U.S. in vaccination race against rapidly mutating Covid virusThe Rachel Maddow Show
- 892 views
- 9 Mar 2021
Tonight Rachel Maddow is joined by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Stanley Dunlap, reporter for the Georgia Recorder.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. Happy Monday. This weekend, the great state of New Hampshire got eleven thousand ish 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 the line, had been told that they couldn't get their shot until April or May.
The state called all those people in the state. Everybody 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 through mass vaccination clinic for more than eleven thousand people, and they did it 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 NASCAR, loves it.
He loves all kinds of car racing, everything from Formula One to drag racing 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 mass vaccination thing at the racetrack and he was like, oh, at the racetrack. And so, yeah, the answer 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 that he was going drum roll, please. Susan's mom agreed that she would go to she would go with Paul. Susan's mom is in her nineties. She has a bullseye on her in terms of vulnerability to this virus, if she ever got it. We have 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 and 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 one dose vaccine. They're all done. And that is just one little snapshot of one little corner of the country that happen to intersect with my family and some of my greatest family covid concerns.
But but something has clearly ticked over for us as a country. I mean, you'll remember here last week on this show, we reported that the US had finally hit a really big benchmark. The US had finally had two million vaccine shots administered in a single day. Talked about that on the show last week. We hit that two 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 two million last week. Saturday, we hit two point nine 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 one point nine trillion dollar covid relief bill and we get two point nine 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 effect on people.
If if you have been vaccinated I haven't 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 get their shots, right? I mean, it's like you didn't even know what that stress had been doing to you until it is lifted. I mean, for me and I know that Susan's mom is the 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 that were on drugs.
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 is just this very unfamiliar feeling of hope. And one thing that's nice is that you can also see the effects of that in the 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're doing shots at a particular health care facility or it is one of these mass vaccination clinics, they're psyched. They're so happy to be able to do it.
I mean, after a year of catastrophe for health workers and irresolvable, intractable illness and menace to themselves and so much death, here's something that they are now doing that is just unequivocally good that people cry happily about when they finally get to their place in the front of the line. Today, the Centers for Disease Control put out guidelines. We had expected this 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 the 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 the next flight to the place that 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. Volesky, it's a real privilege to have you here. Thank you so much for taking the time. Thanks for having me. Always great to be with you. So roughly 20 percent 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 the bottom line import of these new guidelines about how life can change for people who are fully vaccinated.
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 three 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 that 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, in the privacy of their homes while still being cautious, because, in fact, 90 percent of the population is not quite there yet.
In terms of the sort of how far the guidance went today for what people who are vaccinated can do and what ways they still need to be cautious, talked 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 a very large extent from getting sick enough that they potentially could die from it. But there's still a slight chance that they could get infected with mild or asymptomatic infection.
There's a slight chance that maybe they could pass it on to somebody else. That understanding about what vaccines do, how does that map on to 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.
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 and more people get vaccinated. We'll update it as we have information about how the dynamics of this 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 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 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. When you said that this today at the White House, when you said that 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 get vaccinated people may change? Is it that we don't necessarily know how the variance 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 it to others, even if it doesn't make you yourself sick?
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 actually get disease at all these breakthrough infections. And in fact, when we've seen data from other countries, the emerging data from Israel, we see that people can get back, get infected once they've been vaccinated. And when they do, they tend to have a lower amount of virus.
So breakthrough that breakthrough infections, you tend to have a little lower amount of virus than 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. And so I feel like when especially those of us who aren't health care professionals, those of us who are doctors talk about the vaccine and the variants, a lot of what we talk about is whether or not the the variant strains of the virus 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 also 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 to we need a mass vaccination rate in part to prevent the emergence and circulation of the virus of the variance. Is that fair? You are exactly right. So we know the mutation that RNA viruses mutate and they mutate the more virus you have. So the more virus that is out there in 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 to 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 that put the risk of efficacy of our vaccines. So that makes clear that what we're in is a 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 two million and then two point nine million and hoping we're hoping we're still going to increase that pace.
Dr. Chijoff from Brown University said last hour on MSNBC that he's hoping that we could get up to four million doses a day. How fast do we need to go and our side of the race in order to outpace the mutation, the mutating virus? Dr. Michael Osterholm is 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 next few months, saying that the the the variants are transmitting fast enough, that our pace of vaccination right now isn't enough to stave off another big surge.
How fast do we need to be going? What are what are you aiming at in terms of how fast our vaccination efforts need to get?
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're more transmissible than 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 that we can get vaccine into people as soon as possible and as individuals when that vaccine is available to roll up your sleeve and get it so that we can really be sure that we are winning this race.
I will say just at a 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 insight 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've got a low enough amount of virus circulating in a high enough level of immunity that we're OK. I think you're exactly right. And I would say today to me was a really hopeful day. Yes, it was baby steps, but people can finally start seeing what a life without a 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 we can spend time with our loved ones again. Now, at the same time, last week, CDC released a new memoir that said, among other things, that mask mandates are associated with decreased transmission and decreased deaths from 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're all dropping their mask mandates. Anyway, just at the time that you're saying is sort of the 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?
I was not aware of any consulting that they did with us specifically on those 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 our 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 a mask because my governor tells me I need to wear a mask.
I wear a mask because it protects me and protects my loved ones. It protects my community and because I want to be out of this. Let me ask you about a policy thing that I can sort of see coming or I'm anticipating it's 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 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 I don't know that ocean is going to do that.
I can definitely anticipate that as a possibility from this iteration of OSHA at this time in the pandemic. If that happened, would that effectively create a sort of federal mask mandated all workplaces? I mean, regardless of what's happening in individual states, if you're if OCE is requiring that for all workplaces, that would mean all restaurants, all bars, anywhere, anyone works, wouldn't it?
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 all of this and who should be wearing masks and when will change.
And I really look forward to the day that we get to make those decisions because so many people are vaccinated.
The last time that you were here, Dr. Wilonsky, 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, school bus drivers, that 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 that starting this week, March 28th, 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 the 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 at least one dose of a vaccine. I just wanted to ask you if this is alive and active, if you think it is plausible that everybody who works in a school can get at least one dose by the end of March, are you on track to make that happen?
I'm really enthusiastic about this. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has said since before I became and that came into the administration that teachers and educators and child care workers as front frontline workers should be vaccinated in and in one. Be that as with people who are over the age of seventy five, they're now nine thousand 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 thirty six states. We're already doing this before this program. So, yes, I believe this is doable. So newly in states where teachers and school staffers and again, I stress this includes school bus drivers and people who work in the cafeteria, everybody who's a school staff or 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 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?
That's going to be a 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 twenty eight days or twenty two days. But we are we are motivated. We have all hands on deck. We have toolkits to try and ensure that teachers can have access.
We have stakeholders, everybody involved to go full court press to try and make this happen by the end of the month.
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 to improve that so the general public can go to CDC again to get the best data on this pandemic?
Data monetization has been a huge effort with the CDC. This is something we are actively working on. We are relying on data from from all states and territories and tribes to compile all of those data. The infrastructure and data was really thin, is really been pretty frail for the last many years, not just because of not just during covid. And so we are 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 am looking forward to resources from the American rescue plan to help facilitate that. Interesting, are there other things that are going to be newly possible for CDC because of the covid relief bill, because the American rescue plan that haven't been possible until now? Obviously, there's a big chunk of this plan that is out of this bill that is targeted to try to improve the covid response, 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?
There are so many components of that bill from vaccine roll out, vaccine, education, engagement, testing. There are many things that that are components of the American rescue plan that we will deeply rely on in the months and years ahead. I will say the the public health infrastructure of this country has really suffered over the last decade. Fifty six thousand jobs have been lost in public health in the last decade. One hundred and eighty 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 is 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 epidemiologists. And all of that is I'm looking forward to and data monetization, as you noted, all of that I'm looking forward to in the years ahead.
One last question for you, Dr. Wilonsky, for all the progress that we have made, we are still up nearly 60 thousand new infections per day. I was interested to see Dr. Foushee brief today at the White House on a.. Progress and antivirals and experimental antivirals. How close do you think we are to 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 effectively be a cure for people who do get infected, who do get sick?
I think we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we've made extraordinary progress in 14 months with this disease. We have three vaccines that are safe, effective. They've been proven in clinical trials. We have more work to do in therapeutics, new investigative investigational drugs that Dr. Felty 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 to start working on further anti antivirals.
We have them for in patients. We have them at our IV. We need more potent therapies.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of our nation's CDC, Dr. Wollensky, it is really an honor to have you here tonight. Thank you very much for making the time. I know you don't have to do it. And we're really appreciative that you can that you do it when you can. Thank you so much for having me. All right, good luck. Much more to get to here tonight. Stay with us. 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. Walinski, talking about the expectation that guidance will evolve as we come to understand not only the effect of the vaccines, whether or not the vaccines protect us from being able to transmit the virus, in addition to protecting us from getting sick from it. 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. Volesky just told me that the virus, the variants are, quote, increasingly transmissible. They're more transmissible than the original wild coronavirus. Also 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 to roll up your sleeve and get the vaccine. Dr. Wilonsky 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 again or the grandkids or their elderly pals who they've been apart from.
Over the weekend, of course, the Senate also passed the one point nine trillion dollar 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. Wollensky also told me, which was a surprise. I guess I should have known this, but the covid relief bill will also apparently result in the CDC finally having not garbage data on it as well.
Maybe so use the CDC being the gold standard in terms of public health data. Their public facing data on the coronavirus from the very beginning has been garbage. She says that is 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 even know how to deal with that anymore. I don't have the right neurons. Joining us now to help is my dear friend Chris Hayes, the host of All In with Chris Hayes and the best all around our general knowledge focused guy on covid and where we are as a country. You are your better you you read more widely and have more of an interesting take on where we are in covid than anybody else that I know. Chris.
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'm kind of clinging to that because that makes sense to me. But it seems like what's just happened over the past few days, two point nine million doses in a day, one point nine trillion dollar covid relief bill on its way to passing. I can't even process it. Yeah, it is hard to process. I mean, I think just to separate them out on the side, I think you saw in the CDC director how hard it is to message this moment for precisely the reasons that you talked about and that she spoke about in the interview, which is that we really are 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, as she said, the certainly the the best big country right now in vaccinations, the two point nine million a day. If we can get to three rolling average like we're doing a good job. There is real competency on display here in a way we haven't seen. And at the same time, it's spring and people are restless and there's this fall feeling people have and the CDC doesn't want behavior getting out ahead of the virus because we've seen what that does before.
And it's a really, really fraught and difficult moment. But I keep holding on to the fact, like when you run the math, you know, 30 million covered cases, right? Probably the real numbers, like three X, so 90 million. We do two and a half million a day. We're doing 15 million a week. But pretty soon, you know, there's two hundred and thirty million adults in America. Look, pretty soon you just start getting to a point where, like, the math starts to look good for the first time.
The math looking good has not happened yet. The math always looks bad. 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. So, Chris, given that and 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 a difference in terms of immunity and transmission getting into a good positive status?
I mean, if we're going to see big spikes in new transmission as states let up, as individual people get hopeful that we're starting to get towards the end of this, how much can we shoot ourselves in the foot?
Now, a lot, unfortunately. I mean, one thing to think about, right, is that it is always been the case from a fatality perspective, that that massively disproportionate amount of the fatalities have come from seniors and have come from long term care facilities, as you've done better reporting on this than anyone. And so your viewers know this, but it's also the case that those are the places where we are having the highest vaccination rates. So I think 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 a way that we wouldn't see the kind of death spikes.
That said, I'm not a public health expert. I don't run the CDC, I'm not a messaging expert. But the one thing I keep thinking about is the outside. Inside distinction still has not sunk into people. And when you think about spraying and you think about spring break, you think about people don't like don't if you're going to if you're a college student, you're listening right now and you're 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 is an enormous difference between ventilated, non ventilated spaces between outdoors and indoors.
And if there's one thing I hope that we could hammer home to people in this spring period as the country warms up, particularly parts of the country are getting quite warm and quite beautiful and lovely out is take it outside, take it outside. Take it outside. Mm hmm. Chris, on the code relief bill, we keep saying one point nine trillion, one point nine trillion, that's the title of it. Like that's some like moniker to understand how 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 staff who writes about Maddow Block are the two people who I go to first in terms of assessing particularly Democratic policy and its impact. And Steve, like, hasn't stopped kvelling since Saturday. Like, I can't even understand him. He's basically ululating instead of talking all the time now because of what a big deal he thinks this bill is. Are you also on the sort of maximum side window here in terms of how excited you are?
I am. I mean, I think it's I mean, look, the largest Democratic legislative domestic policy bill of our of our life is the ACA because of the sort of the way it restructured markets, the fact that it's survived all these attempts at repeal. But in terms of like direct aid to Americans, expansion of the welfare state in this very direct way through 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 that you see Steve so excited and Paul Krugman was just on my show is that it feels like we drove a stake through a certain kind of anti welfare austerity politics that was incredibly powerful for four to five decades 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 are under utilizing our resources.
And in some ways, it's both the details of this bill, the fact it's going to cut child poverty in half, the fact that adult dependents will be able to get checks, which is massively helpful for people. There's no help for pension funds that we're going to be in trouble. State and local vaccination, all that stuff. But the the kind of marking of an era of transition to the politics of government support and investment to me is as significant as anything that I've seen in the time of our politics.
Government actually being expected to help and doing so in a way that is meaningful and targeted to the people who most need the help and get the help getting there in a timely way. Exactly. And the fact that they didn't they had no messaging. I mean, the idea that there was a period of time where they say, what, you just send people for checks or that what are you going to do?
And that would have worked as an argument like those those people earn those checks like that. Politics have been blown out of the water. They they've got to tell you that joka Tsarnaev is going to get a check is like he's like the Tom Cotton argument against this. You know, that that's how desperate they are to fight an argument against this. That's right, and not noting, of course, that prisoners also received support from the last Trump Trump era relief bills that 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.
Great pleasure. Thanks. All right. Much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. In Selma, Alabama, yesterday, people gathered for the fifty sixth commemoration of Bloody Sunday, the day in nineteen sixty five, when hundreds of civil rights protesters on a voting rights march were beaten by Alabama state troopers while they were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Civil and voting rights groups across the country solemnly commemorated that anniversary for the first time in fifty six years without Congressman John Lewis not in the lead.
Congressman Lewis passed away within the past year as the commemoration was underway. Yesterday, Republican lawmakers in Georgia state John Lewis, represented in Congress, 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 bill's target, everything. They restrict early voting and voting on Election Day and voting by mail. Any way you want to vote, they've got a way to take it away from you or make it harder.
One of their new plans, for example, limits weekend voting in advance of an election which, of course, disproportionately affects black churches, which traditionally holds souls to the polls events for voting on Sundays in advance of an election. They also want to ban volunteers from handing out food and water when voters are stuck in very long lines on Election Day. Yeah, because, heaven forbid, people have food and water while they stand on line for hours. 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 statehouse. Businesses are increasingly starting to speak out about what's happening in Georgia with this massive rollback of voter rights and a collection of black artists and athletes from around the country released this ad during the NBA All-Star Game this weekend targeting Georgia residents.
The voice you will hear in this is NBA legend LeBron James. Look what we did. Look, what we made happen with our voices made possible and now look what they're trying to do, the scientist who's in every trick in the book, an attack on democracy itself because 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 Coalson hashtags and black squares is enough, because for us this was never about one election.
It's always been more than a vote. It's a fight. It's just getting started. And we've been with us. 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. Dunlop, thank you very much for making time to be here.
Thank you for inviting me, Rachel. 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? That's that's the million dollar question, so today was crossover day and it was the last chance for bills from one chamber to pass over to the other. What we saw today in the Senate was the sweeping bill that would eliminate the no excuse valid law, this bit of places.
Twenty five in last year, one point three million Georgians use that to vote and that moves over to the House. Whether that will gain any traction will kind of depend the House leaders. House Speaker David Ralston was also a Republican, has spoken out against that. And we've also seen that the sweeping bill that's moving through the House and that was over to the Senate, it includes some restrictions, but it does not go as far as eliminating no excuse absentee law.
And so it'll be interesting to see how this plays out once it gets into the House committees pretty soon. Should we read anything into that somewhat dramatic decision today when the lieutenant governor basically handed off the gavel and said that he wouldn't preside over passing this legislation, in particular to to rescind absentee voting access, should we read anything into that? Or was that a was that a personal more than political matter? No, no, I think this is something a lieutenant governor Duncan has been one of the first Republicans who spoke out against the widespread false claims shortly after the election and said it's time to move past that, that it's been a secure election and they call for some changes that have been had, some controversy, some Democrats as far as an absentee ID requirement that would kind of replace the signature verification.
I don't think that was a political game necessarily from Tom. And I think this is something he's pretty well spoken out against. And it was kind of a show that I'm not going to be here. You kind of have my name too attached to this bill if it gets through. Hmm, 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 and starting to make this a point of national discussion, trying to align themselves with the forces that are fighting against these voter voter rights rollbacks.
Is that having any effect or how do you expect that to evolve as this all comes to a head? Yeah, I think any time you have business communities, sometimes people will, you know, call out celebrities for trying to push their weight around to have influence. But that's definitely we saw major dollars that will help help improve voter registration, helped get people out there encouraging them to vote. And so I do think it does have significance. And we saw the L.A. Chamber put out a statement today that said repealing those key voting does little to make the process more secure and does so at great risk to participation.
And so I think when you have the Georgia Chamber, the Atlanta Chamber Chamber, big time companies, celebrities, all of that weighing in, people who have influence and could make political donations and kind of wield great power. I do think they can have an impact on online. Stanley Dunlop, reporter for The Georgia Recorder, it's a real pleasure to have you here tonight, Mr. Dunn. Thank you so much. Thank you. All right, we'll be right back.
Stay with us. State prosecutors in the state of Georgia, the office of the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney announced last month that 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 the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local governmental bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office, and any involvement in violence or threats related to the elections. Administration racketeering. Did you say of all those potential crimes, the prosecutor said she was investigating when it comes to former President Trump for 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 state prosecutor in Georgia really thinking about prosecuting him like a mob boss? Well, now that prosecutor has hired a racketeering expert to help with this case. Reuters was first to report in the DA's office has now confirmed that Fulton County 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.
Roder sums 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 while 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 racketeering 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.
And we'll also tell you that we're going to have much more on this tomorrow night with a former Georgia D.A. who knows both Fannie 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. That is going to do it for us for 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 have twice had the CDC director on this show and once had Anthony Fauci here. We're hoping to have Dr. Fauci back with us soon. What a difference a president makes. All right.
We'll see you again tomorrow on The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC.