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wartime President TRANSCRIPT: 3/18/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Ian Bremmer, Amy Lee Pacholk, James Lewis, Walter Isaacson



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: I want to show you again tonight, usually known 

as the crossroads of the world, Times Square in New York. Tonight desolate 

again. Very few pedestrians, very few cars, at the height of the 

coronavirus scare.


Well, good evening once again. Day 1,154 of the Trump administration, 230 

days until the presidential election. And it`s been one week since the 

World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The number 

of confirmed cases in our country is going up fast. Tonight it reaches over 

8,600 people. Note it has been nearly two months since the first case was 

diagnosed in this country as you see 140 total fatalities.


As the nation grapples with increasing shutdowns, the President has now 

adopted a new stance when it comes to positioning his effort to fight this 





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you consider America to be on a wartime footing in 

terms of fighting this virus?


DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT:  I look at it, I view it as a -- 

in a sense a wartime president.




WILLIAMS: While he may view himself and wish to be viewed as a wartime 

president now, the problem with that is the lengths that he has gone to 

diminish the virus, the danger, and the approaching pandemic.




TRUMP: We`re finding very little problem, very little problem. Now, you 

treat this like a flu.


It`s going to disappear one day. It`s like a miracle, it will disappear.


The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus.


This is their new hoax.


Anybody that needs a test, it`s a we -- they`re there, they have the tests. 

The tests are all perfect. Like the letter was perfect. The transcription 

was perfect.


It will go away. Just stay calm.




WILLIAMS: Today Trump invoked the Korean War-Era Defense Production Act, 

which allows him to order businesses to make ventilators and masks for 

health care workers as well as other critically needed medical supplies.




TRUMP: We`ve ordered millions of them. But we need millions more. A thing 

like this has never been requested, and it`s never -- we never had to even 

think in terms of these numbers. But we need millions of masks. And all of 

that will be ordered. We need respirators. We need ventilators is a big 

thing because it`s a complex piece of equipment. So we have a lot of 

ventilators but we`re going to be ordering more. Nobody ever saw numbers 

like this. Even with regard to testing. Now we`re getting highly 

sophisticated tests and it`s going very well but nobody`s ever heard of 

testing in the kind of quantities that you`re talking about.




WILLIAMS: The President said today this snuck up on us. While the President 

also announced the government is taking further steps to expand testing 

capacity, it`s still impossible for many Americans to get tested. Even 

those who are violently symptomatic. It remains true that your ability to 

get tested right now in this country depends on where you live, who you 

are, and how much money you make.


In news to our north, we`ve now closed our border with Canada to stop non-

essential traffic back and forth. As you can guess, asylum seekers and 

other foreigners attempting to enter illegally from Mexico are being turned 

back. This comes as a new internal report from the Department of Health and 

Human Services, first reported on by the "New York Times," suggests a 

sobering time frame for recovery, saying the pandemic "will last 18 months 

or longer and could include multiple waves of illness."


Late today U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Ben McAdams of 

Utah became the first two members of Congress to announce they have 

contracted the coronavirus. As the number of cases has increased, there`s 

new information about the types of patients being affected by this.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are concerning reports coming out of France and 

Italy about some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill 

in the ICUs. It may have been that the millennial generation, our largest 

generation, our future generation that will carry us through for the next 

multiple decades, there may be disproportional number of infections among 

that group, and so even if it`s a rare occurrence it may be seen more 

frequently in that group and be evident now. So we`re looking at that 

information very carefully. We have not seen any significant mortality in 

the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of 

Italy and France.




WILLIAMS: This was another tough day for Wall Street as the Dow dropped 

below 20,000 points for the first time since February 2017. It has now 

wiped out all of the gains made during the Trump presidency.


Trading briefly came to a halt again today. Earlier on CNBC today long-time 

hedge fund manager Bill Ackman urged the President to shut down the country 

and the markets for a month to contain the coronavirus and rescue the U.S. 






asking the American people to do? He`s not saying, you know, -- he`s not 

saying to storm the beaches at Normandy, right? He`s saying go home. Go 

home. Spend a month with your family. OK? And I know for some families 

that`s a hardship. OK? But it`s nothing. Go home. Take a deep breath, you 

know, spend time with loved ones. Take care of your children which is 

scaring the American people and corporate America is the gradual rollout, 

OK, of what`s going on. We need to shut it down now.




WILLIAMS: That is exactly what the big three automakers did today. GM Ford, 

Fiat, Chrysler temporarily shutting down their factories in the U.S., in 

Mexico and in Canada until at least march 30. An unprecedented move that 

will affect hundreds of thousands of factory employees.


Tonight Trump signed the emergency coronavirus aid bill just hours after it 

was passed by the Senate. This legislation provides free coronavirus 

testing if you can find it. It ensures paid emergency leave as well as 

additional Medicaid funding and unemployment benefits.


Senate Republicans are now working on a $1 trillion spending proposal that 

the White House said would include 500 billion in direct payments to 

Americans. Trump also says he plans to make another announcement about his 

administration`s effort to stop the spread of this virus. Here`s what he 

said during a meeting with the heads of nursing organizations.




TRUMP: The FDA will be -- they`ve been working very, very hard. And I 

appreciate what they`re doing. And I think we have some very interesting 

things that will be brought up tomorrow at the news conference.




WILLIAMS: One more note about the availability of tests. As we mentioned, 

they are still extremely difficult to get. NBC News White House 

Correspondent Peter Alexander today asked Trump why that wasn`t the case 

for some folks.





symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in 

line and can`t get them? Do the well-connected go to the front of the line?


TRUMP: You`d have -- you have to ask them that question. I mean they -- 

I`ve read - 


ALEXANDER: Should that happen?


TRUMP: No, I wouldn`t say so. But perhaps that`s been the story of life. 

That does happen on occasion. And I`ve noticed where some people have been 

tested fairly quickly.




WILLIAMS: Well, on that note here for our lead-off discussion on a 

Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning White House Bureau 

Chief for the Washington Post, also happens to be the co-author with his 

colleague Carol Leonnig of the best-selling book "A Very Stable Genius." 

Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR 

News Station. And Ian Bremmer is back with us, the Founder and President of 

the Eurasia Group. His expertise in global affairs with a particular eye on 

the relationship between political risk and financial markets. He also 

happens to be the host of GZERO World on PBS. Good evening and welcome to 

you all.


Kimberly, I`d like to begin with you. A week ago tonight the NBA season was 

canceled. A week ago today people were wondering, almost a parlor game, 

wonder which celebrity will possibly come down with coronavirus. The virus 

was impressed us all when it started at the top of the chain when we 

learned Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were in quarantine in Australia, that is 

to say, a week has passed. Should Congress have passed what they did 




working as fast as humanly possible. The one thing that this variety and 

the fact that people are staying away from each other, social distancing, 

is that Congress -- members of Congress, many members, have opened up 

virtual town halls in Facebook meet-ups. And they have been hearing 

directly from people on the ground, from their constituents, who are 

extremely concerned with everything that is going on because it has touched 

every single American in one form or another, even with just the orders to 

stay away from one another. 


They are concerned about everything from how they`re going to take care of 

loved ones with disabilities or say themselves have a disability. If 

they`re working part-time jobs. What happens to people in the gig economy? 

Will the recovery package address them? People who are taking care of 

elders or taking care of children. There are a host of issues that 

Americans are extremely concerned about. And yeah, I`m sure seeing people 

like Tom Hanks who have means and who where in -- he and his wife were able 

to get their testing because they were in Australia, by the way. When I`m 

hearing from folks like, you know, my mom`s own doctor who says she doesn`t 

have the equipment and supplies she needs to treat people and she is 

telling people who she would normally have to treat to stay home. It is a 

very concerning time, and people are looking to Congress to act and act 



WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, the Senate Majority Leader having given the Senate a 

long weekend off, yesterday because it`s always about the inside game told 

his members if they had to gag go ahead but vote for the package of 

legislation. It came out of the Senate ultimately today, but according to 

your reporting today what`s the health of partisanship? Is it alive and 

well in Washington still?



never died in Washington, Brian, except for a few days around September 

11th, 2001. But there`s a really interesting political story under way here 

with the economic response to the coronavirus. And that has to do with the 

$1 trillion rescue package that the Trump administration has put together. 

That includes bailouts for a number of industries including the airline 

industry. And let`s think back to 2008 when Congress passed those bailouts 

for the big banks. That became a lightning rod issue for activists on both 

the right and the left. It began the tea party movement that swept 

Republicans into power in 2010.


Many of the very same senators and house members who are coming out in 

support of the current package because it`s proposed by President Trump 

were actually elected because they opposed those sorts of bailouts and they 

preached fiscal austerity. So there`s been a real sea change here because 

of the coronavirus and because of the President`s determination to spend a 

big dollar figure to try to rescue this economy without much regard for the 

federal debt.


WILLIAMS: Ian, I know you`re with us via Skype. I know there`s always a bit 

of a built-in delay but I want to play for you an exchange at the White 

House briefing today. We`ll talk about it on the other side.





this the Chinese virus? There are reports of dozens of incidents of bias 

against Chinese Americans in this country. Why do you keep using this? A 

lot of people say it`s a racist.


TRUMP: Because it comes from China. It`s not racist at all, no, not at all.



White House used the word Kung flu.


TRUMP: Just a term. Kung flu.


ALCINDOR: My question is, do you think that`s wrong. Kung flu. Do you think 

using the term Chinese virus that put Asian-Americans at risk? The people 

might target back.


TRUMP: No, not at all. I think they probably would agree with it 100%. It 

comes from China.




WILLIAMS: Ian, what are we doing here?



hasn`t referred to this as the Chinese flu until about two days ago. It 

links up with his policies in response to coronavirus implode imploding and 

the markets imploding in the United States, and it made it harder for him 

to blame Obama, blame Biden. He needs someone to blame. And China`s the 

proximate country.


And the problem with that of course is -- I mean, yes, it did indeed come 

from China originally, and furthermore the Chinese did indeed covered it up 

for the first month. So they are responsible. But on top of this massive 

market meltdown and economic shutdown we`re seeing in the United States 

right now, picking a fight with the Chinese, who feel vastly more confident 

today coming out of this crisis, than they did after 2008 is going to cause 

more economic damage.


And while it`s politically expedient for Trump to do so in an electoral 

cycle, the likelihood that we end up in an economic fight with the Chinese 

where we pull out of the phase 1 trade deal, they`re not buying the goods 

they promised to buy, and the Chinese are making gains in places like 

Europe, the Middle East where they`re actually providing humanitarian 

medical aid, supplies, personnel, and the Americans are actually 

undermining the relations with those countries, the potential that we end 

up coming out of this coronavirus crisis and a cold war with the Chinese is 

becoming real. That`s additional shock right now that you really don`t want 

as we face by far the worst economic crisis we`ve had in a long time.


WILLIAMS: Kim, I don`t need to tell you they`re using the big boy briefing 

room at the White House now after it was idle for a year. That creates an 

even louder daily megaphone for the White House briefing, especially when 

the President is part of it. Is the West Wing staff still convinced he is 

their best spokesperson?


ATKINS: Well, he is convinced of that. And we`ve seen a lot of iterations 

since the coronavirus became a massive crisis. First it was the creation of 

that task force. And then Mike Pence was put out front. And he was the face 

of it, giving the daily briefings and leading them for a couple of days 

before the President came back and took control of the message.


You can certainly tell in the White House that they feel the increased 

sense of urgency and they are responding as such. The President is still 

being the president. And as Ian said, doing things like blaming others, 

like blaming China but at the same time there`s a real understanding that 

this is something massive, it is a bigger economic crisis, potentially 

bigger economic crisis than we saw in 2008 and that the White House needs 

to act both for -- because it`s the White House and it`s the head of the 

executive. But also politically it`s an election year and that`s certainly 

something on the President`s mind and he does not want to be seen as the 

person who is at fault if the response is not enough.


WILLIAMS: Hey, Phil, Ashley Parker, your colleague, et al. at your 

newspaper tonight giving us this headline. "Kushner coronavirus team sparks 

confusion, plaudits inside White House response efforts." In plain English 

what is Jared Kushner up to now?


RUCKER: Brian, this is one of the most interesting stories of the week I 

think because we see this task force at the briefings every day. It`s led 

by Vice President Pence. But there`s actually a second task force operating 

behind the scenes at the White House. It is led by Jared Kushner, the 

senior adviser and presidential son-in-law. He has corralled a number of 

his loyal associates and allies within the federal government as well as 

brought in private sector leaders, people from FedEx, UPS, and other 

companies who are effectively working in an all hands on deck operation 

inside the White House to try to get control of the testing situation and 

try to manage this response. So while there`s a public-facing task force 

that the Vice President leads, a separate power center is very much emerged 

in recent days led by Kushner, and it`s created a great deal of confusion 

inside the government because people are getting orders from both sides. 

They`re not really sure who`s in charge. 


WILLIAMS: Ian, on top of all of it I want to play you this. Here is our 

Secretary of State on Fox News.




MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The Chinese government knew about this 

risk, had identified it. They were the first to know, and they wasted 

valuable days at the front end, allowing hundreds of thousands of people to 

leave Wuhan, to go to places like Italy, that`s now suffering so badly. 

They tried to suppress this information. You talked about the means by 

which they did it. Instead of trying to actually do the work to suppress 

the virus.




WILLIAMS: Ian, this speaks directly to what you were saying earlier. The 

need to blame. The need to attribute troubles to another source.


BREMMER: It`s true. I mean, look, it is the fact that China is almost 20% 

of the world`s economy right now. It was about 4% when SARS hit. All of the 

major American companies are massively interlinked in terms of China`s 

supply chain. And so as a consequence when you end up with more significant 

risks that come out of China we`re going to be affected in a much more 

dramatic way.


Let`s be very clear here. The mistakes made by China early, and they were 

intentional, by the Chinese government are unconscionable. They need to be 

redressed. And we`re going to get hurt. The Iranians that was absolutely a 

response of the Chinese not being able to deal with this crisis and 

refusing to. The Europeans as well. But we still have to take 

responsibility for our own response. And the fact that Jack Ma, the 

wealthiest man in China, is offering the United States 500,000 test kits 

and we aren`t able to produce them for ourselves.


Yes, we lost a month because China covered it up but we lost two months 

after that because the Trump administration was asleep at the switch and 

President Trump was spinning fantasies for the average American saying this 

wasn`t a problem. It was like a miracle, it would go away. Also 

unconscionable. There is plenty of blame here to go around, Brian. And 

ultimately the Americans do have to -- if you want to put America first, we 

should also be blaming our own leadership first. That`s really the kind of 

America first we need to see. We have to see leadership in our country to 

take care of our own people. And I see a lot of passing of the buck right 

now. I don`t see a lot of it stopping with the White House.


WILLIAMS: By the way, let`s take a half million test kits if offered. Ian 

Bremmer, Philip Rucker, Kimberly Atkins. Our thanks for starting us off 



And coming up, they`re about to close down the floor of the NYSE. Trading 

will go on, but that`s about the only positive news out of there these 

days. Stephanie Ruhle with us tonight to talk about the financial damage.


And later, the hardships being faced by the medical professionals on the 

front line of this pandemic with the job of protecting all of us as THE 

11TH HOUR just getting under way on this Wednesday night.




WILLIAMS: The stress people are under evident all day long on CNBC in 

particular as they watch the financial damage pile up. The stress was 

audible during an interview with Bill Ackman. He`s a well-known, well-

regarded hedge fund CEO in New York. He is currently self-quarantined to 

protect his elderly father. And as you`ll hear, he is not bullish on our 

near future.





a number of our companies, OK, and told them my concerns. OK? Companies 

we`re closest to. And to not stop the buyback programs, to husband 

resources, to pull down, draw down their credit lines because hell is 

coming. OK. And I felt -- is really, I`ve never had this experience before 

in my life, the closest I had was the financial crisis where I`m saying, 

you know, things are coming, bad stuff`s coming. But this was a feeling 

like I`ve never had, like there`s a tsunami coming, right? The tsunami`s 

coming, and you feel it in the air, right? The tide starts to roll out. OK?


And on the beach people are playing and having fun like there`s nothing 

going on. And that is the feeling I`ve had for the last two months. It`s 

spring break now. A lot of people were going to take these two weeks off 

anyway. So extend it for a month. A month at home. OK? How hard is that? 

Compare that to going to war, right? Compare that to getting on one of 

those boats and storming the beach. It`s nothing. It`s not a sacrifice. OK? 

It`s easy. It`s simple.




WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight is our friend Stephanie Ruhle, Senior 

Business Correspondent for NBC News, a veteran herself of the invest 

banking and business world, the host of the 9:00 a.m. hour on this network.


Stephanie, tell us about Mr. Ackman and what did you make of that very 

emotional warning for what we all may be in for?



Ackman pretty well. While much of what he said is shared by a lot of 

business leaders. Tonight for example Rich Handler, who is the chairman and 

CEO of Jefferies wrote a very thoughtful letter that could be a template 

for what the administration could do, sort of detailing that businesses 

small and large are really going to suffer here. In the financial crisis 

the issue were banks and the government came in and assured they were 

solvent and made sure the rest of the system could work.


Now what we have is a business crisis and what we need to do to address the 

health emergency is stop business. Many business leaders, whether it be Mr. 

Handler, whether it be Mr. Ackman have said maybe we need to shut down 

temporarily and really attack this.


Because the thing is, Brian, businesses cannot survive. Most businesses 

like individuals who live on credit cards, businesses live on leverage. And 

across most industries they cannot survive something like this if it`s a 

slow bleed. So many business leaders are urging the administration to do 

something more severe.


Rich Handler has suggested not just doing a bailout but saying let`s 

actually create loans for these companies and instead of writing a check to 

every American, put the money through these companies to their employees 

and that will assure they will keep their jobs because three months from 

now if all you`re doing is paying the American people cash they will not 

have any companies to go back to. So there are a lot of thoughtful 

solutions here. But I have to tell you what Bill Ackman did today on 

television was so wildly irresponsible.


I get it. Bill Ackman wants to go down in the history books that he called 

this. Bill Ackman has chosen to be in documentaries about some of his best 

trades and put on this grand extraordinary show. But in putting on that 

grand show while he was getting choked up talking about his father he 

caused the markets to puke and he caused the circuit breakers to trigger. 

So it`s taking advantage of the fact that cable news puts him on 

television, really hard-working cable news reporters who are trying to get 

smart business leaders on TV to explain the real picture, maybe to urge the 

White House to make really good choices, but make no mistake. Bill Ackman 

could call the White House any day of the week. I assure you. Jared Kushner 

would love to take his call.


But what has so many people wondering tonight, why Bill Ackman, who maybe 

has the right idea or very good intentions would put on such a ridiculous 

show and cause such damage to an already panicked market. That`s what`s 



WILLIAMS: Because and I are Jersey kids I want to read you this. Also as an 

example of the kind of tragedy you and I are going to start covering here 

real soon. This is a "New York Times" headline. March 18th. "Coronavirus 

Ravages 7 Members of a Single Family, Killing 3." This happened in the 

county seat of the county I grew up at the Jersey shore in Freehold, New 

Jersey. When Bruce Springsteen sings about his hometown, that`s his 

hometown. And this is sadly, Stephanie, emblematic of the real genuine non-

NYSE related human suffering we`re going to see.


RUHLE: Brian, that mother who died didn`t even know two of her children had 

died before her. And to think we saw that today where we did see those 

pictures of people partying on in Miami. Bill Ackman is not wrong. These 

are very serious times. We just have to address them with the most 

thoughtful, thoughtful measures.


WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle with us in New York again tonight. We`re going to 

be calling on you often, I just know it. Thank you very much for always 

answering the bell.


RUHLE: Thank you.


WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, a man who once wore four stars on each shoulder 

is with us tonight to remind us about the awesome power of the U.S. 

military, which has so far gone largely untapped in this.




WILLIAMS: The President said today two massive U.S. Navy hospital ships are 

being deployed to battle the coronavirus in the next week or so. But here`s 

the problem. Even that statement may not stand up to scrutiny. The ships 

are the Comfort and the Mercy. The Comfort`s going to pull into New York. 

The Mercy`s going to the West Coast. The problem is NBC News reporting the 

Comfort is undergoing maintenance on the east coast right now. No medical 

personnel are on board.


A Pentagon spokesman told "The New York Times" it could be weeks before 

it`s deployed. Out west the Mercy is also undergoing maintenance on the 

west coast. No word yet on its destination or schedule. Both vessels, 

though, are a tiny fraction of the band width, the expertise, the muscle 

that the U.S. military could provide in this crisis if they are tasked to 

do so.


Back with us again tonight, Retired U.S. Army Four-Star General Barry 

McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield 

commander in the Persian Gulf. He has moved entire armies all around the 

world. General, tell us what DOD could bring to this fight. A civilian 

audience may not know their lift capacity and sheer power on the ground.



encouraged today to listen to Secretary Mark Esper, the Secretary of 

Defense, telling us essentially they got their marching orders yesterday. 

I`m sure in the background, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the JCS 

and the services have been actively getting ready to move when they get the 



At the end of the day we`ve got 2.1 million men and women in the Armed 

Forces, Active Guard Reserve. The Guard Reserve in particular are the 

preponderance or logistics, our transportation, medevac, military police, 

air police for security. They all have a role to play.


The actual delivery of health care services, the American in this crisis is 

going to be primarily civilian. But what the military can do is they can 

come in and help run operations centers, provide the security for the 

hospital. The biggest asset the Department of Defense has is command and 

control and contracting.


So rather than working through FEMA and HHS, it seemed to me the Secretary 

of Defense probably ought to be the primary officer of government to deal 

through the nation`s governors, county executives, and mayors to give them 

the assets that they need to try and get their way through this absolutely 

horrible disaster that`s awaiting us if we don`t act quickly. But they need 

to mobilize. They need to get their orders now. They need to sort out on 

the ground where the hot spots, where are they supposed to move to.


WILLIAMS: While we`re talking about my home county on the Jersey Shore, 

Monmouth County, we have Fort Monmouth. Just like all the other military 

bases that were made idle as they contracted, it`s a huge campus. It is 

just sitting out there, not being used for much. What about the corps of 

engineers, General? It`s New York`s Governor Cuomo who keeps saying send 

them here, we need their building skills, we need to take over otherwise 

unoccupied buildings.


MCCAFFREY: No question. Look, the corps of engineers` principal advantage 

is they know how to do contracting and supervise projects, project 

management. So they can do this through construction industry in the local 



I would be, you know, very cautious about thinking about military 

hospitals, field-prepared, blow-up structures instead of moving into either 

military bases, which are all over the country, but more likely hotels and 

schools near existing medical civilian facility. So I think what we need to 

do in the Department of Defense is provide support to the civilian 

structure again through the governors, the county executives, and the 

mayors. You`re not going to be able to run this out of Washington, D.C. for 



WILLIAMS: Final question is a personal one. How`s your community doing out 

there in Seattle? How are you and your family holding up?


MCCAFFREY: Pretty good. We ended up at the epicenter of this thing. There`s 

about 1,100 cases now that we know of. Undoubtedly there`s several thousand 

more. The local political leadership, the governor is very straightforward.


They seem to know what they`re doing. They`ve a large extent closed down 

the city. It was eerie coming in here. It reminded me after 9/11 coming to 

30 Rock. So I think they`re focused on it.


But again, we need resources, assets, and the budget is probably the major 

thing. Those hospital ships, by the way, remember we sent one of them to 

Puerto Rico. And it saw some tiny number of patients because of 

bureaucratic problems. So we need emergency authority to spend money and 

provide contracts to civilian business to get behind this mass effort.


WILLIAMS: I hope everybody in the Pentagon with stars on their shoulders 

are listening. General Barry McCaffrey, always a pleasure. Thank you. Best 

of luck out there.




WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, they are the front lines in this fight. The 

medical professionals who are begging and pleading for more of that 

protective gear.




WILLIAMS: First responders all know the three letters PPE. Health care 

workers on the front lines are battling this contagious virus, and they 

desperately need PPE, personal protective equipment. It means gowns, 

gloves, goggles, face shields, hand sanitizer, masks. Medical professionals 

across the country are taking to social media themselves to warn the rest 

of us, their potential customers after all, about these shortages.


Bloomberg reporting hospital workers in Washington State have resorted to 

making face masks with office supplies because they don`t have enough. 

Right now the CDC`s website is suggesting health care workers could, "use 

homemade masks like a bandanna or scarf for care of patients as a last 

resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE since their capacity 

to protect the workers is unknown."


Here to talk about it with us tonight, Amy Lee Pacholk, a nurse At Stony 

Brook University Hospital in New York, and on the telephone James Lewis, a 

Respiratory Therapist, also with Stony Brook University Hospital. Amy, to 

you first. Tell us what it`s like for you on the front lines so our 

audience can, if they possibly are able, help in the fight.



seeing right now is a rise in patients coming in with COVID-19, varying 

symptoms. Some are just coughing and being able to be put on the cores. 

Some are being intubated and being in critical care areas. I work in a 

critical care area.


My institution is like a lot of institutions in the sense that, we, the 

practitioners, have a lot of fear and insecurity about this situation 

because our institutions and the government have not provided us with the 

appropriate equipment to properly protect ourselves to care for these 

patients. So what will happen eventually and what is starting to happen now 

is that the health care professionals are getting sick and we haven`t even 

seen the height of this pandemic.


WILLIAMS: James, are you getting tested? And isn`t a test a snapshot in 

time? So you may test negative for that day, you may be exposed the next?



telephone): No, sir. We haven`t been tested. And as far as I know, there 

isn`t any conversation of us being tested. We`re just monitoring symptoms 

and taking temperatures daily.


WILLIAMS: When you reach for equipment, when you reach in a drawer for a 

mask, when you reach in a drawer for a face shield, is it there?


LEWIS (via telephone): Face shields and masks, no. They`re typically held 

by the administrators because unfortunately they`re a hot commodity right 

now. People are stealing them. You know, visitors steal them or anyone will 

steal them. We even had somebody run into an E.R. and grab a box of masks 

and run out. So, unfortunately, they have to be doled out on a case-by-case 

basis, which can be frustrating. But I guess it`s only going to get worse 

from here on out.


WILLIAMS: Hey, Amy, we`ve got Washington, D.C. full of members of the House 

and Senate telling us what you need. If you had a chance to tell them what 

you need, what would it be?


PACHOLK: We need N95 masks, we need Moldex masks. We need face shields to 

cover our face. We need appropriate gowns and gloves to protect us. We need 

specific things to protect our hair. The disease is airborne. And it is 

very contagious.


So if we don`t have the appropriate equipment then we become vectors. And 

we can spread the disease to our patients. We can bring the disease home to 

our families, to our friends. And that would be incredibly horrible to do, 

seeing that we should have the tools and the instruments we need to protect 

ourselves and it`s just not possible at this time. 


WILLIAMS: James, do you go home to other people at the end of the day? Are 

you protecting yourself in terms of exposure, James, from friends and 

family after work?


LEWIS (via telephone): Yes. My wife and I we`re both respiratory 

therapists. And actually we just started tonight. I come home and I throw 

my clothes on the floor in the garage and I take a shower in the basement 

before I come up and we wash the clothes. So hopefully we`re not bringing 

things in. But then of course we`re not going out into the public or seeing 

any of our loved ones, who are keeping it in the house, so.


WILLIAMS: Well as I said, we`re all potential -- 


LEWIS (via telephone): -- every American does.


WILLIAMS: Yes. I know, I get it. As I said, we`re all potential customers 

of yours and not in a good way. On behalf of a grateful nation and people 

everywhere, thanks to our medical professionals, thanks for both of you for 

joining us.


Coming up for us tonight, the search for good to come out of this mess. 

When we come back.




WILLIAMS: There is some encouraging news out of Italy, and every night 

we`re going to give it a try and try to find some good news. The BBC is 

reporting a 3D printing company in Italy has designed and printed 100 

respirator valves after a hospital there ran out of them. They cost about a 

dollar each. The prototype took about three hours to design.


According to an article in "Forbes," the coronavirus crisis may have an 

upside. And we quote. "While the grave and tragic human toll of lost lives 

cannot be measured, there is a silver lining. If the history of pandemics 

is a guide, this contagion like all others, will spark a wave of 

innovation, proportional to how it alters the shape of society."


We are so pleased to have our friend back with us tonight, Walter Isaacson, 

distinguished fellow with the Aspen Institute, former editor of "TIME" 

magazine, veteran journalist and author, biographer of, in no particular 

order Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger, Jobs, and da Vinci. In his spare time, 

he`s a professor of history at the Jewel of New Orleans, Tulane University. 

Walter, thank you very much for coming on. I guess I want to know from you 

what do you think we are at the beginning of right now and how is your 

betting on America as you know it to get through what you think is coming?



America will get through it. It`s the most innovative country in history. 

And as you said, sometimes tragedies like this have to spark innovation. I 

think we`ll have new ways of doing supply chains. We`ll have printing on 

demand. The whole notion of a global supply chain will probably break down 

a bit but we`ll have more local manufacturing.


But most importantly, I think it will be a century of biotechnology. I 

think people watching this who are young today will say all right, the past 

half century, the last part of the 20th century, was an info technology 

revolution. This is going to be a biology revolution, a biotech revolution, 

and it`s going to come with people understanding viruses, understanding how 

to do genetic editing, understanding new technologies like CRISPR because 

those are going to be so much in demand.


WILLIAMS: Let me run a theory by you. In all the history you`ve studied and 

know about, has there ever been a single individual who will have, even 

though it`s socioeconomic, who will have as big a control over our supply 

chain as Jeff Bezos and Amazon and the role they`re about to play in 

getting stuff to American homes that can afford it?


ISAACSON: Well, yes. I mean, that`s one of the innovations that came after 

the SARS crisis, was a whole lot of online shopping. And I think, you know, 

you`re going to see that now. But there is a hunger that people have to 

actually be together. We thought that online shopping would destroy the 

retail industry just as we thought Walmart might. But people do want to get 

out and get together. So I think once we create vaccines and treatments 

for, this whether it`s in six months or 18 months, I don`t think we`re 

going to just be shopping online.


WILLIAMS: So we can assume that the engine of American industry, science, 

technology, we`re all motivated to work toward a cure toward therapeutics 

for this, we can assume that they`re going to be running hell-bent for 

leather toward that goal.


ISAACSON: Oh, everybody is. I was just in communication with Jennifer 

Dowden, one of the co-inventors of the gene-editing technology CRISPR, and 

they`re holding meetings about how do you find new detection technologies, 

how do you find new ways to fight viruses. You know, bacteria have been 

fighting viruses for 3 billion years, and one of the things that we`ve done 

in biotech recently is take from bacteria some of the ways that they fight 

against viruses. So I think you`re going to see this type of innovation 

just like after World War Ii, where the government, academia, and private 

enterprise all work together to create things like the computer, the 

internet, and the microchip.


WILLIAMS: We try to keep religion out of this kind of thing, but your lips 

to God`s ears. Walter Isaacson, thank you.


ISAACSON: Thank you very much.


WILLIAMS: We`re probably going to ask to talk to you along the way. We 

greatly appreciate being able to interview you tonight.


Coming up for us, a brief tour of our new reality in this business.




WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, is just a quick word about us 

and what we do around here. We are coming to you tonight from what will be 

our temporary headquarters for the duration, for the foreseeable future. 

It`s a satellite studio where I can do the broadcast here alone and be 

outside the city of New York. Most of our staff is at home, producing via 

computer. So we`ve all separated.


The broadcast you watch and are watching now are going to look different if 

they don`t already. You`re going to see more Skype interviews. You`re going 

to hear more telephone interviews. There are going to be longer satellite 

delays. No more in-person guest interviews.


As we try to practice what we preach, as we attempt television in an age of 

social distancing with a big assist thankfully from technology. So, in 

hopes that you are taking care of yourselves and each other. That is for 

now our broadcast for this Wednesday night. Thank you so much for being 

here with us. Good night.





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