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The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, Transcript 3/30/2020

Guests: Treney Tweedy, Bill Kristol, Dahlia Rizk, Jared Polis

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: You are looking live at the Empire State 

Building, and in case you missed the point while living in Midtown, Manhattan, these days the night skies over the city are lit up with a red light, a beacon indicating the state of emergency on the streets below.

Well, good evening once again. Day 1,166 of the Trump administration, 218 days until our next Presidential election, and 19 days since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

This was supposed to be the end of the administration`s 15-day stop-the- spread guidelines, but it turned out that was wishful thinking. Instead the coronavirus will not stop spreading within our country. The governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia wants his citizens indoors for the next 70 days. The President, who has backed off his goal of packing churches on Easter Sunday, has now gone along with his experts. He will continue the current behavioral guidelines for at least another month.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Yesterday I announced that we would be extending our social distance guidelines through the end of April. This is based on modeling that shows the peak in fatalities will not arrive for another two weeks. The same modeling also shows that by very vigorously following these guidelines, we could save more than 1 million American lives. Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days. We`re sort of putting it all on the line. This 30 days so important because we have to get back. But the more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was today`s message from the White House. Again, a far cry from the push to reopen the nation by Easter. It was followed by a parade of CEOs stepping up to the mic to talk about what their companies were doing and in some cases the products they make. There was even talk of sending equipment we don`t need to other nations. Those announcements coming in as new cases in this country soar past 161,000 now with nearly 3,000 lives lost. This morning we heard a startling comment from the coordinator of the coronavirus task force that put this battle to slow this outbreak into a kind of grim perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities. We don`t even want to see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just to repeat these numbers, they are talking in terms of 100,000 fatalities to 200,000 fatalities. Those numbers and the decision to set April 30th as the next goal for getting back to business as usual emerged late yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: And I think it`s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we`re trying to do, that you could reach that number.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 100,000?

FAUCI: Yeah, yeah. It`s possible. Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over all the data, why we felt this was a best choice of us, and the President accepted it.

BIRX: We`re going to bring down the number of infections so we don`t have 2.2 million deaths or 1.6 million deaths.

TRUMP: So if we can hold that down as we`re saying to 100,000, that`s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100,000 and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here is a reminder of what the President said back in February about what he expected to happen by April.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There`s a theory that in April when it gets warm, historically that has been able to kill the virus. That`s around the corner, so that will be a great thing.

I think when we get into April and the warmer weather that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: U.S. retailers among the hardest hit as Americans brace for long- term coronavirus shutdowns. Just today, Kohl`s, the Gap announced they would be furloughing the majority of their workers living tens of thousands without work. Growing number of states are imposing strict orders to stay home. Arizona, Maryland, Virginia all joined the list today. Virginia`s order is the most extreme. That extends out, again, 70 days, puts us in June. A reminder here that Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia is a medical doctor by training.

President Trump said today he has no plans to issue a nationwide stay-at- home order. Some states still refuse to close all nonessential businesses. Among them, Florida, number six on the list of states with the most cases of the virus. They happen to have a huge senior citizen population. Governor Ron DeSantis announced today he`s shutting down some counties in the southeast part of the state and setting up roadblocks blaming out-of- staters for the coronavirus cases there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA GOVERNOR: And so given the New York City area is the number one hot spot in the world right now, when the New York governor instituted the stay-in-place order, we started noticing a huge uptick in traffic out of the city, many of them coming to Florida. And so we view that as problematic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And just a reminder here. This was the scene during spring break in Clearwater Beach, not in South Florida, just over a week ago. A Jacksonville city official posted this image from over the weekend.

Meanwhile New York continues to grapple with the highest number of cases in the United States. There is now a field hospital in Central Park, 68 beds available. There`s now a navy hospital ship docked in the Hudson River, another 1,000 beds. As the hospital ship Comfort passed by the Statue of Liberty, a memorable photo was born in that instant.

Chicago also dealing with escalating cases will convert its enormous McCormick Place Convention Center into the state`s first field hospital for some 3,000 patients by April 24.

In Los Angeles, the National Guard converted the city`s convention center into a field hospital there to relieve the burden on the city`s overcrowded medical facilities. Medical staff across the country have been warning of dire shortages of protective equipment, mostly masks. Yesterday Trump suggested that hospitals were to blame for the rate at which these masks were being used up, and he threw out that same inference again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You expressed some concern in the past that medical supplies were going out the back door and that perhaps --

TRUMP: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- some hospitals were doing things --

TRUMP: Well, I already expressed what was told to me by a tremendous power in the business. He said that at a New York hospital, for a long period of time he was giving 10,000, maybe maximum 20,000 masks over a short time. And all of a sudden he`s giving 300,000. And I said no matter how bad this is, could that be possible? He said, no. So there`s only a couple of things that could happen. Is it going out the back door? And I`ve reported it to the city and let the city take a look at it. There`s something going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And tonight the Governor of New York was asked about the President`s comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: The exponential increase in the PPE is real, right? Almost -- in the hospitals now, there`s COVID PPE, non-COVID PPE. Everybody`s wearing COVID PPE because you don`t know who has COVID. You don`t know who doesn`t have COVID. Every time they see a patient, they have to change their PPE. So, yes, the burn rate of the PPE is much, much higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: On that note and here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night as we start a new week, Stephanie Ruhle, Senior Business Correspondent for NBC News, a Veteran of the Investment Banking and Business World, the host of the 9:00 a.m. hour on this network. Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for Politico. And Dr. Dahlia Rizk, the Chief of Division of Hospital Medicine at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.

Good evening and welcome to all of you. Nancy, I`d like to begin with you. It`s a question about government and structure and the White House response. Is the White House is OK with 50 governors, some more than others, taking the lead on this?

NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that what the White House in the last week has really been trying to do is shift a lot of the authority and the responsibility for the response to governors. I`ve talked with a number of senior administration officials in the last week, and they`re really trying to say that it`s up to governors to get the resources that they need, you know, if they`re resourceful and strong leaders, they`ll be able to get that, and the White House is really just there to offer a backstop. So that`s what I`m hearing from senior administration officials.

I do think the view from the governors is much different. They`re saying that we can`t be in competition with one another for these key medical supplies. Some governors are begging for protective equipment. And we`re seeing really harrowing tales out of hospitals in places like New York where there`s a shortage and where I think that people want more leadership from the federal government and more leadership from Trump when, in fact, usual lip at these press conferences that he has every day, there`s a lot of happy talk about things that are happening, these public/private partnerships, the test capacity being ramped up, which he`s exaggerating. And so I think that we`re seeing a real disconnect between what the governors are saying they need and what they`re telling people and what the White House is trumpeting.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, Nancy just mentioned the stresses on New York hospitals. Tell us about the stress on your institution.

DR. DAHLIA RIZK, ICAHN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR: Well, at the hospital we`re seeing every day rising numbers very rapidly, I mean it feels like a tsunami is about to hit. It started in the boroughs, and Queens and Brooklyn are being hit the hardest right now. But all over the city we`re seeing rising volumes, increasing number of patients that are presenting to the emergency room that are sicker than they were before, more utilization of our acute units. The ICUs are expanding very rapidly. Our need for increasing the ventilator support for those patients is happening very quickly.

And of course it`s natural to have to use more PPE because we`re seeing in the hospitals many more patients presenting. A larger percentage of the patients that are coming to the hospital now are infected. Many more patients, a larger percentage on the hospital wards, are infected. When you think about all the numbers of people that have to actually see those patients throughout the course of the day, the burn rate will be very high. And we`re trying very, very hard to conserve but not put our staff in danger.

WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, we learned of more unemployed just today. Every reason to believe that we`re going to see yet another spike in unemployment applications when they come out. What is the fastest date these newly unemployed workers will get help, and how far are we, Stephanie, from the discussion you kind of often hear about, "Shutting down the U.S. economy, going into power save and somehow trying to ride it out?"

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC HOST, MSNBC LIVE: Well, let`s just break this down because, remember, the Care Act, we keep hearing over and over from members of congress and from the President, you know, help is on the way. $2 trillion to help individuals, small business, and big business alike. That`s a huge positive and a hugely positive headline. But as far as cutting those checks, no checks have been cut yet, and bills are due on Wednesday.

You mentioned earlier companies like the Gap, Macy`s, and other major retailers furloughing employees. We know the unemployment number is going to spike, and just think about this. For people in New York alone, they are scrambling. They cannot get through the phone lines are constantly busy. Websites from state to state have crashed, and I`m not saying it`s the fault of the federal government. But we`ve now put in place a system where we`re saying there`s $2 trillion to give out to the American people, but the pipes don`t work yet. You`ve got states like Connecticut and California scrambling to hire people to work in the unemployment office to handle these claims, but that hasn`t happened yet. So if you`re one of the millions of people in the restaurant business, in the retail industry where you never thought you`d be seeking unemployment, you`re now trying to file it for the very first time in your life because you do have those bills to pay and you can`t even get through on the phone. It is a panicked, stressed time, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Nancy Cook, here are my - in no particular order, my notes from the live event in the Rose Garden we witnessed today. The President talked about sending $100 million worth of things to Italy. He went on to detail only that they were medical/surgical equipment. Told us that he has an acquaintance in a coma. Talked about his hair. Talked about the panic he could cause if he chose to. He said he knows South Korea better than anybody. And he said people are very impressed with the job they`re doing. And somehow amid all this, he came off his goal of having churches filled and America back to work by Easter Sunday. What`s your reporting on who around him told the truth and made him concentrate?

COOK: Well, I think that two weeks ago we really saw the economic officials take the lead on this, and they had convinced him that it was very important to reopen the economy by Easter. But what my reporting shows is that Sunday, yesterday, before he went out for the briefing, he was really given a lot of data on what would happen to the country and the number of deaths that could escalate if he reopened the economy too quickly. And I do feel like numbers speak to the President. So does the idea that his polling could drop. You know, I think people were telling him -- political advisers were saying, if we don`t get this virus under control, this could be something that could hurt you closer to the election in November. And he did listen to them.

I mean the thing about the President is that he usually does not have fixed ideology, and that is part of a hallmark of this White House, and often he`ll swing between positions or swing between the White House advisers who are in favor. And this Sunday it so happened that the health officials were in favor, and he listened to them. I think that he is very worried about his re-election prospects. The White House is very worried about being held responsible for the testing capacity and the idea that they did not ramp up that quickly enough. And one way to damp that down is to keep people at home for longer and hope they can get their arms around the virus more and hope they can slow the spread of it and hope that they can also, you know, get equipment to the states and make that a positive story for them.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor message would you have for your counterpart --

RUHLE: But Brian, think about what --

WILLIAMS: Hang on, Stephanie, just because of this delay. Forgive me. Let me go to the Doctor and we`ll circle back around to you.

RUHLE: Sorry.

WILLIAMS: Doctor, for your counterpart in Florida, a state that as we sit here doesn`t yet have a stay-at-home order, what would you warn your counterpart at a hospital in an urban area in Florida is on the way, what to prepare for, especially given the population of seniors?

RIZK: Well, I have family that live in Florida, and I have already told them not to go out, not to go shopping except for food, not to do their normal activities, not to go to the beach. Even though that hasn`t been formalized, I`m very concerned that the virus has infiltrated the communities. And unfortunately what we`re going to see is that hospitals are going to be become very overwhelmed very rapidly. And I have significant concerns for communities of elderly people with many comorbidities because even in New York we`re seeing, you know, the cat has been completely let out of the bag. It`s very hard to keep up the pace. Even the surprising feature of having younger people present with advanced respiratory distress and illness needing intubation is of extreme concern to all of us. So absolutely I would warm people to really look at your communities, try to aggressively test as these tests become available. The point of care testing is encouraging, but only if we use it properly and actually encourage people to stay home, to go and actively seek out care at hospitals. They will become overwhelmed. I will say you must go and use telehealth resources and phone your physicians and stay home as much as possible and only seek care when you`re in respiratory distress or very, very weak, which could be a sign of sepsis. I do have concerns, Brian, absolutely.

WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle.

RUHLE: I want you to think about this for a moment, Brian. A week ago when the President was listening to, "the CEO set" and was quick to say, let`s get this country up and running by Easter. Think about what happened yesterday, he listened to Dr. Fauci. He listened to the health professionals. And what did the market do today? It went up, breathing a sigh of relief that the President, while he may be filled with bluster and showmanship and in some cases nonsense when he`s at the podium speaking in the Rose Garden, but when it comes to policy that doesn`t just impact health but impacts long-term economies, they take it well because if the President were to open up, let`s say, too soon, that wouldn`t just hurt us from a health perspective. It would hurt us economically.

WILLIAMS: To Stephanie Ruhle, to Nancy Cook, to Dr. Dahlia Rizk, our thanks to joining us as we start another consequential week.

Coming up for us, a look at how one of the states between the two coasts is faring. The Governor of the State of Colorado joins us next.

And later, it feels like a lifetime ago, but it`s been just 12 days since we first spoke to one of the nurses on the frontlines of this crisis. Tonight she tells us what she is seeing now on the inside at the hospital. The 11th Hour just getting started on this Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOVERNOR JARED POLIS, (D) COLORADO: At least now as the effects roll on from the bar and restaurant closing, it looks like the average doubling time is approaching five days. So first the good news. That`s a lot better than doubling every two days. Now, the second piece of that news is that is still an extremely contagious virus, which shows why just closing the bars and restaurants wasn`t enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, let`s talk to that man. The Governor of Colorado says his state has slowed down the rate of coronavirus cases thanks to more state- imposed social distancing measures. Colorado`s been under a stay-at-home order since Thursday. Number of cases there is now over 2,600 and, sadly, over 50 souls have now died. Over the weekend, the President approved the state`s request for federal disaster funding.

To talk more about it, we`re happy to be joined by the democratic Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. Governor, first of all, what do you think is yet to come? Second, what do you need? What don`t you have?

POLIS: Yeah, this is going to get worse before it gets better. So while we`re seeing as expected a decrease in the rate of the expansion, it`s still expanding very rapidly. And there`s a bit of a lag effect there because it takes five or six days from exposure until somebody starts exhibiting symptoms, and it often takes another seven or eight days until they might require hospitalization. So we have over 400 people in the hospital with COVID-19 right now. It`s going to get a lot worse, which is why all of our state preparations are around additional beds, personal protection equipment, and making sure we have enough ventilators for that peak even as we seek to push that peak back by issuing a state-home order which is why every Coloradan and really no matter where you live in the country, you should stay at home unless absolutely necessary to go out whether you`re mayor or governor has ordered it or not.

WILLIAMS: If someone drives E.R. presenting with COVID-19 symptoms in Aurora, in Denver, in (inaudible), are they in all three cases going to be able to get tested?

POLIS: Well, we recommend that if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you don`t go out. You don`t just randomly go to the hospital. You might expose others. You should stay in. Only seek medical attention if you need it, if you`re having severe respiratory difficulties. Remember, 80% to 90% of people with COVID-19 will not require any medical intervention. You can stay at home. You can self-medication if you need with Afrin or acetaminophen or aspirin. But you only need to seek medical attention if you`re in dire need. Otherwise, no matter whether it`s the flu or COVID-19, issue simply stay at home and isolate.

WILLIAMS: I guess my question was about testing. Do you have a testing deficit, or do you have -- are you up to pretty much on-demand levels there?

POLIS: We -- it just sent out about 3,500 tests to our counties. We`ve increased the capacity of our state lab. While we have enough for clinical testing, meaning 23 somebody admits with COVID-19 symptoms, they`re tested, we certainly need a lot more before we can scale it up to mass testing, before we can do anything like South Korea is doing, like in other countries that have successfully managed this crisis. We`re are working very hard. We pulled in top leaders from the private sector to head up our innovation team at our emergency operations center to scale up mass testing and screening as quickly as we can. But we`re -- we, like everybody else in America, aren`t there yet.

WILLIAMS: I get that they are vastly different places, but when the Governor of Virginia, again an M.D. by trade, recommends a stay-at-home policy 70 days out that puts us into June, does that get your attention? Is there an application for Colorado, and are you going to start sneaking forward the date you`ve set as the end date until the wait and see period?

POLIS: Well, you know, it`s going to be based on science and data. I don`t think anybody has a crystal ball to know whether it`s going to be April 30th or May 10th or even later. What we do know is people are also suffering by not being able to earn paychecks. Thank goodness they`re going to be getting $1,200 from the federal government, $500 for every kid. But that isn`t enough to pay your groceries for very long. So we now this countervailing thing, in addition to trying to contain it, which is why we`re going very aggressive right now for next few weeks. We hope that we can return to some degree of economic normalcy. It doesn`t mean things will be exactly as they were but more people need to get back to work and earn a living. It`s absolutely essential as soon as possible while acting to save lives.

WILLIAMS: The democratic governor of the State of Colorado, Jared Polis. Thank you, Governor, very much for your time tonight especially considering what you`re all dealing with out in the Rocky Mountain States tonight.

Coming up for us, the fallout after one university makes the controversial decision to reopen its on-campus dorms. More on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: And welcome back to "The 11th Hour". I`m not Brian Williams. Obviously, I`m Steve Kornacki here in New York.

At the board, we usually use this for election data, of course, but we thought we would give you for the next couple minutes just an update on some of the numbers, all sorts of numbers you`ve seen in our coverage, all sorts of numbers floating around out there. We thought we would take a minute here and just try to put in perspective here what is happening in the United States right now, where the hot spots might be emerging in the United States too.

So let me take you through a couple things here that we can show you. First of all, this is sort of -- this is the current case count. Across the country, there are now about 160,000 cases. This is where they are by state here. You can see, obviously, it is New York State and really it`s New York City in the immediate area right outside New York City. This number here for New York State, this accounts for nearly 40 percent, nearly 40 percent of all cases in the United States are in New York. And then, of course, right outside New York, the state of New Jersey another big one. Connecticut, that sort of tri-state area, that`s a big component of what we have been talking about, obviously. You know that. We`ve seen it as well.

Chicago, a hot spot. We`ve seen New Orleans emerge as a hot spot. We`ve seen California. Look, California, the number is big for California although relative to its population, that number has not exploded like we`ve seen in New York. But still you`ve seen 6,300 cases in California. Seattle, Washington, that area, the Seattle metro area, that`s been another big one. And also, by the way, you just had -- you heard there in the last segment from the governor of Colorado. Ski areas, ski resort towns in Colorado, Utah, even into Idaho where folks were traveling really from all over the world in February, even into early March in and out of those towns, you saw a high concentration relatively speaking in those towns as well. That`s where we have seen it.

Now, the question, of course, is where is it going next? So let`s take a look at this. What you see here -- I`m going to take you through two levels. We`re calling these emerging hot spots. In the last seven days, when you get outside of the big ones, I was just talking about, in the last seven days, these are the metro areas where you have seen the biggest case counts per capita, the biggest case counts per person in the population. Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, those cities, those metro areas really. Look, in Detroit, you`re talking about in the Detroit -- in the last seven days or so, about 4,000 cases have emerged. You`re talking, you know, big numbers in those places.

So right now, in the last seven days, we`ve started to talk about these. And then the question becomes, where might we be having this conversation? What might we be talking about in the next seven days? Questioning whether this is the next wave. This is where you`ve seen the largest rate of increase, the metro areas where you`ve seen the largest rate of increase over the last seven days. The raw numbers in some of these places -- the raw numbers of cases are not necessarily that big. But you`re starting to see a rate of increase there where it`s starting to sort of embed itself.

And the question is, is it going to grow dramatically? And are we going to be talking about places like Asheville, North Carolina, Mobile, Alabama, Toledo, Ohio. That`s the question, of course, for the next few days.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Hey, Steve?

KORNACKI: Brian Williams, yes.

WILLIAMS: Thank -- first of all, thank you for picking up. We briefly lost communications where I am, and so I appreciate you doing that.

Second question, though, is there a math formula? You talked about a potential multiplier, ski resorts. We`ve had airports where passengers have been crammed together as these flight restrictions have started coming back from Europe. They expect a kind of boomlet of cases. But is there just plain math that we apply almost from east to west?

KORNACKI: It`s tough to see right now, and that`s what we`ve been trying to figure out looking at these. There`s so much more testing, it looks like, that has started to take place just in the last week or so where you`re really starting to get a stronger sense in all these different places. But I think there`s still a lot of unevenness in the numbers, and there`s a lot of unevenness in the data that`s out there right now.

So we were putting these together -- the best thing I could san say is, we`re looking at these because the numbers that we do have suggested, the big increase in the last few days. But I wouldn`t be 100 percent confident that these are going to be the next wave or there aren`t others that are going to emerge just because the testing really has been so uneven.

WILLIAMS: We appreciate you combining your talent and technology on this of all subjects. Seems like just yesterday we were covering the political season. Steve Kornacki at our home base studio.

Today, Virginia, as we`ve been saying, joined the growing number of states with stay-at-home orders but went a step further. Governor Ralph Northam said residents should avoid all travel except for essential purposes for 72 days until June 10. That is the longest stay-at-home order imposed thus far in any of our 50 states.

For more, I`m joined by Mayor Treney Tweedy of Lynchburg, Virginia. Mayor, were you surprised at 70 days because elsewhere in the country, we`re sure looking at that example and wondering what your governor knows that the rest of us should know or perhaps are going to find out.

MAYOR TRENEY TWEEDY, LYNCHBURG, VA: You know, I was not surprised at that, Brian, and I am glad that our administration has taken this very seriously and they want our residents safe. And so if the governor and his administration feel that that`s how long we need to do it, we are preparing our residents for that.

WILLIAMS: I have to ask you about a big employer, maybe your largest local employer, and that`s Liberty University. It`s been getting a lot of press attention because the president, Mr. Falwell welcomed or allowed students of Liberty to return to campus after spring break.

We`ve been chronicling the various activities of spring breakers this year doing exactly what the government, in so many cases, have said not to do, and that`s what kids do when they huddle together and gather in large groups. This puts you in a tough spot because of all your local employees who are tied to that campus. The students come back, bringing with them all the contacts they had on spring break. So, how have you dealt with this?

TWEEDY: We had a number of residents that were very concerned. We are a college town, and so we have five colleges and universities here, and we had other colleges and universities who did make the arrangements for their students not to return after spring break but to go on to their online platforms.

And so we were hopeful and we asked Liberty University to do that same thing. They made a different decision at some point. They had assured us that they would go to the online platform and only a few students who we knew needed to be there, President Falwell said, which were some of the international students, some aviation students, maybe a couple of labs, and 200 to 300 or so students.

So, we were very surprised when that decision had been made later in the week to allow the campus to be open and all students or those students who wanted to return could return to the campus and do online platform on the campus in resident dorms. So we were surprised and very disappointed. Our residents were concerned. We received a firestorm of e-mails and calls regarding this action.

And so that is why we had to respond to our community to let them know what we had asked President Falwell, and at some point the decision was changed, but that as a community, we would get through this. We would adhere to all of the medical experts, work with our health district to make sure that we lessen the impact of returning students and for all of our citizens.

WILLIAMS: Mayor Treney Tweedy of Lynchburg. Thank you with all you`re dealing with for making time for us. We appreciate you being here.

Coming up for us, one prominent veteran Republican calls the president`s handling of this crisis a scandal for the ages. A look at the presidential learning curve as he sees it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: There has never been a president more mismatched, more outmatched, more not rising to the occasion in a critical moment than Donald John Trump in the middle of this historic crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And with that from Steve Schmidt as told to Nicolle Wallace today, a quick reminder of the president`s take on this crisis as it started taking hold here in the U.S. about a month ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re finding very little problem, very little problem. Now, you treat this like a flu. When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: "The Bulwark" was among the very first to point out that U.S. coronavirus deaths were about to eclipse the death toll from September 11th. "This pandemic will be more consequential than 9/11. It probably already is. People just don`t realize it because they still think, still feel that once this is all over, we will get to go back to the way things used to be. We won`t."

Back with us tonight is Bill Kristol, veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, the editor-at-large over at "The Bulwark".

Bill, it`s good to see you at long last, and I guess I`m going to ask you what people ask each other on broadcasts all day long. What do you think is going to happen? What`s this going to look like, feel like? What do you think life is going to be like six months from now?

BILL KRISTOL, "THE BULWARK" EDITOR-AT-LARGE: The obvious answer is we don`t know. I think this will have longer-range effects than we realize right now, and it is important as Jonathan Last pointed out in "The Bulwark" too. I don`t think we`re just going back to the way things were. There will be all kinds of cultural, sociological changes.

But, you know, on the points that you made and Steve Schmidt made about the failure of leadership, there`s a good article in "New York Times" just wrote a couple hours ago that things may be beginning to turn. And it may get worse before it gets better unfortunately for the next two, three, four weeks. But if they turn, it will be due to mayors, and governors, public health officials, the citizenry doing social distancing.

What`s amazing when you see those clips of Donald Trump, it`s not only that he didn`t help, he was actually an obstacle to our dealing with this crisis. He was an obstacle to citizens behaving responsibly which they`ve been pretty willing to do once asked and told what to do. He was an obstacle to the private sector and to governors rallying to produce the masks and the ventilators and the personal protective equipment that we now still unfortunately are so desperately short of. He was an obstacle to getting the testing going. There were mistakes by CDC and the FDA, but he`s president. He could have had a sense of urgency about it. Instead he seems to pay no attention at all from us February to it.

So, the degree to which -- you know, there are always government failures. Presidents don`t get things right. The degree to which this one man was an obstacle to our dealing with this crisis that was going to be difficult anyway, I think that`s really unusual in American history or, you know, thank god, we`ve had some presidents who have messed things up, but to actually do damage as president and still to be doing so unfortunately, that`s unusual.

WILLIAMS: Tell me about the Trump base. And I`m sorry to reduce it to raw politics, but what do you think will happen to the Trump base?

KRISTOL: I think the base will stick, but there was a rally to the flag effect among some uncertain Trump supporters and some Trump skeptics even over the last week or two, and that began when he began to take the virus seriously. That was just about two weeks ago when he pivoted a little bit.

I have a sense that was never as large as it has been in the past, to Jimmy Carter and others, George W. Bush, when there`s a rally to the flag effect after the beginning of a crisis, even if the president hadn`t done a very good job leading up to the crisis or didn`t do a very good job in managing the crisis. Think of Jimmy Carter. He still got a big bump for a while, but it faded. It feels to me like it`s beginning to fade. I think these press conferences, they helped him for a while. But I just think voters think, come on, I mean, this is serious. This is really affecting everyone, obviously.

I`m sitting here talking to you on Skype. And everyone is -- thank god, I`m fine and thank god you`re fine, and so, you know, we have nothing to complain about, but so many people are going through difficult circumstances medically and economically, and everyone is affected, and they look up and they say, is this really the leadership we have? So I think the base will be there. The base is with him. But I actually think the rally to the flag, kind of the sentiment may be fading a bit, and reality may be hitting.

WILLIAMS: Well, for now, at least, this is us. I`m glad to know we can make this contact with you. We`re likely to be calling again soon. Bill Kristol, thank you very much for opening up your home and for proving to all of us that I must have the same bookshelves as you do. Thank you very much.

Coming up, a dispatch from the frontlines in the frustrating and exhausting fight to keep Americans alive these days when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: If you are one of our regulars, first of all, we appreciate that. Second of all, you may remember it was a little less than two weeks ago here, we interviewed a nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital, Long Island, New York, Amy Lee Pacholk joined us from her home on New York`s Long Island as coronaviruses were just starting to enter into her hospital. Two weeks later, she is no longer in that home where she spoke to us from. Instead, she`s staying at a hotel to keep from infecting her family. Here now is part of a video diary she`s been keeping while on the job.

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AMY LEE PACHOLK, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL NURSE: Tomorrow, I`m going to go work on the COVID unit. We have a couple of COVID units, some where the patients are rule out and some where they`re not so sick. And then we have the units where the critical care nurses are and the patients are incredibly ill mind-blowingly.

So, everyone describes all the critical care units as war zones because that`s what it looks like their usual scrubs with all of that themselves. But with that said, I was walking around because our union pac often pay for hotel if you were taking care of these patients who were -- would fall ill potentially if you came in contact with them.

And I bumped into one of my attendings and some of my colleagues, and they were like, oh, what are you doing tomorrow? And I`m like, I`m off. Yes, I`m off. And they`re like, well, you see that patient. That patient needs somebody to care for them tomorrow. They`re going to have, you know, CVHD and they have all the things going wrong, multi-system organ failure, lungs failing, heart failing, I don`t even know what else is failing on this person but god bless them. And I decided that I would stay, stay in the hotel.

So, I`m hoping tomorrow I can help this person and whoever else. It`s going to be a challenge. These poor people are so amazingly ill. This virus, this tiny virus is literally -- is literally ominous. It`s crazy. So we`ll see what tomorrow holds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And that is what it`s like in the life of a nurse who is involved in the fight against this virus.

Another break for us and coming up, life under the new normal for better and worse when we continue.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, not everybody is living the way we are living, especially here in the east and high-population centers. Not everyone needs to. But mayors and governors are getting upset when people ignore warnings on social distancing. This irony alert, New Yorkers crowded together to watch the arrival of the navy hospital ship that steamed into New York Harbor because of the shortage of hospital beds and the staggering number of sick patients.

In Tampa, they arrested the pastor of a mega church for holding back-to- back packed services on Sunday despite warnings to the contrary. The cops say he actually showed reckless disregard for human life and put hundreds of people at risk. And for the frontline workers who are risking their lives, the 7:00 p.m. cheer in New York City was the loudest we`ve heard.

That`s how it went in New York. The new thing in some of the suburbs is the households putting teddy bears on their porches or in their windows, giving neighborhood kids a kind of social distancing scavenger hunt as they walk by. And consider this. Think of where most of us would be without delivery drivers right now. Please consider leaving a little something for them at the front door.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week together. On behalf of all of our colleagues here at the networks of NBC News, good night once again from our temporary field headquarters.

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