COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 4/3/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Anne Rimoin, Irwin Redlener, Harvey Fineberg

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: And good evening once again. Day 1,170 of the Trump administration. 214 days to go now until our Presidential election. Our country set a new record for deaths today, and tonight we have learned the President has settled another score dating back to impeachment with another firing. We`ll have more on that in a moment.

In case you missed today`s White House briefing, again mostly good news from the President unless, that is, you live in one of the states. The President said just today we have states, a lot of states, territories too. The problem is he`s not happy with the states. He took a swing at governors for not being thankful enough. He thinks the states should have been prepared for this pandemic even though he seemed upbeat on the pandemic.

Just today he said, it`s not going to be long. This is ending. This will end. You`ll see some bad things, and you`ll see some very good things. We`re healing, he said. We`re getting better. We`re getting better very quickly. He reminded everyone this was artificially induced, not his fault, and insisted out loud, it is going away.

He and his people announced today the CDC now recommends we cover our faces when we go out. The President then went on to say he won`t be covering his. Don`t imagine he would love that photograph. And then he said six times that wearing a face covering is voluntary and that it`s for a period of time.

In other news, the President blamed the Obama administration. He wants to turn now to infrastructure, and he said the election in November should be in-person voting, no voting by mail. He added, everyone should have to present a voter I.D. card with a picture on it. Of course that`s not up to him. Still, it was a lot today.

Again, however, in the real world as we face it tonight, our country set a new record for deaths today. We head into another weekend with nearly half the planet living under some form of lockdown. Nearly 4 billion people are now under some type of a directive to stay inside and avoid gathering in public places, avoid contact, leaving some of the busiest places on our planet now abandoned.

In the U.S., more states have seen the light. They`re telling people to stay at home. Tonight governors in Alabama, Missouri, and Mississippi have now issued new statewide orders. The worldwide number of infected is now well north of a million and climbing. The outbreak in this country means more than 275,000 people are known to be infected. More than 7,000 dead. Just a reminder, we don`t know how many people have this virus. Just in the past 24 hours, more than 32,000 new confirmed cases. Nearly 2,000 new deaths. That is the backdrop for the latest guidelines from the White House announced late this afternoon. They apply to all of us, advising Americans to protect themselves and each other by wearing masks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CDC is advising the use of non-medical, cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measures. I don`t think I`m going to be doing it, but you have a lot of ways you can look at it as follows. The CDC they can be purchased online or simply made at home, probably material that you`d have at home. These face coverings can be easily washed or reused. I want to emphasize that the CDC is not recommending the use of medical-grade or surgical-grade masks. You can do it. You don`t have to do it. I`m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that`s OK. It may be good. Probably well. They`re making a recommendation. It`s only a recommendation. Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet Presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don`t know. Somehow I don`t see it for myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: While the President was making that announcement along with side comments, the First Lady was giving her own advice on social media. "As the weekend approaches, I ask that everyone take social distancing and wearing a mask/face covering seriously."

The pandemic`s toll on New York has accelerated. Today the state reported its highest daily rise in deaths. 562 souls lost just since yesterday. New York is the hardest-hit state of all 50 with well over 100,000 confirmed cases now. Nearly 3,000 dead. That`s just in the state of New York. Facing increasing shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment, Governor Cuomo says he`ll use the National Guard now to take medical supplies from hospitals where they`re not in use and deploy them where they`re needed.

Today Trump was asked about the need for equipment and when it might arrive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you assure New York that going into next week that they`re going to have the ventilators that they`re going to need?

TRUMP: No, they should have had more ventilators at the time. They should have had more ventilators. They are totally underserviced. We`re trying to do -- we`re doing our best for New York. We have other states to take care. We have a big problem in Louisiana. We have a big problem in Michigan. We have a big problem in seven other really strong hot spots.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As cities and states struggle to get the equipment they desperately need, the President today defended his son-in-law`s assertion that it wasn`t the administration`s problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday Jared Kushner said, the notion of the federal stockpile was it`s supposed to be our stockpile. It`s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use. What did he mean by "our"?

TRUMP: What are you asking? I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even the fact that taxpayers --

TRUMP: What`s that? I have got you. I have got you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it`s not .

TRUMP: You know what "our" means? United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did he say it`s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then --

TRUMP: Because we need it for the government, and we need it for the federal government. But when the states are -- no --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you giving it to if it`s not the states?

TRUMP: To keep for our country because the federal government needs it too, not just the states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: For good measure, when that little exchange was over, the President called the reporter`s line of questioning nasty. The economic picture is also looking bleaker by the day sadly. Yesterday we learned nearly 10 million Americans are now out of work. Today`s jobless report shows more than 700,000 jobs were cut. The Wall Street Journal calling it just the start of a much deeper labor market collapse under way due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Congress, for its part, is preparing to move on a fourth phase of relief for Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell telling the A.P. today he`s spoken with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and health care will be a top priority. Different story when it comes to the President potentially talking with the Speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If it were important to talk to her, I`d talk to her. If it were important for the American people, I`d talk to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Senate Democrats, meanwhile, calling for a formal investigation into the firing of the navy captain who sounded the alarm over the spread of the illness on board his nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. This is how the crewmen and women under captain Brett Crozier`s command saw him off the bridge last night.

(CHEERS & APPLAUSE)

And with that, he was relieved of his command. Here with our leadoff discussion on a Friday night at the end of another long week, Annie Karni, White House Reporter with The New York Times, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS, Dr. Anne Rimoin back with us, Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, an Infectious Disease Division of the Geffen School of Medicine. Also runs the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health where she specializes in emerging infectious diseases, started her life`s work as a peace corps volunteer in Africa.

Anne, I`d like to begin with you. The subject of masks has been important to you, near and dear to you. Do you applaud what the CDC and White House did today despite perhaps the President`s personal diminishment of the topic?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: I think it`s a great move that now we are using the global data to inform policy. This is really what we have been lacking all along. We know that the virus is able to transmit through speech droplets. We know that we need to be able to do everything we can to slow the spread of the virus because the testing is not sufficient, because we do not have national policy working on our behalf, we do not have all of the tools in place. The only thing we can do is use these brute measures of social distancing and things like using facial coverings to be able to slow the spread of the virus. Without this, we have very little available to us to be able to do.

WILLIAMS: Annie Karni, the President said the mask isn`t for him, though the rest of us should feel free. He is not going to give the stay-at-home order for the states that have yet to do that, even a suggestion to them. He`s not wanting to own any aspect of this clearly. So why continue to come out there given his current mood of irritation?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It certainly doesn`t look like he has a lot to announce every day when he gets out there. But this two-hour show that he`s doing every day, I`ve talked to people who say it`s what`s really keeping him animated and going. He doesn`t have the rallies. He doesn`t have the marine one takeoff where he talks to the press. So much of this President is driven by coverage and driven by these interactions with the press. This is not kind of a side dish of his presidency. This is the main event. This is the main course for him.

So this is the only place he really gets to joust, and this is what enlivens him. The fact that he has two hours a day to do this every day does raise questions about what else he has on his plate, leading the country right now. But what we see right now is a man who doesn`t want to take responsibility despite calling himself and branding himself a wartime President. Between the stockpile and not declaring a national stay-at-home order, he wants these decisions to be on the plates of the governors. He doesn`t want to take responsibility. He doesn`t want to make these broad decisions right now.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, does your reporting indicate they see any kind of problem in the West Wing?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we`ve seen such a sea change in the West Wing. There`s a turbulent sense of negotiations and discussions inside of the White House because it was only a week ago today that the President was thinking about reopening the economy by Easter. Then he came around after data was shown to him last weekend, and so now he`s in this mind-set that he has to follow the advice of the health officials in his administration. But he`s watching that economy and those stock market numbers as closely as anyone. And when I`m talking to White House officials, they say he of course like every American is uneasy about the tragedy on the health front that`s only mounting, but also the economic front because he sees that so closely tied to his own re-election chances.

WILLIAMS: Anne, is it too early to say that the lockdown in California, in the Los Angeles metro area, has reduced the effect of the approaching coronavirus and/or where do you see the peak arriving in our major metropolitan centers?

RIMOIN: Quite frankly, it`s impossible to say where we are on this curve. We are still lacking widespread testing to understand anything about where we stand. We know right now that testing is not available to most people, that we have very little understanding of population immunity. So we really are so far behind the curve. What we need right now is we need national strategy. And even if we are able to understand where we are with testing, we have many states that have no stay-at-home policy, and as many people have said today, this is like being on an airplane with a smoking section. Even if we try to get ahead of the curve by having strict measures here, we are subject to every other state that is not employing these methods right now. We will all pay the price for the states that are not taking this seriously and having a lockdown. We need a national strategy for locking everybody down and to fight together to be able to fight this virus.

WILLIAMS: Annie Karni, by our count you`ve worked for three New York-based newspapers. What`s the President`s relationship status with Andrew Cuomo? Should we call it wary?

KARNI: The President has been really reactive with these governors across the board. You can track his comments about Andrew Cuomo day to day based on what Andrew Cuomo said about him first. He`ll praise if he`s praised. He`ll lash out if he was attacked. He has been very, very aware of Andrew Cuomo`s success with these briefings. He tunes in a lot to watch his morning briefings, and part of the reason why the President does his in the evening is because Andrew Cuomo kind of already claimed the morning for himself. So he`s competitive with him, but he`s complimented him at times if he`s been complimented, and he`s been entirely reactive to Governor Cuomo.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, tell the good people watching who got fired today by the President, the reputation of this inspector general, and how far back this beef goes.

COSTA: It`s a name that`s little known nationally, Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community appointed a few years ago by President Trump. He`s not part of the government and someone who`s aligned against the President. He was appointed by the President. But he will be remembered by historians and certainly was remembered by President Trump because he was the person in the intelligence community who heard about the whistle-blower complaint, about that infamous call between President Trump and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he was persistent in making sure Congress was aware of the whistle-blower complaint.

And even when he had some pressure from different people in the administration to proceed a bit more quietly about the whistle-blower complaint, he made sure Congress knew. So in the President`s eyes, I`m told by some of his confidants, he has always seen Atkinson, this unknown I.G., has the person who helped to light the fire of impeachment. And everyone who knows Atkinson in the Post`s report to this sees him as someone who is by the book. A former federal prosecutor, and they also underscore that he`s widely seen as nonpartisan. He has prosecuted democratic lawmakers and other democratic officials. He is not someone who is seen as aligned or trying to bully President Trump.

WILLIAMS: And, Robert, not to get all Joyce brothers here, but do you see this as pretty straight-up score settling when other things aren`t going well for the chief executive?

COSTA: Based on my conversations tonight -- and I`ve only made a couple with people close to the President, the news just broke. President Trump has always seen this I.G. as someone who wasn`t playing by the rules. He would like to see his own officials abide by in the administration. He didn`t like how this I.G. was so protective of whistle-blowers. He does not, to say the least, share that perspective and embrace of whistle- blowers. Atkinson has testified before Congress that whistle-blowers are some of the most important in the federal government that you have to encourage people to speak out about abuses of power or perceived abuses of power. And he has stood by that to this day, and that`s perhaps why he`s leaving based on my conversations tonight.

WILLIAMS: And Annie, finally there`s been something of a hit list on the right. They`ve been frothed up about certain names in different jobs in the government. Some, as Robert correctly pointed out, appointed by this President. Are there others, do you think?

KARNI: This kind of came -- I mean this has been someone who was on the hit list, but that he would do it in the middle of a pandemic late on a Friday night, I think was shocking even for the standards of a President we know is vindictive and still hasn`t moved past the impeachment and wants to get rid of anyone who was involved with that. So I would say this is a sign that he is going to conduct the business he wanted to do, pandemic or not, and it will be late on Friday nights.

WILLIAMS: As I thank our guests, I`ll say to Anne Rimoin, thank goodness you only have to cover medicine and not politics like our other guests here tonight. To Anne Rimoin, to Annie Karni, Robert Costa, thank you all for coming on at the end of another long week.

Coming up for us, lots of talk yesterday and today about the strategic national stockpile. Jared Kushner said it was "ours" after all and not the states`, whatever that means. Our next guest will explain how it`s supposed to work.

And later, one doctor`s plan to stop the coronavirus by June if we can all follow it. The 11th Hour just getting started on a Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: For 15 years now, this country has had a massive effort at the federal, state, and local level of preparedness for pandemic. We`ve all been very focused on pandemic preparedness. That`s what we do. But this particular strain of pandemic, who would have known this particular strain?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: It`s worth saying this again. We can`t say it often enough. There`s clear evidence the country was not prepared for a global pandemic. For starters, we`re still not getting lifesaving supplies where they need to go, and we still have no idea how many people are walking around our country with this virus.

Back with us again tonight, Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrics physician, clinical professor with the school of public health at Columbia University in New York. He`s also the Director of Columbia`s National Center for Disaster Preparedness with an expertise in pandemic influenza.

Doctor, the last time I saw you, you and I were still able to come and go from our studios in 30 rock. What did you make of the President`s message on face coverings today, on masks? He used the word "voluntary" six times, said it was just a recommendation, said you know, I`m not going to wear one, but the rest of you guys are if you want to.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, EXPERT ON PANDEMIC INFLUENZA: Well, I guess it ranks among the more bizarre messages that have come out of the White House. You know, the federal government cannot order every American to wear a face mask. Those kinds of orders would have to come from local and state governments. But what the government can do, the federal government, is make very clear directions and guidelines that should override anything else that governors and mayors are proposing.

So for the President to use the most powerful words he has in the sense of, I`m giving you a directive in essence that we all need to be wearing face masks. And then for him to say, but it`s voluntary, and I`m personally not going to use a face mask is one of the most confusing messages that this White House has ever put out. And we`ve had plenty of them from the get-go here on this subject and every other subject. It was just frankly bizarre, Brian. I don`t know how he could feel like he could get away with saying, over here my professional and my experts are saying wearing a face mask, and I don`t think I`m going to. It`s a total like crazy loss of credibility that actually seeps down to the other layers of government. If we can`t expect the President to comply with his own experts` opinions about what should be done in this very serious situation. It`s befuddling and how he thinks that he could formulate a message that`s contradictory to what he said like two minutes before. But I guess we need to get used to that.

And I think, look, the other issues that came up about the strategic national stockpile, everything that`s uttered by the White House seems to me completely confused and very unfortunate and misleading to the American public. Again, undermining the ability of the President and his people to be believed. And I shuddered listening to Jared Kushner`s remarks about that SNS yesterday.

WILLIAMS: And because of all the other confusion and the kind of side remarks that make headlines, I was just looking at some of what Dr. Birx said that didn`t make headlines. "We continue to watch. In addition to the Chicago area, the Detroit area, and have some developing concerns around Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania. Each of these will follow their own curves." Doctor, as they say in normal times that would be a headline. Is this baked into the cake, or can we act now to mollify the reaction in some of those places she mentioned?

REDLENER: Well, we certainly can, Brian. But the problem now is that -- and by the way, this is coming in a big way to every state in the country, every rural area. If you think that by living in a remote county in Idaho or Mississippi or Colorado for that matter that you`re going to be somehow protected from getting this virus, it`s just not true. And that is why I think we`re all now recommending a full national coast-to-coast lockdown or shelter-in-place program. That is the only way that we`re going to get control of this. We can`t keep skipping and hopping from one area to the other as they get their own flare-ups. That will not work. Well, it will work eventually, but it will work in a way that will make many more Americans sick and many more Americans, you know, suffer a fatal outcome from this disease.

So the only thing we have in our toolbox, Brian, is shutting down the country and doing it for as short a time as we can but as long as we have to. And that is the only thing that we have. We don`t have medicine. We don`t have the vaccine yet to prevent it. All we have is a shutdown. And the sooner we become comfortable with that, we need to kind of enforce that. The government -- national government has to recommend it, and every single state has to comply with it. And then we`ll have the best chance of slowing the spread, flattening the so-called curve, and keeping our hospitals from getting any more overwhelmed than they already are. That`s all we have unfortunately.

WILLIAMS: Doc, all I have is 30 seconds to ask you when do you expect the peak in a place like New York City?

REDLENER: Well, they`re saying April, May, and that may or may not be true. The modelers are continuing to adjust their models for things like the peak and when will we have a second surge, and that will probably come no matter what we do now sometime in late summer, early fall and into the winter. So we`re not going to be done with this anytime soon, Brian, which makes it really, really difficult, I must say, for every family, including the Redlener family, to try to figure out how we`re going to remain compliant with these very strict rules to keep ourselves separated. It`s difficult, but we`re going to have to do it and figure out how we`re going to adapt as a country for the public`s good, really for the world`s good to try to get this under control as soon as we can.

WILLIAMS: We`re all right there with you. Dr. Irwin Redlener, thank you. It`s always a pleasure to have you on our broadcast. We appreciate you welcoming us into your home.

REDLENER: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, why some governors are still resisting the call to issue stay-at-home measures. Former Executive editor of The New York Times joins us from one of the states that just made the call today when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should every state in this country have the kind of stay-at-home orders that we now see in places like Washington?

TRUMP: I leave it up to the governors. The governors know what they`re doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, now imposing stay-at-home measures. About 90 percent of the U.S. population heads into this weekend under some type of shelter order. But more than a dozen states have religious exemptions and because there`s certainly been no order from the feds, there`s still some states holding out altogether.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): The CDC, I watch their guidelines regularly, and they have not indicated that`s an appropriate or necessary step across the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: For more, we are happy to be joined tonight by the veteran journalist and author Howell Raines. He`s a contributor of ours, also happens to be the former executive editor of "The New York Times", where I note they don`t do audio, and our audio has given out tonight. So it`s not like Howell is ordering a pizza. That`s how he can hear me ask him questions like, Howell, what`s going on down there? And let me ask you about where you live. Are -- have folks been doing de facto stay-at-home anyway? Are they talking about this because up here in the north where we`ve all been in bunkers for a good long while, it`s pretty much all people are talking about.

HOWELL RAINES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Brian, this has been one of the most extraordinary, remarkable weeks in civic life in Alabama that I can remember. And as you know from your visits down here, folks down here like to talk about being laid back in L.A., L.A. being Lower Alabama. And that was the mood that we started the week with. On Sunday, there was a defiant beach party at Gulf Shores with people swimming and boating in close defiant -- in defiance of social distancing.

Yet today Governor Ivey announced a pretty restrictive ban on going out of your homes. She said, we`re not asking you anymore. We`re telling you. And remarkably for Alabama, she did not exempt churches from her order so far. Here`s what I think has happened. Alabama was, in addition to its tradition of defined individualism, also reflecting President Trump`s cavalier attitude. And what I think we saw this week is a real movement in what I call the Fox News curve down here.

Fox is the biggest determinant of political opinion certainly among white Alabamans right now. And I think as long as its commentators were talking about hoaxes and conspiracies, people were very relaxed. As Fox began to take a more factual approach to its reporting, notwithstanding the president`s uncertain signals, I think Alabamans began taking this virus seriously in a way that the rest of the nation has had to. So it`s been, as I say, a remarkable change in the course of five days.

That said, I took a 30-minute ride around Fairhope, this lovely little town, and I would say the traffic at rush hour was down 60 percent to 70 percent, which is a lot. Most of the retail stores are beginning to close, but I don`t want to overstate. I did not see a single face mask in Fairhope today.

WILLIAMS: What do you think -- Howell, first of all, that`s the best and most complete analysis I think I have heard, and I wish to hell the states that are late to act weren`t red on the map. But we can`t avoid that visual. And as you mentioned, it`s a confluence. Is there any palpable anxiety or fear among the people in your circle who you deal with every day?

RAINES: Yes, and we have a bit of a generation gap that I think began to narrow this week. People of my age, retirees in this affluent retirement community where people come for the beach and the fishing, have been upset that the spring breakers have been defiantly getting close to one another in the normal spring break kind of ways. That began to change this week, but again, Governor Ivey has been following the White House script just as the president is saying it`s the governors` business, she`s been saying it`s the mayors` business. So we had a couple of beachfront mayors in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach step up after that giant beach party on Sunday and close their towns.

So, we`re seeing something of the national paradigm where the federal government or the state government, in this case, is lagging behind the local leaderships who are having to cope with this problem on the ground level.

Now, let me say this about Governor Ivey. She acted belatedly but firmly today, and I found that pretty remarkable because Alabama does not want a governor who goes out and hunts for problems to solve the way Andrew Cuomo does. Alabama does not want a problem-solving governor. So for her to step up today in the right way, I think, was a signal of the public concern really growing down here.

WILLIAMS: Howell Raines, reporting tonight from what I can attest is one of the prettiest towns in the south and maybe the country, Fairhope, Alabama. It`s always a pleasure having you on. Let`s try to talk regularly during this thing, however long it lasts.

And coming up for us, a 10-week plan to defeat this virus. Our next guest has a strategy to crush the curve, but how much of it are we following right now?

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WILLIAMS: So this got the attention of New Yorkers a few hours ago. An alert sent to everybody`s phone pleading for all licensed healthcare workers to support healthcare facilities in need. That need grows by the hour. By the way, they`ve already had 20,000 volunteers before this plea went out. We learned today that a 22-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department has died from coronavirus. One out of every four members of the city`s EMS personnel, that`s part of the fire department, are out sick.

My next guest has outlined a rigorous six-point plan that he says can defeat this pandemic by early June if we`re all willing to throw in and try hard enough. We welcome to the broadcast Harvey Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the chair of the standing committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats. If this isn`t one, it`ll do until one gets here. He`s also former president of the Institute of Medicine now known as the National Academy of Medicine. Happens to be the former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

Let me get to your list so we don`t waste a second. Here are your six points. We`ll critique as we go. To crush COVID-19 in 10 weeks, you are calling for establish unified command. We don`t have that. Make millions of tests available. We don`t yet have that. PPE and equipment to hospitals. We don`t have enough. Differentiate the population into five groups. That I need to come back to. Inspire and mobilize the public. I`m pretty sure we haven`t done that. And learn through real-time fundamental research. Right now, it seems to me we`re doing basic triage, but I hope our smarter angels are already engaged in that.

So if you can back up to differentiating these five groups, that was a fascinating idea.

HARVEY FINEBERG, FORMER DEAN OF THE HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, thank you, Brian. It`s a pleasure to be with you. The basic idea is if we are in this as a war, we should be in it to win. And to win, we have to do a great deal more than we are doing.

One of the critical elements, as you pointed out, was to understand who in the population first is infected. Secondly is presumed infected because they have all the symptoms but they haven`t yet tested positive. Third is someone who`s been exposed but not yet infected. So those people should be in quarantine. Fourth, those of us who have neither developed the infection nor, to our knowledge, been directly exposed to someone with it. And finally, those who have recovered and presumably have some degree of immunity, which can also be tested.

WILLIAMS: We`re watching these states one after another late in this process see the light and tell or ask their citizens to stay indoors. It seems to me for every state not under such an order, that threatens the herd, but there is a self-reward for doing what you and I are doing, staying indoors and away from other people. It`s your way of making a tough outer shell on you that`s going to resist this.

FINEBERG: It`s basically distance by physical separation that makes it harder for that virus to find someone else to infect. That`s the whole point of our work from home, stay at home, shelter at home, that whole concept. That`s likely to reduce the frequency of the spread.

But unless we`re much more aggressive about testing and differentiating the population into those five groups and then acting on that information, isolate the cases, quarantine those who have been exposed, keep others away from the exposure, we`re not going to really win this war.

WILLIAMS: Well, as you know, as a well-read guy, wars are won in part based on leadership, central leadership and terrific battlefield leadership. We don`t have any one person.

I`ll try to keep you in medicine and out of politics, but if you had your druthers, would it be one of the many highly qualified retired generals in our country, many of whom are quite active and vocal on social media? Would it be a Dr. Tony Fauci? Do you have a candidate who you wish would rise up and lead this thing?

FINEBERG: The most important thing is, first, whoever it is who`s our commander in the field, who reports directly to the president, has to have the full confidence of the president. That is essential. It took Lincoln a while before he found his grant. President Trump needs the equivalent.

Secondly, this individual has to understand both the government and the health scene. This is someone who also knows about state and federal relations. This has to be someone who is well respected, very knowledgeable, and decisive in decision-making. There are a number of people, Brian, who could qualify. Just to name one, to pick a name out of the air, former governor HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, kind of person who succeeded in running a department, very complicated, well organized, able to get things done.

If you reach across the aisle, you have Ash Carter, former secretary of defense, extremely brilliant, great history in logistics. Maybe you get both of them. Maybe one is in charge and one manages different aspects of the program. We need the A team brought together under a unified command to direct this effort in a way that avoids a lot of the miscommunication, misunderstanding, lack of coherence in the way we`re approaching this problem.

Just think about the way we`ve tried to settle the ventilator shortage problem, each state out on its own and then FEMA on the federal government overlaying its work on top of all the states. This should be a coordinated, unified, thought-through effort so that we can share effectively all of the ventilator capacity by region.

WILLIAMS: Well, thank you first of all for naming names. Those are fantastic nominations, and if you don`t mind, we`d love to have you on again and keep this conversation going. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a great pleasure having you on our broadcast on this Friday night.

Coming up for us, a rare inside look at what healthcare workers in the epicenter of this outbreak are taking on day and night.

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WILLIAMS: Welcome back. New York City hospitals are bracing for D-Day as the governor calls it, the day when they are full, overwhelmed by new cases. Every hour the problem is they`re getting one step closer to that.

Sky News U.S. Correspondent Cordelia Lynch has this report from a hospital in the city`s most populous borough.

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CORDELIA LYNCH, SKY NEWS U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brooklyn`s biggest hospital is flat out. An emergency room that`s become a battle zone. Where there`s a constant stream of COVID-19 casualties.

DR. EITAN DICKMAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE SPECIALIST, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: So we`re now in the critical care area of the emergency department. Everyone that`s in here today is due to breathing problems, almost uniformly all from COVID. We`re seeing such a large increase on a day-to-day basis on a number of patients who are presenting in critical condition, requiring really all the resources that we have to provide in order to help them.

LYNCH: Dr. Eitan Dickman says there are normally 17 beds in this room at Maimonides Medical Center. Today, there are 32 patients and the numbers are rising rapidly every hour.

DICKMAN: We have opened up new ICUs, new intensive care units. We`ve opened up new medical units in order to accommodate for this increased demand of patients who are coming in so ill.

LYNCH: In a city of extremes, this pandemic has been a painful equalizer.

This is an intense, demanding, and desperate atmosphere in here. The patients keep coming. And it`s not just the elderly. It`s the young too, and they`re all struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m seeing some of the sickest people I`ve ever seen in my whole career. Not only do they have coronavirus, but they also have their diabetes that`s out of control. So it`s particularly hard, and we`re learning how to do it, how to manage.

LYNCH: Their work has spilled onto the streets. Triage tents at the front to tend to the living. Refrigerated trucks at the back to carry the dead. But here, brave doctors and nurses are working every minute, risking their lives so they can save others`.

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WILLIAMS: Both sad and fascinating to see how story is being reported on for an overseas audience. That report from Cordelia Lynch with Sky News.

Coming up after our final break, remembering a Hall of Famer whose voice will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

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WILLIAMS: Before we go tonight, just when we needed him most, Bill Withers is gone. Among us fans, he was the essential Bill Withers. To everyone else, you got to admit he left you a hell of a playlist, Ain`t No Sunshine, Use Me, Lean On Me, Lovely Day, Just The Two Of Us, personal favorite. Who is he and what is he to you?

He was born in Slab Fork, West Virginia, coal mining town. He stuttered as a child, lost his dad at 13, joined the Navy at 17 and served nine years. Fast forward, an entire career to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The effortless and lovely Bill Withers was 81 years old. And let`s just agree on the healing power of music during this strange time of tragedy and home imprisonment.

We`re going to go ahead and say good night here early for the week, and we`re going to let two musicians play us off the air tonight, something they`ve started doing in their St. Louis neighborhood with just a tuba and a bone and the thanks of their grateful neighbors.

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