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Hospitals scramble TRANSCRIPT: 3/20/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Thomas Frieden, David Leonhardt, Nahid Bhadelia. Russel Honore, Jayde Powell, Mike Pesca

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I`m Ali Velshi. I`m going to see you tomorrow  morning as usual from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC. But in this  extraordinary times, as Richard says, I will also see you at 8:00 to 10:00  p.m. tomorrow night. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams begins now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. As we look at a barren  and empty Times Square in New York City, this was day 1,156 of the Trump  administration. 228 days until the presidential election. It`s been nine  days since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a  pandemic.

And while there is no joy in saying this whatsoever, despite the numbers  you are hearing each day from the White House briefing room, the cavalry is  not going to make it in time to save some people. In fact, for some, the  cavalry is not coming at all. It`s happening too quickly. We lost too much  time.

That`s why the advice from doctors is when around other people, act like  you have the virus. Act as a sick person would. And if we all do, we can  all manage to keep our distance. Then, weirdly, it`s distance that will  keep us together and alive when we reach the other end of this. And we end  this incredibly difficult week in our country. We are now at 18,000 cases,  give or take, about four times the number of cases when we started this  week. And who among us didn`t expect to read some version of this?

We`re now learning from "The Washington Post" that U.S. intelligence  agencies were issuing ominous classified warnings in January and February  about the global danger from coronavirus while President Trump and  lawmakers played down the threat and took no action to slow its spread.

Also tonight, a staff member in the Vice President`s office has tested  positive. First known positive test for the virus among White House  personnel in the west wing. Pence`s office says this individual had no  close contact with the V.P. or the President. This news comes as more  states are taking drastic measures to try to contain this virus.

When we were on the air last night, we talked about California`s Governor,  Gavin Newsom, ordering all residents to effectively stay in their homes.  Today the governors of Connecticut, Illinois, and New York followed suit  with similar mandates.


GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): I don`t come to this decision easily. I fully  recognize that in some cases, I am choosing between saving people`s lives  and saving people`s livelihoods. But ultimately, you can`t have a  livelihood if you don`t have your life.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We`re going to close the valve, all right?  Because the rate of increase in the number of cases portends a total  overwhelming of our hospital system. We need everyone to be safe.  Otherwise, no one can be safe.


WILLIAMS: And think about this. New York State now has the most cases in  the U.S., over 7,800. Just tonight, the President responding to a request  from both New York senators, approved a disaster declaration for the state  which will allow it to receive federal assistance. But, yes, for headline  purposes, this now makes New York a federal disaster area.

Europe has become the global epicenter for the outbreak as of right now. In  Italy, just today, the death toll rose by 627. That`s the highest in a  single day. While U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a new  nationwide lockdown telling cafes and pubs and bars and restaurants to  close.

President Trump today officially suspended most nonessential traffic across  the U.S./Mexico border as threatened. Trump also insisted he`s using his  authority under the defense production act to speed up manufacturing, but  he gave no clear indication of what is exactly being done.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I invoked the Defense  Production Act, and last night we put it into gear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you`re using it now to tell businesses they need to  make ventilators, masks, respirators?

TRUMP: For certain things that we need -- 


TRUMP: -- including some of the very important emergency. I would say  ventilators, probably more masks to a large extent. We have millions of  masks which are coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven`t actually directed any companies to start  making more ventilators or masks, right?

TRUMP: I have. I have, yes. I have.


TRUMP: A lot.


WILLIAMS: We were given no follow-up evidence as to what he was talking  about there. Senate Republicans will be working this weekend trying to  hammer out a stimulus bill to help Americans affected by the economic  fallout from the pandemic. The goal is to have a bill ready for a vote on  Monday.

"Wall Street Journal" notes that under the Senate Republicans` opening  proposal, Americans who don`t make enough money to pay income taxes would  be eligible for up to only $600. Trump did announce that April 15, the tax  deadline, would be pushed back. The suspension of some federal student loan  payments as well.


TRUMP: We`re moving tax day from April 15th to July 15th. Families and  businesses will have this extra time to file with no interest or penalties.  Secretary DeVos has directed federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend  their student loans and loan payments without penalty for at least the next  60 days, and if we need more, we`ll extend that period of time.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, one member of that White House task force revealed a  new clue as to the nature of this virus and who is more likely to survive  once infected.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: From Italy,  we`re seeing another concerning trend that the mortality in males seems to  be twice in every age group of females.


WILLIAMS: Dr. Anthony Fauci, you see him there onstage, also tried to  manage expectations concerning one of President Trump`s pronouncements, the  anti-malaria drug that the President was talking up so aggressively  yesterday. Trump said the FDA had approved it for the virus. Not true. He  thinks it could be a game-changer. Here is Fauci on that subject.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any evidence to suggest that as with malaria,  it might be used as a prophylaxis against COVID-19?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS  DISEASES: The answer is no. We`re trying to strike a balance between making  something with a potential of an effect to the American people available at  the same time that we do it under the auspices of a protocol that would  give us information to determine if it`s truly safe and truly effective.  But the information that you`re referring to specifically is anecdotal.


WILLIAMS: Now, that right there set the stage for this exchange between our  NBC News White House Correspondent Peter Alexander and the President.


PETER ALEXANDER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: What do you say to  the Americans who are scared, though? I guess nearly 200 dead. 14,000 who  are sick, millions, as you witnessed, who are scared right now. What do you  say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?

TRUMP: I say that you`re a terrible reporter. That`s what I say. Go ahead.  I think it`s a very nasty question, and I think it`s a very bad signal that  you`re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking  for answers, and they`re looking for hope, and you`re doing sensationalism  and the same with NBC and Concast. I don`t call it Comcast. I call it  Concast.

Let me just -- for whom you work. Let me just tell you something. That`s  really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of  sensationalism. Let`s see if it works. It might, and it might not. I happen  to feel good about it, but who knows? I`ve been right a lot. Let`s see what  happens.


WILLIAMS: So there was that from the President of the United States today.  Peter Alexander later talked about that exchange on-air.


ALEXANDER: In TV terms, we call this a softball. I was trying to provide  the President an opportunity to reassure the millions of Americans, members  of my own family and my neighbors in my community, and plenty of people  sitting at home right now. This was his opportunity to do that, to provide  a sort of positive or uplifting message. Instead, you saw the President`s  answer to that question.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, two U.S. senators are under pressure to explain some  conveniently timed stock sales amid the coronavirus. Senator Richard Burr  has reported himself to the ethics committee after ProPublica revealed that  after reassuring Americans that the government was prepared to combat the  virus, "the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee sold off  a significant percentage of his stocks". Burr defended his statement to NBC  News saying he relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision.

Burr is taking heat from his fellow Republican Senator from North Carolina,  the up for re-election Thom Tillis, now saying Senator Burr owes North  Carolinians an explanation, and there needs to be a professional and  bipartisan inquiry into this matter. Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler is  defending herself after "The Daily Beast" reported she dumped millions in  stock after she received a coronavirus briefing. She has since said she had  no knowledge of the sale. Here`s what she told Tucker Carlson on Fox News  just tonight.


SEN, KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): These were called closed meetings. They weren`t  classified, they were closed. But as soon as I got out, the information was  already on twitter. It was in the public domain. None of us believe today  what we believed on February 1st. 


WILLIAMS: On that, here with us for our leadoff discussion on a Friday  night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The  Washington Post." David Leonhardt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for  "The New York Times," where he is also co-host of "The Argument" podcast.  And Thomas Frieden, the Director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017 under  President Obama. Before that, he spent seven years as the health  commissioner for the city of New York.

Ashley, I`d like to begin with you and the reason today we were recalling  the headline "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S." That was August  6th of 2001. Is this story in "The Post" tonight -- and let`s quote one of  the quotes in the story. "Donald Trump may not have been expecting this,  but a lot of other people in the government were. They just couldn`t get  him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red." Last time we  heard the term "blinking red" was the investigation into what went wrong  prior to 9/11. Is this his administration`s version of that?

ASHLEY PARKER, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST Well, we had long known at  least that the President`s aides had a tough time getting his attention.  But what this reporting does is it goes much further, and it says that his  own intelligence community as early as January was sending him these  messages, trying to get his attention. They were alert to this. They were  warning that this was coming.

They didn`t necessarily know the specifics, and they weren`t offering a  plan of action because that`s outside of their purview. But it does say  much like with Bush on 9/11 that had the President been heeding these  warnings, he could have taken action far, far sooner than he did. And he  should have in those weeks when he was saying it was a hoax and it was not  many cases and it was going to go away as if some miracle. If he had been  listening to these warnings from his own intelligence community, he would  have likely had a very -- or should have at least had a very different  response.

WILLIAMS: I should say, by the way, our thanks to so many of our guests  like these three who have taken the trouble to join us by Skype from their  own homes given our current reality. Dr. Frieden, 75 million Americans are  now under orders to stay at home. Is -- Further, many more millions are  doing so voluntarily. Is that at least a good start?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, FMR. CDC DIRECTOR: It`s really important. The risk here  is that there will be so many cases so quickly that they can overwhelm our  capacity to safely care for them in our intensive care units. That`s what  we`re seeing today in Italy. That`s what we have seen in Wuhan, China. And  that`s what we want to avoid in New York City and elsewhere.

Really, there are two things that happen when you ask people to essentially  shelter in place. The first is you drive down the number of new infections.  the second is you buy yourself time to rapidly improve the preparedness of  the health care system for seeing large numbers of patients and potentially  large numbers of people who need intensive care. In fact, that`s that same  time that we had after the travel ban from China that we didn`t really make  optimal use of. That travel ban did absolutely help, but it`s only  justifiable really if we use that time optimally two prepare ourselves for  the oncoming wave of cases.

WILLIAMS: Indeed. And I`ve heard the phrase "If you lose a week now, you  end up getting a month of it later on." David, I don`t mean to be smart  here, but we have learned a lesson this week. If you need financial advice,  don`t pay a broker. Ask your U.S. senator. Talk about this story and how  big it`s going to get.

DAVID LEONHARDT, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it`s really  amazing. So I think we`re still trying to sort through exactly what Senator  Loeffler from Georgia did, because she sold large amounts of stock, and the  patterns of the companies that she was buying and selling in is somewhat  suspicious. It looks like people who did it may have known that something  like a bad virus was coming. But she insists that it was all in a blind  trust and she played no role in the decision. I think the burden is on her  to prove that and to prove that there was absolutely no connection between  her knowledge.

The case of Senator Burr, from North Carolina, at this point, he doesn`t  really even have a defense. He has claimed that he was acting only on  public information. He cited your sister network, CNBC. But there is no way  to get inside his head and actually prove that he somehow was separating  the private information he was receiving as a senator. And it`s just a  really, really terrible thing for a senator to do at a time that he was  also telling Americans not to worry that much about the virus.

WILLIAMS: And, Ashley, make no mistake, this is a distraction and not the  story in chief, of course. But with so many eyes focused on the White  House, talk about your reporting tonight, "The Week That Was" inside the  White House, and especially what you`ve reported tonight about the role of  Hope Hicks?

PARKER: So, this week we saw some very stark pivots by the President.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday he actually struck generally the calm, measured,  responsible tone that his aides had long been pushing for. And in reporting  and trying to understand why, part of it was the numbers. The markets were  falling. He knew that was serious. The number of cases in the data and  presentations he was being shown were going up. He was getting regular  briefings from the Vice President with good numbers.

But a number of people cited Hope Hicks. She is a longtime confidant, his  former communications director. She left the White House, she moved to  L.A., and she is now back. And they said that she is a calming presence for  the President and that there would be a task force meeting, and then before  they go out to the news conference, they all gather in the Oval Office  where they sort of strategize on the plan. And Hope would be one of those  people who would kind of help steer and guide the President towards a more  measured, more responsible tone. And so she has played a big role behind  the scenes.

That being said, of course, we saw Thursday and especially today the  President did not sustain this tone. The President is capable of discipline  for short periods of time, but he often sort of tethers his mood to cable  news cycle and that`s why you saw that frustration erupt today at a number  of reporters, but especially NBC`s Peter Alexander.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Frieden, speaking of these White House briefings, there are  straight-up falsehoods. There are mistruths being voiced from the podium  and sometimes, let`s be honest, from the President of the United States,  stating falsely yesterday the FDA had approved the malaria drug for the  treatment of this virus. How should people regard these briefings because  then we get the very serious visage of the Vice President throwing out  stats on masks and ventilators that we`ve yet to see being used for patient  care.

FRIEDEN: What concerns me most is the lack of the Centers for Disease  Control and Prevention at the table making decisions and also at the podium  explaining those decisions. The CDC is our lead public health agency.  There`s a center at CDC. CDC overall has more than 20,000 health  professionals.

There`s a center called the National Center for Immunization and  Respiratory Disease. They have over 700 health professionals that work on  this very issue. And fighting this pandemic without the CDC right there  central to the decisions is like fighting with one hand tied behind your  back.

WILLIAMS: David, you and Ashley of course are both Pulitzer recipients. You  won yours for your writing about the last recession. Can you, tonight, give  us a damage assessment so far to the U.S. economy and your take on whether  or not 600 bucks to people at the low end is going to cut it? LEONHARDT: It won`t. The latest reporting that I`m hearing from the Hill is  that the Democrats have succeeded in forcing the Republicans to give the  same amount of money to lower income people that they were going to give to  middle income people, which I think is progress. But, Brian, I remember 12  years ago seeing numbers in things like the monthly job reports that I`d  never seen before and never expected to see in terms of the scale of the  loss. And we`re early, so there`s a lot of uncertainty.

But I`m now having that feeling again, and what that means is that these  numbers are even worse than they were in the financial crisis. I mean if  you look at the projected declines in GDP in the second quarter that some  financial firms were projecting today for the economy as a whole, they were  remarkable. They were numbers in the teens. One was suggesting that we  could have an annualized rate of more than 20 percent decline. I mean that  looks like a depression.

And what`s particularly disappointing about it is that if we`d had a faster  response to the virus from the Trump administration, some of this could  have been avoided because the spread of the virus wouldn`t have been as  bad. As you said, losing a week now costs a month later and that`s both in  terms of lives, but it`s also in terms of the damage to our economy.

WILLIAMS: Please let us call on all of you to do this again at your  earliest convenience. Two must-read bylines and one must listen to  physician. Ashley Parker, David Leonhardt, Dr. Thomas Frieden, our thanks  for starting us off tonight.

Coming up for us on this Friday evening, this virus has virus has shown a  special cruelty toward seniors, the most endangered demographic group in  our country right now. Tonight, a look at the effort to shield them.

And later, one of the many huge changes to this new normal. The  disappearance of all of our national pastimes. "The 11th Hour" just getting  started on yet another consequential Friday night.



MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): No one should come in contact with anyone over  50 with those pre-existing conditions or over 70 in general without  checking first to see if you have a temperature. Use a thermometer. If you  have a temperature over 100, you should not be in contact with anyone in  those vulnerable categories.


WILLIAMS: The Mayor of New York today. Americans are being asked to take  every precaution possible to help suppress the spread of this coronavirus.  Remember, though, that will only, at its best, slow the problem and not  stop it. In densely populated cities like New York, where there`s been an  explosion of confirmed cases, there are pleas for more help.


DE BLASIO: If help doesn`t come, we`re going to lose people who should not  die. Where the hell is the federal government?


WILLIAMS: With us for more tonight, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious  diseases physician and the Medical Director of the Special Pathogens Unit  up at in B.U. School of Medicine in Boston. She worked along with the World  Health Organization during the West African Ebola epidemic, also among our  medical contributors. Dr., again, it was a joyless piece of work on my part  to say at the top of the broadcast tonight. For some folks, the cavalry`s  not coming, and this is the time to hunker and take some worst-case  scenario predictions seriously. What aren`t we doing enough of, and what  are we doing wrong in your view?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN: Yes. I think one of the  main things is we need to make it more obvious to the public why this is  important, and I think you`ve done this and others have done this really  about why it is that we need fewer people to get sick. So, you just  mentioned about vulnerable populations, and those who were elderly. The  best way to keep our loved ones who are older or who have medical  conditions is to stay healthy ourselves. And by doing that, we avoid a  potential -- another person potentially getting sick and then ending up in  the emergency room or in the hospital.

One of the things that I think is also getting missed a little bit is the  anxiety and amount of stress that hospitals are currently facing in many  metropolitan areas in terms of the resources that they see potentially not  mapping out to meet the need as the number of patients increase.

WILLIAMS: What do we do about the folks who believe they have the super  power of immunity, in some cases because they`re young and on spring break  and frolicking on a beach in Florida that happens to be still open until  the end of this weekend? In other cases, social media is full of people  having lunch or dinner with their pals. It`s still full of allegations that  this is somehow a media-created illness. What do we do about that aspect of  our society?

BHADELIA: I think I wish that I could take those people who are out there  to show them what it looks like in the emergency rooms already across the  country right now. How busy those places have become and how when this  increases, it`s going to be a burden there. But the main thing to know is  we know now from even data here in the United States that people of every  age can get sick. There are vulnerable people in every age group.

And so even if you`re young, that does not make you immune. There`s a  chance that you might get this, and you may have a tough course of it.  We`re seeing young people get admitted already in our emergency rooms who  are younger than what we would have expected to see.

I honestly think that`s one of the main things. And the other is to stress,  you know, it`s not to protect strangers. It`s really to protect even our  loved ones who are in our life.

WILLIAMS: And I was going to ask about significant other, someone you share  a house or apartment with. One of you, 50 percent of you comes down with  flu-like symptoms. What is the first-line advice for that scenario?

BHADELIA: Yes. The first -- the CDC has actually a wonderful resource on  their website. One of the main things is to ensure that you don`t need  access to medical care immediately. And you do that by contacting your  medical provider and ensuring that you should really actually be staying  home and not getting medical care immediately.

When you are at home, practice the same thing that you do elsewhere, which  is keep a distance from the person who`s sick. The main goal in that  scenario is to decrease the amount of virus that`s around because you have  someone who is sick in the house. So keeping a distance from them and then  cleaning all the common surfaces and common objects such as remote controls  or potentially phones, things you wouldn`t think of. But first and foremost  is to potentially make sure that people who are sick can provide care for  themselves. And if that`s the case, you don`t have to have as much  interaction between the people who are sick and people who are well in the  house.

WILLIAMS: We`ll be respectful of your hours and your day job, but we`d love  to talk to you again. You`ve been terrific. Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, thank you  very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up for us, some governors say it`s time to call in the military on a  much bigger scale. A gulf war veteran who served as commander of Joint Task  Force Katrina is standing by to talk to us.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back. More and more state governors are ordering up the  deployment of the National Guard. As of this morning, over 3,300 air and  army National Guard members in over half of our states now. 27 of them are  now supporting the response efforts at the direction of those governors.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore led the relief effort on  the ground in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina. He is,  as you may have guessed by looking at him, a 37-year veteran of the U.S.  Army. His book, by the way, is called "Leadership in the New Normal," and  he`s been kind enough to join us tonight from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

General, first of all, it`s great to see you. Thank you for coming in.  Secondly, there`s nothing easier for civilians and officeholders than to  talk about calling up the guard and ready reserve. It`s made a little more  complicated in this case because they all have to leave their homes and  families where they might have been quarantining. Talk about the guard and  ready reserve and talk about the capability that they have that we have not  tapped yet.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA COMMANDER: Well,  our guard is our home force. They`re at the beck and call of the governor.  This is what they live for. That`s why they`re in the state. That`s their  first mission to respond to missions as assigned by the governor of  particular states. And we`ve seen some great examples in New York and down  here in Louisiana. Within hours, guard units were mobilized, and they were  out actually doing test stations, mobile testing stations, and assisting  with logistics in both states. And this happened across the country. As the  guards show up, they don`t need to exchange business cards with the local  officials because they know them. They train all the time for disasters in  our states, and they`re the ideal first force to call. And then they are  backed up by Army Reserve and our active duty DOD, which has some capacity  beyond the medical and logistics capacity that`s in the guard, that`s  dealing with sustainment and logistics.

Brian, one of the big dogs that the President hadn`t unleashed on this  problem is the DOD logistics management system called the DLA, Defense  Logistics Agency, that could be working with the Department of Health in  determining what is the total asset visibility of supplies on hand. Now,  break that down into civilian terms, what do you have in your state? What  do you have in each hospital? What do you have in each county? Until we  know that, we will not be able to work out the numerations for the days of  supply that`s available in each state. If we don`t, the first governor is  going to put an order in for 50 million masks, and that might be a 30-day  supply. Then places like New Orleans or Los Angeles may fall short.

I know that`s a long answer, but I hope we can follow up on that point  because logistic supply and demand has to be worked out if the government  is going to turn the corner on this where our audio and our video start  matching from the White House.

WILLIAMS: Yeah. To your point, I hope somebody in the West Wing is  watching. This is the cavalry. They will come, but they have to be called  first. And, General, just remind people what their medical capability is.  Some of these states are going to need what civilians call field hospitals.

HONORE: Yeah. We have a limited number of those. The ones we have are  focused on trauma. When we call up the reserves or when we mobilize those  two ships, we actually pull military doctors that are on military  installation, army bases, army posts and navy and air force bases to man,  those hospitals.

We still have to maintain our wartime footing because all those units have  wartime missions. So if we pull up the reserve, guess what? We`re going to  be pulling doctors out of hospitals to reinforce areas inside the country.

I think a better idea, Brian -- let`s start this idea. This is -- we`re  already into May. Graduate all the nurses, senior nurses in every  university in the country. Graduate them now. We had to do that in World  War II as well as all allied help. Graduate all the doctors that are ready  to graduate in May. Give them their white coats now, and we will  exponentially increase the available doctors and nurses.

We`ve got to think outside the box. The President talks about wartime  footing. We`ve got to break some more of the rules and get the governors  and those hospitals the help they need. And I do believe in the reserve  corps. There are many tasks that retired doctors can still work on pundits  and free the rest of the surgeons to deal with people that are sick from  the virus.

We`ve got to mobilize the country if we`re going to get this down because  right now the White House is saying one thing that does not match what`s  going on in hospitals around the country. And the governors are not going  to say anything contrary to what the White House said because you remember  what happened to the mayor of Puerto Rico if you say something out of line  with what the White House say. We got to get past this and start speaking  the truth.

I saw the mayor of New York today had a pretty clear message as well as the  governor of New York on what the requirements are. I think the White House  got to try to meet those demands and bring in the Department of Defense  logistics to help make that happen, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And that`s why I was so happy to see Russel Honore roll into town  when we were in New Orleans after Katrina. General, it`s a pleasure to  listen to you. I just hope people beyond this conversation are listening.  Russel Honore from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, tonight.

Coming up, the place where people go to get away, to cut loose, cannot get  out of the path of this virus. There it is. We`ll talk to two folks from  there right after this.


WILLIAMS: Well, there`s a new edition to the iconic welcome to Vegas sign.  The friendly reminder about social distancing and how to put this gently.  The reason what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas is often  related to the opposite of social distancing. It`s a strange sight.  Casinos, bars, restaurants, clubs closed for at least 28 more days. The  Vegas strip is pretty much deserted. It`s the first time the strip has gone  dark since the Kennedy assassination.

Back with us tonight is Jon Ralston, Veteran Journalist and Editor at the  Nevada Independent. And we welcome to the broadcast Jayde Powell. She`s a  premed student at the University of Nevada in Reno. She started a volunteer  group called Shopping Angels that helps the sick and elderly by doing their  shopping for them.

John, I`d like to begin with you. I last saw you in the taxi line at a  casino on a Saturday night after the Nevada caucus. All was well. All was  normal. Talk about the economic impact. How many jobs have been idled?

JON RALSTON, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: Tens of thousands. It`s going to end  up being hundreds of thousands by the time it`s over, Brian. It`s  absolutely crushed this city. It is the eeriest thing you can imagine.  You`re right, you and I were together. It was teeming with people.

Now there`s nobody on the strip, on the Las Vegas strip of all places. It`s  absolutely destroyed that industry, at least temporarily. They`re going to  be closed for at least 30 days. It may end up being longer.

The governor has now come out with a very strong order that essentially  everything but essential businesses have to be closed. You can call it a  shutdown, a partial shutdown. It is going to have a devastating effect on  this economy, Brian, because the state budget and local government budgets  here are essentially built on gaming and sales taxes. There are no gaming  and sales taxes right now. And it`s going to have a really bad impact on  the economy. There`s going to have to be a special session of the  legislature, and it just depends. You and I don`t know how long this is  going to last, right? Is it going to be two months? Is it going to be six  months? We just don`t know.

WILLIAMS: So, Jade, Las Vegas is built around hospitality and, by  extension, kind of the rest of the state. But for the people who live  there, it`s just home. Tell the good people watching about the good deeds  you`re doing out there.

JAYDE POWELL, SHOPPING ANGELS FOUNDER: Yeah, of course. So Shopping Angels  is a free delivery program that I designed for people who are more high  risk population. So this includes seniors or those with heart, lung or  immune conditions. So my volunteer group will go to stores, maybe multiple  stores to go get your groceries for you and then exchange cash at the time  of delivery so that those people who are at risk don`t have to expose  themselves to any strangers or have to go to public places that may have a  lot of contingents on them.

WILLIAMS: And Jayde, tell me about you. When do you hope to complete your  med school degree?

POWELL: So I`m a pre-med student at the moment. So I will be applying to  medical school in a couple years. So that`s well off in the future for me.

WILLIAMS: And for every other parent watching, tell me you`re taking  precautions in dealing with people and going about your volunteer work.

POWELL: Yes. So every volunteer does get an introductory email from their  state coordinators that says the general precautions to continue practicing  good hand hygiene because that`s one of the best ways, and to practice  social distancing even while you`re delivering. And then our volunteers are  also instructed to wear gloves, rubber or latex is fine. And we do ask them  to wear a mask when available. We know that there is a shortage, so many of  our volunteers wear bandannas and scar scarves to cover their mouths so  they don`t breathe on the items and stuff like that. So we try to protect  the safety of both clients and volunteers.

WILLIAMS: Jon, let`s talk about the food and beverage workers. Let`s talk  about the very same people we talked about as a huge potential voting bloc  during the Nevada caucus, the people who clean the rooms, the people who  drive the cabs, serve all the beverages, work the tables. What are they all  going to do to sustain life?

RALSTON: It`s a really good question, Brian. Now, a lot of these casino  companies are doing right by their workers. They`re paying them even though  they`re not working now. They`re maintaining their health benefits.  Different companies are doing it in different ways. Some are being more  generous than others, but generally they`ve really stepped up.

But these companies are getting crushed, Brian. You`ve already heard talk  of a potential bailout of the gaming industry. Nobody knows what that would  look like. You had the local lobbying arm here of the Nevada Resort  Association come out with a paper today saying that the economic impact  could be as big as $40 billion if these casinos have to remain shuttered  for a while. But you and I know what the problem is, Brian. You have 3  million people a month plus coming through this city and going into these  casinos. You can`t open them up again. That`s a petri dish for the spread  of this disease.

So the governor has essentially said that the tradeoff between the economic  devastation and the potential for this to spread, he talked to medical  professionals that they essentially told him you got to shut these places  down, or it`s going to last much longer. I think he hopes it`s only a month  or two. But again, Brian, I go back to say something the people in our  business don`t say too often. We just don`t know, do we? We don`t know when  the so-called curve is going to flatten out. And those workers you`re  talking about are really going to be hurt by this.

WILLIAMS: That is the truth. To Jon Ralston, to Jayde Powell, hang in  there. Thank you for joining us. We`ll check back in with you both and with  your city.

Coming up, what happens when a main source of distraction and entertainment  disappears in hard times?


WILLIAMS: Welcome back. Remember the NBA? Remember when we filled out NCAA  brackets and the office pool? Seems so quaint now. Remember baseball?  There`s no sports. We knew the one guy to talk to about that, and he`s back  with us tonight.

Mike Pesca, host of the slate podcast called the Gist. He`s also the author  of Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History, which I`m  sure will be revised and updated after this what if that nobody is coming.

Mike, I may not want to hear the answer, but what are sports fans doing  with no sports? There it is, you got to get these directions down. What are  sports fans doing with no sports, and what are they betting on, not that  there`s ever any wagering in sports?

MIKE PESCA, SLATE HOST OF "THE GIST" PODCAST: They`re betting on the  weather. Literally some of these online sites are taking bets on the  weather. They`re betting on politics. Without sports, I have felt it like a  phantom limb where I`ve reached for a remote and then realized, oh, there`s  no game there. And at first I was a little -- I felt a little guilty about  it because sports are entertainment and they`re frivolous, but the more I  thought about it, the more I realized that sports are actually about  community. And I thought about how a Mets game with Liza Minnelli singing  brought New York together after 9/11, and the Yankees being in the world  series did the same, and the Red Sox after the bombing of the Boston  Marathon and just absent tragedy what the Green Bay Packers mean to  Wisconsin and how Cheesehead defines that state more than the word  Wisconsinite.

So sports is togetherness, and this is a time without togetherness. So it`s  more than just a lack of distraction. It`s a lack of community, and that`s  maybe what hurts the most.

WILLIAMS: Because you follow it and because you`re an all-around smart guy,  I need some predictions from you. Will we see baseball played this year?  Will we watch the summer Olympics? Will we see the scheduled start of the  NFL season?

PESCA: Summer Olympics may be the fall Olympics. Baseball, I think, will be  played. They`re looking for pushing it back to May. But when we say  baseball, we should mean major league baseball, and this is going to hit  the minor leagues extremely hard. They don`t have cushions. They operate on  thin margins. There was already a plan to eliminate a bunch of minor league  teams. I don`t see how they can avoid it.

And other sports, and Adam Silver was saying this in an interview on ESPN  that they know no more than we do. They are as dependent on the virus as  anyone else, and they want to be out there, and they want to be leaders and  distractions, and they want to make money for themselves. But they can`t  know more than we do. And they`re not going to do anything more dangerous  than any other institution in society.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I`m a NASCAR fan. I`m worried about small tracks that were  already on the edge. This weekend they`re going to race computer versions.  I need internal combustion to make me go. Mike Pesca, if it`s OK with you,  you have a lovely home. We`d like to invite you on as this gets a little  longer in the tooth. Thank you very much. We`ll be listening to you in the  interim.

Coming up, just one family amid all the families already touched and  already robbed by this virus.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, if even a fraction of the most  dire coronavirus projections come to pass, then we are going to lose people  from our lives. Families across this country are mourning losses of their  own already, as are those of us who are members of the NBC News family.

Our friend and co-worker and fellow traveler Larry Edgeworth has died after  testing positive for the virus. While you may not have known him or his  name, his work came into your home on a regular basis.

On countless shoots around the world, Larry was our sound guy, our audio  man. And we traveled the world together, the Middle East, Iraq,  Afghanistan, countless interviews with presidents, Hurricane Katrina  speaking of General Honore, and so many other natural disasters.

He loved his work and was superb at it, and we loved him. Cool as a  cucumber, old-school gracious and warm and kind and tireless. In an  exhausting and often dangerous business.

Larry Edgeworth was 61. Our condolences to his wife, Crystal and their two  boys. The world he leaves behind is still full of sounds. All that`s  missing is a man who knew how to capture them all so well.

That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week. On behalf of  all of my colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night from our  temporary field headquarters.

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