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draconian coronavirus measures TRANSCRIPT: 4/9/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Jennifer Pena, Russel Honore, Austan Goolsbee, Ebony Hilton

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. The superdome in New Orleans bathed in blue light tonight in honor of the health care workers and first responders who are on the front lines of this pandemic. And a look live at the Empire State building after what some believe and want to believe may have been the peak day of deaths in New York.

Day 1,176 of this Trump administration, 208 days to go now until the presidential election. And by the way, the Republican leader in the House today echoed the President, making it clear the Republicans are dead set against voting by mail in this country.

At today`s White House briefing, the President said we`re at the top of the hill, presuming he meant the curve. He said we`ve had a tremendous day. He promised lots of good news to report tomorrow.

He talked about death today, called it a terrible word, a terribly dark word, while still contrasting the death toll against the worst of the projections. His way of projecting that he has acted decisively, acted early as he likes to say. While promising massive testing in certain areas of our country as he put it, he said there won`t be widespread testing of Americans prior to people someday going back to work. And on that front, he again said, we`re going to be opening up. We call it opening very, very soon, I hope.

In the meantime, and in the real world, another record day in some areas in terms of our death toll. This virus has now killed more than 16,000 Americans, more than 462,000 have been infected.

The Vice President proudly said today we`ve tested 2 million Americans. But in a nation of 327 million, that`s less than 1 percent of the population, and today`s count of confirmed cases, 462,000 means just under a quarter of all those tested are testing positive, presumably because this early scramble to test people has been of the already acutely ill.

Tonight nearly every state is under a major disaster declaration because of this virus. With that comes the continued relentless hemorrhaging of jobs in our economy.

Last week 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. That means almost 17 million people have lost work over these past three weeks. That means just those, by the way, who have gotten through on crashing websites to file their claim. When asked what he would tell those newly unemployed, Trump predicted a reopening of the economy would take care of things.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From an economic standpoint, you know, we met with the mental health people today, and that takes a -- this is taking a tremendous toll mentally on a lot of people. And I think we`re going to open up strong. I think we`re going to open up very successfully, and I`d like to say even more successfully than before.


WILLIAMS: NBC News has confirmed a Washington Post report that says a new task force is being created to deal with this pandemic economic fallout, but there were no details on that in the West Wing today. The President is eager to get Americans back to work, yet there`s still not the necessary capacity to test, track, and trace everyone exposed to this virus despite what the President says from the podium.


TRUMP: We passed 2 million tested completed in the United States, first time. Most anywhere in the country. It`s a milestone for our country. It`s a milestone anywhere. Our tests are highly sophisticated and highly accurate.


WILLIAMS: Again, this bears repeating. As of tonight, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has been tested. That means we still have no real idea how many Americans are walking around with this virus. There`s also concern tonight about the nation`s next metropolitan hot spots. Chicago and Boston as well as the nation`s capital and surrounding areas. The virus continues to take hold in rural America too just as more small hospitals across our countryside are closing. It is clear the nation has a way to go before declaring this battle won, and Dr. Tony Fauci warns it`s unlikely every section of the country will reopen at the same time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the medical criteria that you guys are discussing in order to reopen the government? What is the medical criteria?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, it`s less medical criteria than it is public health criteria. And that is -- and I think it`s really important because often people say reopen the government like it`s a light switch that goes on and off for the entire country. We have a very large country and with really different patterns of disease and outbreaks in different parts of the country. So it`s not going to be one size fits all.


WILLIAMS: And yet there was this. We heard today from attorney general and noted public health expert Bill Barr, questioning how long the current stay-at-home guidelines should stay in place.


BILL BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have to be very careful to make sure this is -- you know, that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified and there are not alternative ways of protecting people. And I think, you know, when this -- when this period of time at the end of April expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have and not just tell people to go home and hide under the bed but allow them to use other ways, social distancing and other means, to protect themselves. We will have a weaker health care system if we go into a deep depression. So just measured in lives, the cure cannot be worse than the disease.


WILLIAMS: Across the globe, around our world, the number of cases has now climbed past 1.5 million. Tonight British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is out of intensive care. He remains hospitalized, however.

And in England, a doctor who wrote an urgent appeal to Johnson back on March 18th asking for more PPE for frontline medical professionals has now died from the coronavirus.

In the nation`s epicenter, devastating loss was again coupled with signs of progress. New York State has the most cases in the nation. They have more cases than any country in the world aside from the United States. As Governor Cuomo announced, 799 people died in New York in a single day, the highest one-day loss thus far. He said the number of patients admitted to hospitals grew by the smallest number in weeks.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You can flatten the curve. We are flattening the curve by what we`re doing, and we`re flattening the curve so far. We should all be concerned, especially new Yorkers, well, we`re flattening the curve, that`s good news. It is good news. Well, now I can relax. No, you can`t relax. The flattening of the curve last night happened because of what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before that. If we stop acting the way we`re acting, you will see those numbers go up.


WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on a Thursday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics. And we welcome to our broadcast Dr. Jennifer Pena. She is the former Physician to Vice President Mike Pence, is these days the medical director for the insurance company Oscar Health, which uses technology and telemedicine to reach out to its customers, especially during this time.

Peter Baker, new reporting on this attempt by loyal Republicans around the President to get the President to back off some of his ubiquitous briefing appearances, saying to him that less is more including a reminder in there from Lindsey Graham that let`s keep the game focused on this virus. I will say each night, the President supplies us with fresh headlines and not in a good way.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So Lindsey Graham of course told my colleague, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman that, you know -- you said less is more, that his real opponent here, especially even going into the fall, the election in November, will be the coronavirus. And the best way to approach that is to bring the country along without turning it off. And the daily exposure, the one-hour, two-hour briefings were not necessarily working in his benefit.

You remember when FDR famously had his fireside chats, he only did them once every few months. He didn`t do them every day. And the reason he told aides was, because he thought they were tired of him if he didn`t have something new to say every day. Well, that`s the danger President Trump`s own allies are telling him about right now. Lindsey Graham told him maybe once a week would be better.

I think you see a President maybe in the last day or so listening, at least a little bit. Today he left the briefing after just about 22 minutes. He left it for Vice President Pence and some of the medical expert to take the rest of the briefing, which went on for another 40-some minutes I think at that point. And it`s unlike him to let somebody else to see the spotlight to somebody else for that amount of time but he seemed to be taking maybe that advice the heart at least one day. Who knows if that would last? But it has been the thing that has kept him going. He likes to be at the center of the action, and the center of the action right now has been these briefings. He talks about the ratings. He talks -- he got chastise by The Wall Street Journal editorial page, normally more supportive of him. He fired back saying, hey they don`t know about how good my ratings are, but the truth is there`s a risk, I think, for him according to his own allies.

WILLIAMS: So, Dr. Pena, you are a health care professional. The rest of us are just civilians. Is the data you are receiving from these daily briefings, assuming you`re watching, valuable to you?

DR. JENNIFER PENA, FORMER PHYSICIAN TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Hi, Mr. Williams. Thank you for having me on the show. You know, I do watch the daily briefings. They are hard to watch at times. I would prefer for the scientists, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, and the rest of the coronavirus task force, to have more of a stage, to really give not just health care providers but the American public the data that will really effect meaningful change in terms of as management for us as providers and for the American people to be able to make intelligent decisions in terms of how they`re going to tackle this virus, how they`re going to deal with their daily lives and what the way forward is.

WILLIAMS: A.B. Stoddard, of course, as you and I often discuss -- I haven`t seen you since the start of this however in the end of what we have to call political season, at least temporarily. There`s politics in everything. I note there was a CEO on Fox News tonight calling this an overreaction. We note Dr. Bill Barr weighed in today. I`m curious what you make of this thunder on the right to diminish and get back to work.

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: It`s amazing, Brian, when you watch his allies on Twitter talking about how this cure is worse than the disease and they have to reopen the country. Everybody has to get back to work. This is -- these are people he listens to, and they sent Bill Barr out there because they deem him some legitimate and credible voice. As you said, a top infectious disease expert in our country`s arsenal, of course. He doesn`t know what he`s talking about, describing people hiding under their beds.

Americans who are exercising these social distance protocols without any tools from the government, no masks, no wipes, no gloves, no nothing, are doing the hard work of slowing the spread so that our health care system can function.

And the President cannot reopen the economy. They like to talk about it that way. When he left the podium today, a bit chastened, I was surprised, even though what he said before he left was quite shocking, Vice President Pence was talking about that day when we would just, you know, flip on the switch, and no one wants it more than the President. This is going to be, as the experts, Dr. Birx and Fauci, says right after Pence spoke and Trump spoke, just a rolling thing that opens in communities that have done as well as South Korea for example.

Our per capita testing has been a disaster. I looked at a website today and it was incredible to find that we were 44th behind 43 countries who have per capita tested more of their citizens and therefore protected their populations. So no matter what this course on the right does about opening the country, when you listen between the lines of what all the experts are saying, particularly those two at the podium, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, they are saying that there are benchmarks we must meet before there will be any reopening of anything. The federal government cannot make us go to restaurants when we don`t feel safe. And so this discussion at every briefing from now until, you know, May, June, whenever this happens, is really a bit surreal. But the President wants to cling to it because as he said, he thinks it`s an optimistic theme.

WILLIAMS: Peter, of course A.B. is right. There is no national signal to go back to work. That`s a state and local and business-by-business call when it does happen. And about this virus, Peter, it`s deaf. It doesn`t hear a command to go back to work. And it`s blind. It doesn`t see blue or red. It doesn`t discriminate. It`s predatory. We have 17 million thereabouts Americans that we know of out of work. I saw a projection today it could go to 50. This President at all costs has been all about November, Peter. And now there is a massive hole in the middle of the road.

BAKER: Well, a massive hole in the middle of the road, exactly, and a massive hole in his re-election strategy. Remember, of course, he had two major thrusts in mind for this fall. One is to boast about the economy that he had built, and the other was to tear down the Democrats as socialists. Well, both of those are kind of out of the window right now.

And so, look, you know, you can understand why there is this agitation, why there is this impatience to reopen the country when you see those unemployment numbers today, when you see 17 million people in the last three weeks put in for unemployment, that`s more than happened during the entire two years of the great recession triggered by the financial crisis of 2008, and we thought that was the worst since the great depression. So the agitation to reopen the economy is understandable and real because there is a great harm involved in it.

But what the public health experts are saying is if you do it too quickly, if you do it prematurely, all you`re going to do is make things worse. Remember the 1918 pandemic, the great flu of the last century, it came in waves, and it was the second wave, not the first wave that was the most deadly. The one where everybody kind of thought they were past the worst of it, and then it came back. That`s the real risk here. If you calibrate this wrong and you reopen businesses and social life without some sort of adjustments and precautions, then you risk that kind of a second wave. And remember there`s not going to be a vaccine until next year at the earliest.

WILLIAMS: Dr. Pena, you`ll forgive me but there was the President at the CDC, what over a month ago now in his crisis wind breaker and his re- election hat saying anyone who wants a test can get a test. It wasn`t true that day. It`s still not true as we have this conversation tonight. Today from the podium he said there`s no plan for widespread testing. In your business, without testing as a baseline, how on earth will we know when it`s safe to come out, when it`s safe to go back to work?

PENA: Right, and we won`t. That has to be the gold standard of determining when that time is to be able to reopen the government, to reopen the country. You know, testing has become ubiquitous, not only testing to identify and be able to isolate patients that are infected, to be able to do contact tracing and then flatten that curve, but also to be able to do testing for convalescence, for recovery, and then be able to tell people, yes, it`s OK to go back to work.

We have different types of testing right now, neither of which is, you know, publicly -- or available in mass quantities. They`re very difficult to come by. As a provider, I order tests very frequently, and people have to wait very long times to actually be able to be tested and then wait very long times to get results. You might have seen the study that came out, it was reported in Bloomberg in Korea where 50-plus patients are now allegedly testing positive again after they had been allegedly infected to begin with. And obviously this is still under investigation. It`s hard to tell. But one of the things we have to consider with this is inconsistencies in testing as well, right?

So some people might be falsely positive, and they might actually not have the disease and then contract it, "again" when they actually maybe never had it to begin with. And so that`s why that serology testing for antibodies is also going to become very important going forward so we can identify people who truly recovered and are convalescing from the disease, and we can actually say it`s OK back to work. The current CDC guidance states you have to have two negative antigens or two negative viral PCR tests separated by 24 hours to determine whether or not you`re OK to go back. But, again, if we`re getting false positives or false negatives, that might yield inconsistent results. And that`s a matter of the more testing you do, inevitably you`ll get those types of results. So, again, developing those serology testing going forward are going to be very important so we can determine when it`s time for us to reopen our communities.

WILLIAMS: A.B., I need you to be brilliant in 45 seconds. What`s all this, the virus, the reaction to it, doing to the Trump base?

STODDARD: Well, as we see, it`s rolling through rural America. And while it`s harder to spread in less dense areas, in less dense populations, their rural hospital infrastructure was in crisis before this. Many hospitals closing just recently in the last few days, I think, in Kansas and West Virginia. Without elective surgeries, hospitals cannot maintain their staff and they can`t really function right when we need them and their workers the most.

And so this is hitting Trump country. It will be very interesting to see in the weeks to come as these people learn about the two ways the government failed -- no mass testing structure, no centralized coordination for distribution of equipment to hospitals, what that means for Trump`s polling numbers because they will realize that is how you open up the country again.

WILLIAMS: To Ms. Stoddard, to Mr. Baker, to Dr. Pena, thank you all for starting us off so well on this Thursday night.

Coming up for us, our next guest no stranger to natural disaster. In fact, his name is synonymous with taking command of a manmade mess. Tonight he`ll talk about what it is we`re witnessing right now.

And later, the President said he has a strong feeling the economy will bounce back. We`ll hear from one leading economist who says it won`t happen without much more, you guessed it, aggressive testing. The 11th Hour just getting started on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: Our next guest was invoked here as recently as last night`s broadcast as an example of taking charge during a crisis. Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Russel Honore led the relief effort on the ground in New Orleans in the days after Katrina. He is a 37-year veteran of the armed forces. His book by the way called Leadership in the New Normal. He`s with us tonight from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

General, last time we spoke, you said it was time for someone to switch on the military for their skill at engineering and airlift and building, and medical, and I`ve been thinking about you throughout. Are they getting closer to what you had in mind?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE, JOINT TASK FORCE KATRINA COMMANDER: Yeah, I mean you`re looking at the great work that the corps has done, it`s like magic. And I think going back four weeks ago, my recommendation through the media was to tell the President let the military take the lead on this. He`ll be happy, that you work with FEMA, but let them be the lead in responding logistically as well as build out of the spaces that need to expand the hospitals. And nobody can be any better at doing the hospitals than the corps and the great work that northern command have done as silent partners in getting medical personnel on the ground and the two ships and playing a part in logistics. But that`s the picture we wanted to see about three weeks ago.

WILLIAMS: General, you`ll forgive the phrase, "we don`t have an Honore" however, I watch that briefing every day, and depending on the day of the week, I think somebody else is in charge. Is it still lacking a central figure, perhaps a retired U.S. general?

HONORE: Well, we`ve got a lot of them around, but we got a lot of good ones in uniform right now that could do it, that are commander, not staff officers or specialists, but commanders. What I see and observe, and I say this as an observation, not criticism, but I do think it`s affected our offensiveness, is that they have three priorities. The priority, they come in the tunnel is to save lives. But when we get into the dialogue, the other title is to win the election. So many of the answers and the dialogue center around making sure we`re looking good. And then the third priority is the economy. In a disaster, there can only be one priority, and that is to save people lives. If you start thinking about these other things and you mix them, you`re going to have problems, Brian.

What leaders have to know, Presidents from now on out need to know, if you take the lessons going back to President Wilson and the great epidemic in 1918 and World War I, if you take President Hoover with the 1927 flood, if you take George Bush, President George Bush who dealt with 9/11 and Katrina, in the first half of the disaster, you lose. The nation loses in the first half.

We`ve got a resilient nation, but we always win the second half. And getting to the second half has been hard because our White House and our leadership never accepted the fact that this virus knocked us in the head, knocked us down, and we have thousands of people that are dead now. Yeah, it`s an invisible enemy, but it`s a disaster. And in any disaster, in the first half you lose. But the people expect us to win the second half, and we`re not winning it well because we`re not getting on with testing. We`ve not accepted the fact that we may have to test every American two to three times in the next year. We`ve got to get on with that because we can`t have people that are sick still entering back into a school or into a nursing home. And the only way we can get that is testing, Brian.

WILLIAMS: General, let`s channel LSU football and win the first half and the second half from now on. General Russel Honore, a great product of the State of Louisiana. Thank you, sir, for joining us again tonight.

Coming up for us, the President predicts the economy will be stronger than ever once it reopens. We`ll ask an economist who advised the last President when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think our country from an economic standpoint will end up being stronger than ever. We have tremendous stimulus. We have tremendous stimulus plans. We have things in the works that are going to really, I think, fire the country. I think that what`s going to happen is we`re going to have a big bounce rather than a small bounce.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Again, weekly unemployment claims skyrocketed last week. Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment. We`re at almost 17 million people here now that we know of. CNBC reports in that timeframe 10 percent of the American workforce has up and vanished. It`s numbers like that that have Trump talking about getting back or opening as he explained the term to us today. During an interview on CNBC today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked about a possible timeline.


JIM CRAMER, CNBC HOST: Do you think with this, there`s a possibility, if the doctors let us, that we could be open for business in the month of May?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I do, Jim. I think as soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business and that they have the liquidity that they need to operate their business in the interim.


WILLIAMS: With us again tonight is Austan Goolsbee, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama, these days a professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

Austan, a lot to talk about right there. Let`s add the proviso that this ain`t up to any president. This is a business issue, local and state decision to make. But do you see anything opening back up in May? Do you see any state or region in the face of a virus that does not respect state or regional lines?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: So far, it seems like it`s a mistake to me because they shouldn`t be picking by date. They should be picking by objective criteria, like that we get the rate of spread of the infection down, that we do enough tests that people are not afraid to go out of their house, which is the root of the problem. And so if the president -- that`s not going to be decided at a presidential press conference. And if the president gets up and says, everyone go outside and go back to work, if people are still afraid that the disease is rampant and we don`t have the tests to demonstrate that, the economy cannot get out of lockdown.

Now, we`ve got numerous countries around the world, Korea, we`ve seen in Taiwan, we`ve seen in Iceland, New Zealand where they`re doing enough tests, and in Germany, that they`ve gotten out of lockdown. And I guess I just don`t understand why the president -- I understand why he wants to get the economy to come back. These were jaw-droppingly awful unemployment numbers for the last three weeks, unparalleled how bad they were. So I totally understand why the president wants the economy to get going.

But if you start to send everyone back out before we know who has the disease and who doesn`t and we start getting rampant infections again, you`re going to put us back to square zero and we`re going to have to start the lockdown time all over again.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you how many of the jobs of people who are now idle are going to be sitting there waiting for them to return? Let`s just say there`s going to be a period of very tentative first steps, a period of one-third filled restaurants, a period where we won`t need to worry about the middle seat on airlines for months now, a period with very few people willing to go to the movies. Where are all those jobs going to be for the people who need them?

GOOLSBEE: That`s a key point, and it depends critically on how long does this period last.

Now, obviously, cruise lines are going to take a little longer to come back most likely than are, whatever, accountant jobs and people working in offices or people working on job sites. So, I think as we start to get a better handle on how fast the virus is spreading, if we can control that, I do think that this idea of let`s call it green zone and red zone or certain sectors, certain jobs, or if people could take antibodies tests and show that they are immune to getting the disease, all of those things would be helpful for getting some sectors to come back.

But the way we measure this is not by the date, and here`s where the president`s losing his credibility over the last months and weeks comes home to roost, which is the president early on was saying that he thought everyone could ignore it and just go back to work even if they had it and that the cases would go away. And then the president said that we would be back to work and out of lockdown by Easter, which is on Sunday. And now the president says that they think that they can open it up by May.

The virus is the boss. Donald Trump is not the boss. The -- an economics panel is not the boss. The virus is the boss. You have to slow the spread of that virus before you can do anything in economics. That`s the number one rule of pandemic economics.

WILLIAMS: Next time you come on, we`ll talk about the possibility of a Marshall Plan, a Manhattan Project, or perhaps both of those combined where testing is concerned, and couldn`t business leaders be motivated to get behind that? Austan Goolsbee, you`re always nice to come on with us. Thank you very much for joining us from Chicago tonight.

Coming up for us, what`s really behind the staggering racial disparities leading to the staggering death toll among African Americans? Our next guest says it all comes down to what she calls the three Ws. The doctor will explain when come back.


WILLIAMS: New numbers from New York City show the coronavirus killing black and Latino Americans at twice the rate of whites. These are preliminary stats. Mayor de Blasio says they don`t include the hundreds who have died at home. But it`s enough to paint a disturbing picture of racial disparity, especially when you look at New Orleans, Chicago, and other urban areas.

With us tonight, Dr. Ebony Hilton, an associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. She also happens to co- host the podcast "The B Word Unpacked". Doctor, thank you very much for coming on with us. And without any delay, please tell our audience what the three Ws are.

DR. EBONY HILTON, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA MEDICAL SCHOOL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ANESTHESIOLOGY: Right. So, the three Ws classify what I call the healthcare privilege, which are white, wealthy, and wombless, which typically are men. Those three classes of people tend to have better outcomes across the board.

WILLIAMS: I talk about three other things, the unholy medical trinity that is responsible for so much of the underlying disease in the African- American community. I`ve been kind of amazed at the number of people who seem to be hearing this this week for the first time, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes. Talk a little bit about that and this staggering death toll percentage among African Americans. I left out Detroit. We`re, of course, seeing it there too.

HILTON: Right. I mean, for me, you can`t talk about these health disparities as far as hypertension, diabetes, without speaking about the systemic racism that influences each one of those disease processes. You can`t talk about obesity and diabetes without talking about food deserts that exist within the black and brown communities. You can`t talk about even chronic illnesses like asthma and chronic bronchitis without talking about environmental racism and the industries that are placing certain ZIP codes and not others.

And so, there`s a targeting of the black and brown communities as well as lower socioeconomic status communities in which we tend to have these negative factors literally placed at our doorstep.

WILLIAMS: When Dr. Fauci says from the podium in the West Wing that this is an issue long after coronavirus is off our plates, long after it is an urgent risk to our health, this is what we`ve got to get to. And, again, for all the people who haven`t spent an hour or a day thinking about it, for all the people who are new to the term food desert, do you believe in America`s ability to concentrate on this someday and really bring it down?

HILTON: I think America has to. This health disparity in particular with COVID-19 is different than all the rest, right? When we`re talking about infant and maternal mortality, we`re burying our black children at two times the rate of other races, or our black mothers at four times the rate of other races.

When that happens, it impacts only our community. It only impacts our family. But with COVID-19, when you`re ignoring the entire population of black and brown people, when you`re ignoring the entire population of lower socioeconomic status people, then when those people who are the majority of the essential workers that are underappreciated, underpaid, they -- when they are now infected, when they`re not getting treatments, when they`re not getting tested and they go back home and infect their community, when those people also return to work and when suburbia and the health care elite come in to get their food from Wegmans or Harris Teeter or come to get their resources from these bulk retailers like Walmart and Target, when they come into that store, they`re going to take that same virus that was allowed to fester within the black and brown community, and they`re going to take it home with them.

So this pandemic, I think, will uncover the flaws of everything that feeds into the social determinants of health. It will have to be fixed because now it will reach outside of the ZIP code of those vulnerable populations to now impact the privileged.

WILLIAMS: You just absolutely nailed it. The other term for this demographic we`re talking about is essential workers during a pandemic.

Doctor, please come back on the broadcast with us. Thank you very much for coming on tonight.

HILTON: Thank you very much.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Dr. Ebony Hilton. Thank you.

Coming up for us, these are particularly terrifying times for the medical workers at the frontline. Tonight, we`ll talk about the nation`s nurses.



MAUREEN BIDDINGER-GRISIUS, NURSE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL FARMINGTON HILLS, MICHIGAN: We`re still watching as patients are just becoming critical so quickly. One of the nurses I worked with today walked around and just told jokes all day because we`ve just been crying so much.


WILLIAMS: A nurse at Beaumont Hospital outside Detroit. We talked as recently as last night`s broadcast about how often victims of coronavirus die without family present, yet they`re not alone because nurses are there. Nurses across this country are working around the clock, doing critical and highly dangerous work. They are often the first face an arriving patient sees. Way too often lately, they`ve been the last.

NBC News Correspondent Stephanie Gosk has been hearing their stories and frustration as they fight the virus and sheer exhaustion.


KHADIJAH LYONS, NURSE: We`re working 14 to 21 days in a row, 12-hour shifts, so it`s really hard.

STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just off the overnight shift, Nurse Khadijah Lyons talked to us from a New York City hotel room. She left her home in Atlanta to work at a hospital in the COVID epicenter.

LYONS: People are lined up outside like, can you just tell my husband I said hi? He`s -- I don`t know what floor he`s on. This is a picture of him. This is his last name. Can you look him up? I`ll be out here at 7:00 a.m. when you get off, if you get to talk to him.

GOSK: Katie Vigo (ph) works in a critical care unit in L.A. How tired are you when you finish a shift?

KATIE VIGO, NURSE: I`ve been tired for a long time as a nurse. But my situation is I have three young children who are now home from school and now out of day care. And so not only am I frantically bringing my nursing practice up to speed to adapt to what COVID-19 means in my professional life, but I am trying to figure out how to home school my kids.

GOSK: John Mall (ph) is also a nurse in L.A.

JOHN MALL, NURSE: A lot of people`s hope is being taken away from them. And so when you take that away from people, it`s like, man, what`s left? But us as nurses, we`re supposed to give that to people. If we`re not taking bathroom breaks, if we`re not eating, it`s going to be very difficult for us to take care of other people.

GOSK: John, I really hear it in your voice. This is rough. This is a struggle.

MALL: Yes, it has been. It`s been life-changing.

GOSK: They are three of 1,200 nurses surveyed from 50 states in the last two weeks.

CARA LUNSFORD, HOLLIBLU FOUNDER: These people are dealing with so much anxiety, depression, physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion. You know, if you think this isn`t going to break people, you`re kidding yourself.

GOSK: Cara Lunsford, the founder of HolliBlu, an organization that supports nurses and a nurse herself launched the survey. 82 percent of the nurses feel their institution is not prepared for COVID-19. 94 percent said they are concerned about exposing their families to the disease.

VIGO: What if I get them sick? And, you know, honestly, like what if I die from this? That`s the thought that goes in my mind.

GOSK: When you have those conversations with your kids, do they seem scared?

VIGO: Yes. They have seen me in tears a lot lately. But I think it`s important for children to see that, you know, their parents are human beings and we`re processing a lot of emotion.

GOSK: A majority of the nurses surveyed said they are considering leaving their current job or quitting the industry entirely.

MALL: It`s hard to perform at a high level with a high level of anxiety and high level of stress.

GOSK: Is it sustainable? Can you guys continue to do this for weeks and weeks?

LUNSFORD: I don`t think it is. I mean, personally, I can`t see it. I mean, nurses were burned out.

LYONS: As much as I want to help, I cannot pour from an empty cup, and I think it`s important to realize that.

GOSK: The nurses already dealing with a tough job now being stretched to their limits. Stephanie Gosk, NBC News, New York.


WILLIAMS: Coming up, one of the other markers of this era. All the action these days is at home.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, social media continues to be mostly useful during this period of house arrest or at least social distancing. This period has been called the death of FOMO. You`re not missing out on anything. No one is having any fun. Besides, you can`t be there for it anyway. Someone on Twitter said today, my shoes probably think I died. Someone else suggested, any pants other than sweat pants be called hard pants, so that`s useful.

And so is this. The British sports announcer Andrew Cotter. There are no sports to announce anywhere, and he`s stuck at home in England. He`s been forced to do play-by-play between his two labs, Olive, the cagey veteran, and Mabel, the rookie upstart. We pick up the action in the Cotter living room.


ANDREW COTTER, BRITISH SPORTS ANNOUNCER: So into the final minutes and Olive in possession, but this is where Mabel is strong, chasing the game, using that intensity. We saw it in the semifinal, staring at a slightly torn cloth for over seven and a half minutes. And perhaps a few signs of overconfidence from her rival, a bit of showboating. Needs to be careful. There`s the change from the classic hold. Still placed on the outside, though. Great technique. And a glance at the youngster, who shows little emotion, but her mind will be empty.

Twenty seconds to go, and Olive closing in on victory and that coveted prize of being told she`s a very good dog. One paw to control and a switch. Now, Mabel sensing this might be a chance, still waiting, still believing. And you wonder what Olive is doing here. Only has to hold on. Going to the upright, though. High tariff with no opposable thumbs. High risk at this stage. And it`s gone, and Mabel takes it. No mercy from the younger dog, who takes this victory just as time runs out. A famous win built on patience and sheer belief. For Olive, only thoughts of what might have been, but only herself to blame.


WILLIAMS: A lot of people are going to question that last risky move by Olive. She was clearly blaming herself right before taking a nap. We`ll pick up the action when we can. That is our broadcast on this Thursday night. On behalf of all of my colleagues 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