. The Advisory Committee on

Immunization Practices has said since -- before I came into the

administration, that teachers and educators and child care workers as front

line workers should be vaccinated in 1B. That is with people who are over

the age of 75.

They`re now 9,000 pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program that are

distributing around two million doses of vaccine a week. Yes, I believe

that we can do this. We have about five to seven million educators that we

need to vaccinate and about 36 states we`re already doing this before this

program. So, yes, I believe this is doable.

MADDOW: So, newly in states where teachers and school staffers -- and

again, I stress this includes school bus drivers and people working in the

cafeteria, everybody who is a school staffer in any way, if you -- you`re

talking to people right now who are in states where they weren`t previously

eligible, they are now -- regardless of age or any comorbidities -- do they

need to go through this CDC`s Federal Pharmacy Program explainer in order

to do this? Do they still contact their state normally as if they`re just a

newly eligible group in their state even if they weren`t before -- before

this month?

WALENSKY: You know, that`s going to be state by state situation. So, I

can`t speak on generalities.

What I can say is that these -- through the Federal Pharmacy Programs,

teachers and educators should be able to access vaccine at every state.

It`s a high bar. We`re trying to reach a lot of people in 28 days or 22

days.

But we are -- we are motivated. We have, you know, all hands on deck. We

have tool kits to try to ensure that teachers can have access. We have

stakeholders, everybody involved to go full court press to try to make this

happen by the end of the month.

MADDOW: Because the Trump administration didn`t publish reliable COVID

data, other people tried to pick up the slack. Groups like the COVID

Tracking Project which did phenomenal public facing work, throughout the

pandemic. They closed up shop yesterday I think in part in the expectation

that you`re going to be able to pick up the slack and that once again, CDC

will become the authoritative, definitive source of data about the

epidemic, not just for practitioners and experts, but also for the general

public, because so many of us want to be tracking these things day-to-day.

I mean, to be frank, as of right now, none of that information,

hospitalization numbers, new case numbers, death numbers, vaccination

numbers, none of that information is easy to find or well-presented on the

CDC`s website right now, even as other people who are good in this space

are leaving so that you can take up that room.

What are the plans that you`ve got to improve that, so the general public

can go to CDC again to get the best data on this pandemic?

WALENSKY: You know, data monitorization has been a huge effort with the

CDC. This is something we are actively working on. We are relying on data

from all states and territories and tribes to compile all those data. The

infrastructure and data was really thin, has been pretty frail for the last

many years, not just because of -- not just during COVID.

And so, we`re actively working to ensure that we have more electronic case

reporting, more laboratory reporting and more reporting from all of these

states. It`s an active area of work. And I really -- I`m looking forward to

resources from the American Rescue Plan to help facilitate that.

MADDOW: Interesting.

Are there other things that are going to be newly possible for CDC because

of the COVID relief bill, because of the American Rescue Plan that haven`t

been possible until now? Obviously, there`s a big chunk of this plan that

is -- of this bill that is targeted to try to improve the COVID response,

and not just rolling out vaccine, but everything else.

What`s in that bill that`s going to make your job easier and make the CDC

more capable?

WALENSKY: There`s so many component offense that bill from vaccine roll

out, vaccine education, engagement, testing. There are many things that are

components of the American Rescue Plan that we will deeply rely on in the

months and year ahead.

I will say that the public health infrastructure of this country has really

suffered over the last decade, 56,000 jobs have been lost in public health

in the last decade, 180 in this last year alone. If we are going to build a

public health infrastructure that is able to tackle issues such as H1N1,

influenza, Ebola, Zika, we`ve all seen them in the last year as the public

health infrastructure has been frail and COVID-19.

We need a public health infrastructure. We need resources to pay for the

workforce. We need laboratories. We need epidemiologist.

And all of that is -- I`m looking forward to and data monitorization as you

noted. All of that I`m looking forward to in the years ahead.

MADDOW: One last question for you, Dr. Walensky. For all the progress that

we have made, we are still up nearly 60,000 new infections per day. I was

interested to see Dr. Fauci briefed today at the White House on anti --

progress in antivirals and experimental antivirals.

How close do you think we are to effective antiviral treatment so that

people who do get infected -- again, still tens of thousands of Americans

getting infected still every day now -- how close are we to something that

will a cure for people who do get infected, who do get sick?

WALENSKY: I think we shouldn`t lose sight of the fact we made

extraordinary progress in 14 months with this disease. We have three

vaccines that are safe, effective. They have been proven in clinical

trials.

We have more work to do in therapeutics, new investigational drugs that Dr.

Fauci talked about today.

This virus is going to be with us for some period of time and I think we`re

going to have some period of time to start working on further antivirals.

We have them for inpatients. We have them at our IV. We need more potent

therapies.

MADDOW: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of our nation`s CDC -- Dr.

Walensky, it is really an honor to have you here tonight. Thank you very

much for making the time. I don`t know you don`t have to do it and we`re

really appreciative that you can do -- that you do when you can.

WALENSKY: Thank you so much for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Good luck.

Much more to get to here tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: So, I just spoke with Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC,

to talk about, among other things, these new guidelines for Americans who

have been fully vaccinated, including the rules for travel for anybody

who`s had the vaccine. As of right now, travel restrictions are not

changing for people who are fully vaccinated, which is interesting.

Dr. Walensky talking about the expectation that guidance will evolve as we

come to understand not only the effect of the vaccines, whether or not they

protect us from being able to transmit the virus, in addition to protecting

us from getting sick, but also as we get more information about the

behavior of the variants of the virus, the mutated virus that`s sweeping

the country. Dr. Walensky just told me that the variants are, quote,

increasingly transmissible. They are more transmissible than the original

wild coronavirus.

She sort of offered a call to action for Americans of every age and every

risk level. She said, wear your mask. Give us a fighting chance to beat

this thing and when it is your turn, roll up your sleeve and get the

vaccine.

Dr. Walensky calling this a hopeful day. And that means that a lot of

people within the foreseeable future are going to, say, get to see their

mom and dad, or their grandkids or their elderly pals who they have been a

part from.

Over the weekend, of course, the Senate also passed the $1.9 trillion COVID

relief bill, critical funding for vaccine distribution, schools safely

reopening, state and local governments rental assistance and boosted

unemployment so people who are out of work because of the pandemic don`t

end up on the street because of it.

Dr. Walensky also told me, which is a surprise I guess on this but the

COVID relief bill will also apparently result in the CDC finally having not

garbage data on COVID as well. Maybe. So used to the CDC being the gold

standard in terms of public health data, their public facing data on the

coronavirus from the beginning has been garbage. She said that`s part of

what the COVID relief bill will fix. That`s fantastic.

When the Senate finally passed the COVID relief bill on Saturday, you might

have seen Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown told reporters, quote, this is

the best day of my Senate life. It really is.

There`s a lot going on right now and a lot of it is good, and I don`t know

how to deal with that, not even know how to process that anymore. I don`t

have the right neurons.

Joining us now to help is my friend Chris Hayes, the host of "ALL IN WITH

CHRIS HAYES" and the best all-arounder general knowledge focused guy on

COVID and where we are as a country.

You read more widely and have more of an interesting take on where we are

in COVID than anybody else that I know, Chris.

HAYES: Thank you.

MADDOW: Because of that, I want to ask you how we deal with good news

because I realize there`s still a lot of bad news and I am clinging to that

because that makes sense to me. It seems like what`s happened over the past

few day, 2.9 million doses on a day, 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill on its

way to passing. I can`t process it.

HAYES: Yeah, it is hard to process. I mean, just to separate them out, on

the COVID side, I think you saw in the CDC director how hard it is to

message this moment for precisely the reasons you talked about and she

spoke about in the interview, which is that -- we`re -- I mean, we`re world

leaders right now in vaccination, OK? We`re near the top. We`re probably

the second best country in the world after Israel.

We`re certainly -- Ashish Jha just said this, certainly the best big

country right now in vaccinations. The 2.9 million a day, if we can get to

3 rolling average, like we`re doing a good job. There`s really competency

on display here in the way we haven`t seen.

And at the same time, it`s spring, and people are restless and there`s this

thaw feeling people have and the CDC doesn`t want behavior getting out

ahead of the virus, because we`ve seen what this does before. So, it`s a

really fraught and difficult moment.

But I keep holding onto the fact like when you run the math, 30 million

COVID cases, right? Probably the real number is like 3x of 90 million, we

do two and a half million a day, we`re doing, you know, 15 million a week.

Pretty soon, there`s 230 million adults in America, like pretty soon, you

just start getting to a point where like the math looks good for the first

time. The math looking good has not happened yet. The math always looks

bad.

And the math has been crushing and implacable and remorseless for an entire

year. And yes, we are at a point where there`s a lot of ways in which the

math is looking better and better.

MADDOW: So, Chris, given that, given we can try to live up to the

challenge of keeping both of those things alive and in our heads and active

at the same time, how do we think about this next couple of months as we

steam toward the mass vaccination numbers that we think are going to make

difference in terms of immunity and transmission getting into a good,

positive stasis. I mean, if we`re going to see big spikes in new

transmission as states led up, as individual people get hopeful as we`re

starting to get towards the end of this, how much can we shoot ourselves in

the foot now?

HAYES: A lot, unfortunately. One thing to think about is it`s always been

a case from the fatality perspective that massively disproportionate

amounts have come from seniors and have come from long term care

facilities. As you`ve done better reporting on this than anyone, OK? And

so, your viewers know this.

But it`s also the case those are the places where we`re having the highest

vaccination rates. So, I think, you know, even if we got an outbreak,

right, I have some hope that the vaccine should already be doing some of

its protective job in keeping people protected and alive in way we wouldn`t

see the kind of death spikes.

That said, I`m not public health expert. I don`t run the CDC. I`m not

(INAUDIBLE).

But the one thing I keep thinking about is the outside/inside distinction

still has not sunk into people. When you think about spring and you think

about spring break, you think about people down -- like don`t -- if you`re

a college student and you`re listening and going to go on spring break,

you`re going to drink beers with someone outside, do it outside. Don`t go

into a nightclub, for the love of God.

Like there`s an enormous difference between ventilated and non-ventilated

spaces, between outdoors and indoors. And if there`s one think that we

could hammer home to people, in this spring period, as the country warms up

and particularly parts of the country are getting quite warm and quite

beautiful out, take it outside, take it outside, take it outside.

MADDOW: Uh-huh. Chris, on the COVID relief bill, we keep saying $1.9

trillion, $1.9 trillion like that`s title of it or like that`s some easy

moniker to understand. How big -- how big a legislative accomplishment do

you think this is?

I`m asking in part because I feel like you and Steve Benen on THE RACHEL

MADDOW SHOW who writes Maddow Blog are the two people who I go to first in

terms of assessing particularly Democratic policy and its impact. Steve,

like hasn`t caviling since Saturday. Like I can`t even understand and he`s

basically jubilating instead of talking all the time now because of what a

big he thinks this bill is.

Are you also on the sort of maximum side of crescendo in terms of how

excited you are?

HAYES: I am. I mean, it`s -- look, the largest Democratic legislative

domestic policy bill of our life is the ACA because of it sort of way it

restructured markets, the fact it`s survived attempts at repeal. In terms

of direct aid to Americans expansion of the welfare state in this very

direct way for the child tax credit, like there`s never been anything on

this scale in my time covering politics and more than that, I think the

people, the reason you see Steve so excited and Paul Krugman on my show is

it feels like we drove a stake through the certain kind of anti-welfare

austerity politics that was incredibly powerful for four to five decades.

You know, from Reagan`s welfare queen to this bill, that the good guys, for

lack of a better word, won the intellectual, ideological and political

fight about what government can do when we`re underutilizing our resources.

And in some ways, it`s the details of this bill and the fact it will cut

child poverty in half, the fact that adult dependents will be able to get

checks which is massively helpful for people. There`s help for pension

funds that are going to be in trouble and state and local vaccination, all

that stuff.

But the kind of marketing of an era of transition of the politics of

government support and investment to me is as significant as anything that

I`ve seen in the time of politics.

MADDOW: Government actually being expected to help and doing so in a way

that the meaningful and targeted to people who most need the help and the

help getting there in a timely way.

HAYES: Exactly. The fact they had no messaging. The idea there was period

of time, they say, you just send people $1,400 checks. That would have

worked as an argument. Like those people earned those checks, it`s like

that politics have been blown out of the water. They got to tell you that,

you know, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is going to get a check.

It`s like the Tom Cotton argument against this. Like, you know, that`s how

desperate they are to find an argument against this.

MADDOW: That`s right. Not noting, of course, that prisoners also received

support from --

HAYES: The last turnaround, yep.

MADDOW: The Trump era bills that Tom Cotton supported as well. Chris

Hayes, my friend, thank you for staying late to talk to me about this stuff

tonight. I was really hoping that you could. Thank you.

HAYES: Great pleasure, thanks.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: In Selma, Alabama, yesterday people gathered for the 56th

commemoration of Bloody Sunday, the day in 1965 when hundreds of civil

rights protesters in a voting rights march were beaten by Alabama state

troopers where they were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Civil and voting rights group across the country solemnly commemorated that

anniversary for the first time in 56 years without Congressman John Lewis.

Not in the lead, Congressman Lewis passed away within the past year.

As commemoration was under way, yesterday, Republican lawmakers in Georgia

were gearing up to pass a sweeping voter suppression bill that`s being

called the most restrictive voter law since Jim Crow. Today, the Republican

controlled Senate in Georgia passed a series of voter suppression bills.

The bills target everything. They restrict early voting and voting on

Election Day and voting by mail. Any way you want to vote, they have a way

to take it away from you or make it harder.

One of the new plans, for example, limits weekend voting in advance of an

election which disproportionately affects black churches which

traditionally hold souls to the polls events for voting on Sunday. They

also want to ban volunteers from handing out food and water when voters are

stuck in long lines on Election Day, yes, because heaven forbid people have

food and water while they p stand on line for hours. You can`t have that.

The voter restriction bills that are moving quickly toward passage in

Georgia are so onerous and so obvious in their intent that even some

Republicans in Georgia can`t bring themselves to support them. Georgia`s

lieutenant governor actually refused to preside over the passage of the

Senate bill, rolling back absentee voting today. Despite that, these bills

are currently on track to pass out of both houses of the Georgia

legislature in some form.

But the fight isn`t just happening at the Georgia state house. Businesses

are increasingly starting to speak out about what`s happening in Georgia

with this massive roll back of voter rights. A collection of black artists

and athletes from around the country released this ad during the NBA all-

star weekend targeting Georgia residents. The voice you will hear in this

is NBA legend LeBron James.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEBRON JAMES, NBA LEGEND (voice-over): Look what we did. Look what we made

happen. What our voices made possible.

Now look what they`re trying to do to silence us, using every trick in the

book in attacking democracy itself.

But they saw what we`re capable of and they fear it. So, this isn`t the

time to put your feet up or to think hashtags and black squares is enough.

For us, this was never about one election. It`s always been more than a

vote. It`s a fight and it`s just getting started. We`ve been ready.

You with us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Joining us now is Stanley Dunlap. He`s a reporter who covers state

government for "The Georgia Recorder". He`s been following this effort to

roll back Georgia voting rights.

Mr. Dunlap, thank you very much for making time to be here.

STANLEY DUNLAP, THE GEORGIA RECORDER REPORTER: Thank you for inviting me,

Rachel.

MADDOW: Is this a foregone conclusion in Georgia at this part or are

enough Republicans potentially getting cold feet here that despite their

control of state government, some of these things may not survive to final

passage?

DUNLAP: Yeah, that`s the million dollar question. Today was cross over

day. It was the last chance for bills from one chamber to pass over to the

other. In the Senate what we saw today was sweeping bill that would

eliminate the no excuse ballot law that`s been in place since 2005. Last

year, 1.3 million Georgians used that to vote.

That moves over the House, whether that will gain traction, will kind of

depend. House speaker, David Ralston, also a Republican, has spoken out

against that. We have seen the sweeping bill that moved through the house

is over to the Senate, it includes restrictions but does not go as far as

eliminating no excuse absentee law.

So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out once it gets into the

House committees pretty soon.

MADDOW: Shall we read anything into that somewhat dramatic decision today

when the lieutenant governor handed off the gavel and said he wouldn`t

preside over passing this legislation to rescind absentee voting access.

Should we read anything into that or was that a personal more than

political matter?

DUNLAP: No, I think this is something that Lieutenant Governor Duncan has

been one of the first Republicans who spoke about against the widespread

fraud claims after the election and said it`s time to move past that. It`s

been a secure election. They called for changes that had some controversy

from Democrats as far as absentee ID requirement that would replace the

signature verification.

I don`t think it was a political game necessarily from Duncan. I think this

is something that`s pretty well spoken out against. It`s a show of it I`m

not going to be here and have my name attached to this bill if it gets

through.

MADDOW: We are seeing black athletes and black artists and it seems like

increasingly the business community, specifically in Atlanta but also

perhaps more broadly in Georgia starting to take an interest here, starting

to make this a point of national discussion, trying to align themselves

with the forces that are fighting against these voter rights rollbacks.

Is that having any effect, or how do you expect that to evolve as this all

comes to a head?

DUNLAP: Yeah, I think any time you have business communities, and

sometimes people will call out celebrities who are trying to push their

weight around to have influence, but that`s definitely -- we saw major

dollars that helped improve voter registration, helped get people out

there, encouraging them to vote, so it does have significance. We saw the

Atlanta Chamber put out a statement today saying repealing the no excuse

serves make the process more secure and does so at great risk of

participation.

So I think when you have the Georgia Chamber, the Atlanta Chamber, big time

company celebrities, all that weighing in, people who have influence that

can make political donations and kind of wield great power, I do think they

can have an impact down the line.

MADDOW: Stanley Dunlap, reporter for "The Georgia Recorder". It`s a real

pleasure having you here tonight, Mr. Dunlap. Thank you so much.

DUNLAP: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: State prosecutors in the state of Georgia, the office of Fulton,

County Georgia district attorney announced last month they were opening an

investigation into former President Trump and whether he illegally tried to

interfere in Georgia`s elections. In letters to Georgia`s secretary of

state and other state officials who had been targets of President Trump`s

campaign to try to overturn his loss in the state, the prosecutor wrote

this.

We reported this at the time but it now seems newly important. Here`s how

she phrased it. She said, quote, this investigation includes, but is not

limited to, potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting solicitation of

election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local

governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation in oath of office

and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election`s

administration.

Racketeering, did you say? Of all those potential crimes, the prosecutor

said she was investigating when it comes to former President Trump,

racketeering really kind of stood out as sort of unexpected, right? When we

think racketeering, we tend to think of the mafia.

And while former President Trump has often been accused by his detractors

of acting like a mob boss, is this prosecutor in Georgia really thinking

about prosecuting him like a mob boss?

Well, now that prosecutor has hired a racketeering expert to help in this

case. Reuters first to report and D.A.`s office confirmed that Fulton

District Attorney Fani Willis has, quote, enlisted the help of Atlanta

lawyer John Floyd, who wrote a national guide on prosecuting racketeering

cases under state law.

"Reuters" summed up the legal landscape this way, quote, if she pursues

racketeering charges, Willis will need to prove a pattern of corruption by

Trump, alone or with his allies, aimed at overturning the election results

to stay in power. Racketeering is typically pursued by prosecutors in cases

-- in cases, excuse me, in cases involving such crimes as murder,

kidnapping and bribery, the Georgia statute defines racketing more broadly,

to include things like false statements made to state officials.

I should tell you that a racketeering conviction in the state of Georgia

can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. I will also tell you

we`re going to have much more on this tomorrow night with a former Georgia

D.A. who knows both Fani Willis and the racketeering expert she just hired

for her Trump case who knows exactly how a case like this will work.

Looking forward to that. You will not want to miss it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I want to say thank you,

again, to the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, for being on the show

tonight.

Joe Biden has not been president for very long. But already, we`ve twice

had the CDC director on the show, and once had Dr. Anthony Fauci here.

We`re hoping to have Dr. Fauci back with us on soon. What a difference a

president makes.

All right. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.

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

BE UPDATED.

END

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