BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Flash the red in the skies above a city in crisis, the Empire State Building high above New York on a clear Monday night. Good evening.
On this day 1,187 of the Trump administration. Just 197 days to go now until our presidential election. In fact, the President talked about the election today. He said the following. "I think we`re going to win in a landslide because, `a lot of people love Trump.` A lot of people love me." He said that at a coronavirus briefing with over 40,000 Americans dead.
Trump has declared the ventilator supply issue solved. He said of the United States, we are the king of ventilators all over the world. And he said once he solved the ventilator issue, the focus then shifted to, "we`ll get him on testing." We`ll get him on testing meaning this move for widespread testing that he`s hearing was launched by his enemies. It`s about him, about embarrassing and attacking him and not about public health.
Again today he held up copies of articles that were positive. He`s played TV clips in the briefing room of Andrew Cuomo saying nice things. The President gave his daily reminder of the Civil War death toll. He gave his daily reminder of what the death toll in this country could have been had he done nothing.
And today added his prediction that, "We could end up at 50 to 60," meaning 50,000 to 60,000 dead Americans. Asked about reports that businesses that are well off are getting government rescue payments, he said, "I know I didn`t get any."
In briefings over the weekend that got a lot less attention, he trotted out a new talking point for the first time. "Testing is a local thing." He said, "People are buying guns at a level we haven`t seen before because of this plague." He said, we`re the talk of other nations. He meant for how we`ve handled the pandemic. He said, "If I wasn`t elected, maybe the world would be over." And while he says, "This could have been stopped in China." "We`re doing great. We`re in great shape."
In the real world, this virus has now killed over 42,000 Americans. There are at least 775,000 confirmed cases in this country alone with only a tiny percentage of testing actually done.
Worldwide the number of confirmed cases has topped 2.4 million now. Over 169,000 have died. Today the head of the World Health Organization warned the worst of the virus is ahead of us unless nations can find a way to work together.
For his part, Trump just tonight, a few minutes ago, put out a tweet that is both real news and a shiny object late on a Monday night for the Trump base. "In light of the attack from the invisible enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our great American citizens, I will be signing an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States."
There were more signs of progress in New York today. Governor Cuomo says the state`s one-day death toll, think about this, one-day death toll was below 500 for the first time since April 2nd. Tonight we learned that Governor Cuomo, who`s been vocal about the President`s response to the crisis but has also found a way to compliment him in a strategic way, will visit the White House and be a guest in the Oval Office tomorrow.
And while the President continues to talk up reopening the country, insisting we are turning a corner, concern about testing has not gone away. At the moment, as we keep saying, just over 1% of our national population has been tested. Here`s how one emergency physician described the situation out there.
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DR. STEFAN FLORES, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN: Anyone and everyone needs to be tested at this point in time. Only then can we think about reopening the economy let alone this country. Otherwise, we`re setting ourselves up for failure, resurgence, and a second wave of COVID- 19.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There remains a shortage of tests as well as supplies. Governors in several states are urging the White House to come up with a national strategy to expand testing for the virus in order to head off an expected surge in new cases when states start lifting those restrictions. Trump repeatedly insists testing is the job of the states, and today at the White House, he suggested there are more than enough tests and implied governors just aren`t looking in the right places.
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DONALD TRUMP, (R) UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: We provided each governor with a list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the labs where they can find additional testing capacity within their states. Some of the governors, like as an example, the governor from Maryland didn`t really understand the list. He didn`t understand too much about what was going on. So now I think he`ll be able to do that. It`s pretty simple. But they have tremendous capacity. States need to assess their complete inventory of available capacity. Some states have far more capacity than they actually understand, and it is a complex subject. But some of the governors didn`t understand it. The governor, as an example, Pritzker from Illinois, did not understand his capacity. The federal government has already made immense testing capabilities available.
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WILLIAMS: So you got it there. The governors don`t understand. Maryland`s governor, who resorted to cutting his own deal with South Korea to get a half million tests shipped here, offered his take on the President`s comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, (R) MARYLAND: I think what the President may be referring to is that they sent out a list to each of the governors of all of the different lab facilities in their states, which most of the governors already knew where the lab facilities were in their states. So they were either federal health facilities that we`ve been desperately trying to get help from or military installations, none of which were state-owned labs or facilities where we could actually do any testing, but I`m not sure what the President is referring to. I have a pretty good understanding of what`s going on, and I appreciated the information that was provided by his team. But he wasn`t there for -- I`m not sure what he was trying to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump insists he will convince American companies to increase production of critical testing equipment like swabs. He said shortly we`ll have more swabs than we know what to do with. But former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says it`s going to take time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The testing isn`t going to be in place, and also the contact tracing, the ability to do the work of tracking down everyone who is sick or who might have been in contact with people who are sick. A good rule of thumb would be about 1% of the population on a weekly basis. We`re not going to be there. We`re not going to be there in May. We`re not going to be there in June. Hopefully we`ll be there by September.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And this whole time the back and forth over testing capability continues. The President seems to be taking any criticism on that front personally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Remember it was all ventilators, and the reason it was all ventilators, they said there`s no way he`ll ever be able to catch this one. And not only did we catch it, we are now the king of ventilators all over the world. And that wasn`t playing well, so then they said testing, testing. Oh, we`ll get him on testing. Well, testing is much easier than ventilators. It used to be ventilators, ventilators, ventilators. Now it`s testing, testing, testing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the governors of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee taking steps to reopen their states even as people there continue to die from this. There have been scattered protests in some parts of the country with people demanding governors lift stay-at-home orders. A couple of folks brought their AR-15s just in case. In Colorado, some health care workers on Sunday stood up to protesters calling for an end to Colorado`s restrictions.
For days the President`s been encouraging a reopening of the country`s economy. One big example of economic distress despite efforts by the White House to shore up the market, the disappearing demand for oil. Today U.S. oil prices entered negative territory for the first time ever with the price per barrel trading well below zero, which technically, if taken to its logical extent, means an empty oil barrel costs more than a barrel filled with crude oil.
There is also the question of the President`s credibility. New NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling finds out 36% of the people polled trust what Trump says about the virus, 52% do not. The issue of how Trump has viewed this virus came up again today. You`ll remember he downplayed the threat earlier this year, insisting the illness would eventually disappear. Today he was asked about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned that downplaying the virus maybe got some people sick?
TRUMP: And a lot of people Trump, right? A lot of people love me. You see them all the time, right? I guess I`m here for a reason, you know? To the best of my of my knowledge won, and I think we`re going to win again. I think we`re going to win in a landslide. In January, a certain date, you know the date better than I do, we put on a ban of China where China can`t come in. And before March we put on a ban on Europe where Europe can`t come in. So how could you say I wasn`t taking it seriously?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here for our leadoff discussion on another busy Monday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, also happens to be co-author along with his Post colleague Carol Leonnig of the best-seller, A Very Stable Genius. Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, best-selling author in her own right who is now at work on a biography of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And Dr. Vin Gupta. He`s an E.R. Doc specializing in these kinds of illnesses, also an Affiliate Assistant Professor with the University of Washington`s Department of Health Metric Sciences.
And, Doctor, because the times call for it, I`d like to begin with you. These states we`re talking about urged on by the President want to open as soon as late this week, in some cases ready or not. What if the answer is not and it turns out to be a false start, it turns out to start small localized at first second curves?
DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We don`t know what the answer is going to be, Brian, and it`s a little puzzling because none of the states meet the criteria of the phase one guideline that President Trump has laid out, which is that cases have to be on the decline in the states mentioned, like Georgia, which they`re not, before you enter this phase one liberalization of social distancing.
One problem is they`re not even meeting that criteria. Number two, we`re testing 1% of the population. Everyone keeps saying it, 1%. So what`s the true infection rate? Probably a lot higher. There was a study out at Stanford where 50 to 85 times the expected infection rate was realized in just a random survey of Santa Clara County, 50 to 85 times higher than what was expected. So we are operating blindly. It doesn`t do the President and his administration any good to be opening up the country with faulty data or insufficient data. So this is really dangerous, and it terrifies me and my colleagues in ICUs across the country because we`re going to be left dealing with the consequences.
WILLIAMS: Susan Page, the President said out loud, as we mentioned, at a coronavirus briefing today that people love Trump, people love me. He predicted a landslide victory. I heard a veteran journalist last night say that while it`s a huge oversimplification, it`s possible this is being viewed in blue states as a public health crisis, in red states as an economic crisis. Do you think that overall theory may hold?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think it might hold at the moment, but I actually think reality will take -- will dominate at the end of the day because we know that some of these red states and states that are less densely populated have not seen the same rates of infection and death as states like New York and New Jersey. But as this pandemic continues across the country, I think we`re going to see effects in all states regardless of their politics, and it is hard to spin away the health crisis if you are seeing your parents get sick, if you see your kids get sick, if you see nursing homes show the kind of tragic devastation that we`re seeing now. So I guess I think the partisan nature of this debate, I think the disease takes over as the disease continues. The virus is more powerful than the politics.
WILLIAMS: So, Philip Rucker, when the President says attributing the "to his enemies," we`ll get him on testing, it`s completely absent and disconnected with any stewardship role over public health. Why his insistence that testing is local?
PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it`s really puzzling, Brian, because this is a President who declared himself a wartime President and talked about how he would assume awesome powers as the President and commander in chief because we were at, as he put it, a time of war. It was just last week that he had said that he had total authority over some of these matters, and now all of a sudden there`s a problem with testing. Test is not as widespread as it needs to be according to the experts, and the President is saying, actually, I don`t have power for that. I don`t have the authority for that. You should put your blame on the states, on the governors. And it`s really an effort, I think, by the President, and we know this from our reporting, that this has been his strategy throughout, to try to avoid any sort of personal blame for any of the failures or struggles of the federal government throughout this pandemic, and right now the struggle and the failure is in testing. Only 4 million people in this country have had tests. Many, many millions more need it.
Governor Hogan, by the way, does know where the labs are, does know where the testing capabilities are in his State of Maryland. He just doesn`t have the equipment to do those tests and administer them properly. That`s why he had to cut that deal with South Korea to get all of that equipment flown into the airport in Baltimore.
WILLIAMS: Speaking of South Korea, Doctor, I want to put a tweet on the screen from the veteran journalist and author James Fallows. Very simple. Two months ago on February 20, neither U.S. nor South Korea had yet recorded a death from the virus. On March 20, South Korea had 100 total COVID deaths. U.S. had 150. Today, April 20, South Korea has had a total of 236 deaths. The U.S. has passed 4,000. Doctor, why the diversions? What did they do right? And -- 40,000, forgive me. Why the diversions? What did they do right? What did we perhaps do wrong?
GUPTA: You know, Brian, sadly I think the answer is pretty straightforward. South Korea had the humility. When the WHO released technical guidance in the middle of January about what to test, how to test, they actually gave the framework. South Korea, listened and we did not listen. We chose to ignore that advice. We did not embrace it. And it took our own CDC to have fits and starts to ramp up testing subsequently. So if you`re looking for an ideological cause for why they`re doing better and we`re not doing as well, look to our lack of embrace of the WHO`s guidance and South Korea`s embrace of it, and now we`re putting blame where we should be putting blame, enabling at their footstep.
WILLIAMS: Susan Page, your great strength has always been summing up what`s going on and especially summing up the current state of politics. Can you take a moment and measure for us the political risk this President faces right now?
PAGE: You know, I think the risk for the President is that re-elections are traditionally a referendum on the incumbent President, and that is certainly going to be true if we`re in the wake of this terrible pandemic and economic crisis to boot. He`s going to be judged on how he`s doing. You saw that devastating number in your new poll. Only 36% of Americans believe what he`s telling them. And the task for his challenger in a case like this is not to prove that he`s the perfect candidate. Joe Biden doesn`t have to do that. He has to prove he`s an acceptable risk if Americans have decided that President Trump is not up to the job. In some ways it looks to me like this looks a little like the first campaign I covered in 1980 where Americans decided Jimmy Carter was not up to the job. They weren`t that sure about Ronald Reagan, but when they decided on the referendum, Jimmy Carter didn`t make it. They took a leap of faith and elected Ronald Reagan. That`s what this feels like to me today.
WILLIAMS: And, Phil Rucker, the President looks at these protesters in the states wanting to get back to work, wanting to reopen society. One comment he made about the scene, he`s never seen as many American flags. Talk about the dicey relationship, as the rest of the country views it, that he has with these protesters. They are protesting Trump administration guidelines. He has given them more than just his tacit blessing.
RUCKER: That`s right, Brian. And the other thing that the President sees when he looks at images of these protesters like the ones playing right now is he sees his own campaign banner. He knows that these are his supporters. They may not all be his supporters. We`re not sure who they all are going to vote for in November. But many of them are Trump supporters, are waving Trump flags. And Trump, the President, knows that he needs to show in solidarity with them. It`s one of the reasons why, for example, after the Charlottesville attack, he showed solidarity with the Neo-Nazi protesters there. In this case, he`s trying to show solidarity with these folks, saying, I stand with you. I believe in what you believe in, which is getting back to work and reopening this economy.
And he has defended their right to protest, which is in direct violation of the social distancing guidelines that his own administration has put out. He also, by the way, has said that when he looks at images of these protests, that they`re definitely more than six feet apart. We`re looking at images of them tonight. They don`t look like they`re six feet apart. They look a lot closer than that. But I guess it`s in the eye of the beholder.
WILLIAMS: Indeed. Our thanks tonight to Phil Rucker, to Susan Page, Dr. Vin Gupta. Greatly appreciate the three of you starting us off and starting off a new week with us.
Coming up, why are some states getting rid of some of the very restrictions that medical experts say are critical and have been critical thus far in this fight against the pandemic?
And later, the push to reopen puts Americans against one another. And could the secret to beating coronavirus be on display halfway around the world? THE 11TH HOUR just getting under way on this Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA: We will allow gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologist, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools and massage therapists to reopen their doors this Friday, April the 24th.
GOVERNOR HENRY MCMASTER, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: On March the 30th, I issued an order that closed access to the beaches along our state. Today I am canceling that order effective as of noon tomorrow for those beaches.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The first guy there, the Governor of Georgia made the announcement in Atlanta Headquarters of the CDC. Also important to note, neither Georgia nor South Carolina have seen the standard, the 14-day decline in coronavirus cases that`s called for in the White House reopening our states guidelines.
Florida`s Governor started opening some beaches last Friday, within minutes, crowds were spotted along Jacksonville`s coastline yet the crises is far from over in Florida. Just to note here, so far the state has more than 27,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. And as you see there, over 820 deaths.
Miami-Dade is the hardest hit county in the state of Florida. The mayor says there`s no timeline for opening beaches there. And with that, we welcome to the broadcast Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for coming on. I`m curious to know if you feel any pressure.
MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ, (R) MIAMI-DADE, FLORIDA: No, not really. We -- even from the governor, the governor understands that this is a big state. And so we talk every day about the things that he`s going to do in the state. Actually, it was named to his reopen Florida and reopen his task force. So I`m very honored to do that. And so there`s some big state, different -- There`s different statistics in different parts of the state where the hardest hit down here. So we take different kinds of measures down here in southeast Florida.
WILLIAMS: It`s a big state just as we are a big very diverse and very different country, state to state. The problem as we have hear it from the public health professionals is folks from elsewhere come into your jurisdiction and it`s a great place to visit and they may be sick, they may not be symptomatic, but without everybody marching into the same step, this is what can happen. You can get a second curve does that worry you?
GIMENEZ: Well, it worries me as well if we open up hotels but the hotel rooms are closed here in Miami-Dade County, so I don`t know who`s coming and they`re coming, they`re probably either residents of Miami-Dade or have some family here and so our travel, our tourism is way down in Miami-Dade County and that`s one of the things that concerns me in the long haul about this corona, you know, the coronavirus outbreak here.
And so we don`t have any intention to open the beaches because we have a problem with -- Well, we have a problem with enforcing it, enforcing these social distancing guidelines et cetera. But we`re looking at opening parks and we`re looking at opening our boating industry and getting folks back on the water. And then maybe you know, maybe golf and all that.
The things that you can do outdoors, the things that you can actually enforce the social distancing and wearing of masks and those activities that you can do safely. So we`re looking forward to doing that sooner rather than later. And then I`m also putting together a task force to see when and how we can start to open up our businesses. We have to move our state forward. We have to move Miami-Dade County forward. And then so the problem with our beaches is that we have like 15 miles of beaches and our police department, it`s almost impossible to enforce the things that we want to do there. And so that`s the reason why we`re not opening those beaches is because it`s going to be really hard to enforce the social distancing and the things that we feel are necessary in order to keep our residents safe.
WILLIAMS: When it comes time to reopen slowly businesses things like hotels, public gatherings, what indication will be your benchmark, is there a possibility that at the local level you will mirror what the administration wants the standard to be and wait for, you know, 14 day period?
GIMENEZ: Well, the thing is that, you know, a lot of people talk about having less cases. And it`s almost impossible to have those cases because we`re testing more and more and more and more here in Miami-Dade as the more you test, the more positives that you`ll have.
And we also are running a medical study here in Miami-Dade, one of the few places probably in the world is doing it that we`re trying to figure out exactly what is the penetration of COVID-19 here in Miami-Dade. And one of the telemetry findings that we got was over last week we did a random sample of about 800 of people in Miami-Dade. And what we found is that 60% of those people that test actually had tested positive to the antibody which means they had it or they have it now have exhibited absolutely no symptoms in the last 14 days. And so we expect to find that there are a heck of a lot more people that have either been sick or had COVID-19, or actually have it, then we actually have, you know, noted on the dashboard. And well, right now I think we`re at 9500 confirmed cases.
I think we`ll find that we`re going to have a heck of a lot more people there. But yet, a hospitalization rate is going down. And the number of people actually going into the hospital, which is really the key. It`s actually been trending down for the last maybe week or so. We feel that probably we hit the peak of our infections sometime within the last week, between four days ago and seven days ago.
And if that trend continues to go, then we, you know, if we follow the White House initiative and our guidelines in 14 days of declining numbers that we can think to start about, start opening up some other businesses and do it in a way which is safe. You know, we`re never going to get down to zero infections, but we`ll get it down to where we`re reducing the number of infections to the point where we never overwhelm our health system and our health system has never been anywhere close to being overwhelmed here in Miami-Dade County.
WILLIAMS: I got 15 seconds left. Do you have on demand testing if I was a resident there and wanted to get a test tonight, could I get one?
GIMENEZ: You can. It`s going to -- you know, it depending on how quick you call and all that. But if you actually have symptoms, you can go to a hospital. There`s a number of testing sites that we have in Miami-Dade County.
And, again, the key is going to be accessibility to these tests. But it`s also going to be how are we monitoring the hospitalization and keeping -- you know, we have to change our behavior as Americans for a while, at least until we have a vaccine, so that we reduce the level of infection in our country and, in my case, Miami-Dade County. That`s what we`re looking at, and that`s why we`re going to come up with ideas of how to start to reopen the economy but do it in a way that always keeps the level of infection in a place where we never overwhelm our health system.
WILLIAMS: Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County in Florida, thank you very much for spending some time with us tonight. We greatly appreciate it.
And coming up for us as we continue, a surreal struggle for protective gear for health care workers in a state where the worst of this may be yet to come.
WILLIAMS: Right now the commonwealth of Massachusetts ranks third among states for total cases with over 39,000 confirmed cases, more than 1,800 deaths. As the state battles a surge in new infections, one local doctor says obtaining personal protective equipment has been a real struggle.
Dr. Andrew Artenstein recently wrote that after securing a shipment of PPE, he was questioned by the FBI to make sure the equipment wasn`t headed for the blank market. He writes that after the agents released the equipment, "I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure.
For more, we welcome to the broadcast Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician, executive, and chief academic officer -- I`ll get it out for Baystate Health.
Doc, your story reads way more like a drug deal than an official health care transaction, though I know it to be the latter. What`s the short version to tell our viewers about what happened to you?
ANDREW ARTESTEIN, CHIEF PHYSICIAN EXECUTIVE, BAYSTATE HEALTH: Well, we live in different times, and our normal supply chains have broken down. But our staff and team members caring for patients really desperately need this protective equipment to stay safe while they`re doing their jobs. So it`s our job to get it for them, and sometimes you have to take unusual routes to do that. In this case --
WILLIAMS: And this route led you where physically?
ARTESTEIN: Well we had to go on a significant trip from western Massachusetts down to the mid-Atlantic region to meet in a warehouse where a shipment from China of KN95s, which are the Chinese variant of N95 masks and a number of face masks were awaiting us.
WILLIAMS: And let`s just say you knew you were paying a price north of their list price?
ARTESTEIN: Absolutely. It was still reasonable compared to some of the other deals we contemplated. Again, this is -- these are non-traditional routes. It happened this was a well vetted broker though we felt comfortable that they had a track record and could get us what we needed and that the masks would perform according to their specifications, which we were able to ascertain when we got there. But it was tricky.
WILLIAMS: And what did you learn about the role, secret, quiet, subterranean, that our federal government is playing in all this?
ARTESTEIN: Well, it`s not exactly clear. Again, the FBI agents were there. They affirmed our credentials as health care providers and as a hospital system, which is what they said they were there to do to ensure that this equipment wasn`t going to a third party or to middle men or black market. And in retrospect, I was happy to hear that. But it did create significant anxiety on everyone`s part that we could get this done. And then after we thought the material had been released, we were told it had, hours went by. We were only then to learn that it was still being considered by Homeland Security for redirection elsewhere. Where, I don`t know.
WILLIAMS: When you hear at the daily briefing that PPE needs are being met, these withering numbers of how much is being manufactured, when you hear that we`re doing great on testing, what`s your reaction?
ARTESTEIN: I can tell you on the ground, the needs on the PPE side, they`re not being met. This hasn`t been resolved. We`re a little better than we were in some areas. In my particular institution, Baystate Health in Western Mass, we still have great needs of basic tools to do your job. I`m talking about disposable gowns, things we take for granted under normal conditions, and I know reading about the state of New York, they`re in similar straits when it comes to things like that.
And Massachusetts currently, as you said in your previous piece, is in the surge space right now. We`re probably peaking as we speak or in the next few days to a week, and this material is gravely needed by health care providers everywhere.
WILLIAMS: Dr. Artenstein, on behalf of everybody watching who can`t thank you personally, thank you very much for being in the fight and for fighting for your patients and your institution. Dr. Andrew Artenstein our guest tonight.
Coming up for us, what it`s going to take to get back to some semblance of normal in our country. Our next guest predicts one of the greatest innovation revolutions of modern times, and we kind of have to hope he`s right.
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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: Let`s use this situation, this crisis, this time to actually learn the lessons, value from the reflection, and let`s re-imagine what we want society to be.
Let`s at least make this a moment that when we look back, we can say wow, we went through hell, but look at all the lessons we learned and look at how much better we made this place from this incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Governor Cuomo announcing this idea to re-imagine key systems in New York from transportation to health care, and there`s a lot of it. The governor announced a task force that`s going to focus on downstate New York one thing-- once things get up and running.
Back with us tonight on this very topic, Walter Isaacson, distinguished fellow with the Aspen Institute, former editor of "Time" magazine, veteran journalist and author, biographer of, among others, Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger, Jobs and Da Vinci. Also, a very proud to be a professor of history at the jewel (ph) of New Orleans, Tulane University.
Walter, it`s great to have you on. I`ll get right into this. What will change forever, do you think, as a result of this? And I keep hearing things like the public architecture of the post-COVID period. What`s going to change about the American workplace in the foreseeable future?
WALTER ISAACSON, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, TULANE UNIVERSITY: You know, Brian, you were down here when Hurricane Katrina hit, and the important thing we did after the storm, was to say we didn`t want to just restore New Orleans to the way it was. We wanted to make it the way it should be. Now even after this COVID storm, you know, the deaths are declining in New Orleans, new cases are declining.
And so we have to start imagining what the city, what our country is going to be like after the passing, when this plague recedes and the earth begins to heal.
One of the things that`s happened our society for the past 20, 30 years, has been that people work in the information space. People who are in finance or can things on Zoom meetings when they do their work, they`ve been doing fine. You know, the great productivity has come down and helped their salaries and their wealth go way up. But real people with real jobs who open up shops in the morning and run small businesses or show up on the docks behind me to unload grain, you know, people who actually produce products, do goods and services and pack meat, they`ve not had their wages going up.
This coronavirus pandemic has added another huge schism there, because as we reopen our economy, the people who have been able to be in the information space and finance space, they`re still going to do just fine. But people have to show up at work, who have to go to the restaurants and open up the shop every morning and welcome customers, they`re the ones getting hurt.
So I think we have to re-imagine an economy that rewards real work, real products, real services, and get away from this notion that they`re the people who are expendable in this society.
WILLIAMS: I hope you`re right on that. Give us reason for actual hope for the future since, as we have this conversation, over 40,000 souls of our fellow citizens are gone.
ISAACSON: Well, I think we`re going to both have to reinvent the public sphere as you said, as Governor Cuomo said. And we`re going to have to say what type of things belong in the public space. And to me, it`s now health care. Just like after a hurricane, you realize you`re in the same boat. We realize as a country and even as a world, we`re all in the same boat. If some people are unhealthy, we all get unhealthy.
So I think we`re going to have to find ways to say, that`s a common good. I`m not trying to make political arguments about expanding Obamacare or whatever. I`m just trying to say that we can`t have a system that doesn`t provide the basic health care and sick leave that we will need for future pandemics.
And secondly, I think we have to create the industry of the 21st century just as digital technology and the information space was the industry of the last half of the 20th century. This notion of defeating viruses and cancer and having personalized medicine will be the new great technology of the 21st century. And we`re so far behind on this. We don`t even know whether you can get reinfected. We don`t know whether having flattened the curve here in New Orleans, that was because of the lockdown or because the virus eventually creates a herd immunity. Herd immunity has become a political thing instead of a good science trying to figure out to what extent do people develop immunity to this.
So it`s exposed how far behind we are in some of our biotech as well as how great that biotech industry could be.
WILLIAMS: One of the great authors of our time and a beautiful home in a great city, in a great state. Walter, it`s always a pleasure.
ISAACSON: Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for finding the time and coming on with us.
Coming up for us, a real-life example of what can happen when a community doesn`t follow coronavirus guidelines. And the extraordinary measures it can take to walk in and fix it.
WILLIAMS: The fight against coronavirus, as you know, is going on around the world as the President reminds us on a near daily basis. The White House says it`s now found in 184 countries, some having more success against it than others.
A huge problem developed in an ultra orthodox Jewish community in Israel. We have a report on that challenge tonight from NBC News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This is Bnei Brak on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Home to more than 200,000 orthodox Jewish Israelis and a coronavirus hot spot. Today the playgrounds are empty. The prayers on sidewalks, not in synagogues. But that wasn`t the scene two weeks ago. While much of the country went into a lockdown still in place today, people in this fiercely independent community seem to be ignoring the warnings. The virus exploded. Hundreds of cases with health care experts fearing a third of the city, more than 70,000 people, could become infected.
The streets were blocked off, and the mayor did the unthinkable, called in the Israeli army.
AVI COHEN, RETIRED COLONEL: When we got here 2 1/2 weeks ago, it was total chaos. We didn`t have any picture of who, where, what. We only had numbers, and the numbers was disaster.
COBIELLA: In this virus war room, retired Colonel Avi Cohen, who spent three decades in cyber warfare hunting terrorists is now trying to stop a deadly disease from spreading. The red dots on this screen are confirmed coronavirus cases, 2,300 so far.
COHEN: You can see that the building with the yellow tag, it`s a building that has an infected guy inside the building. If you contain the building and you contain it inside the apartment and you give them what you need and you talk with them so it won`t spread outside of this.
COBIELLA: Sounds straightforward, but like the armies in America, families here don`t have TVs, the internet, or smartphones, and they don`t trust the government. Dire health warnings simply weren`t getting through.
So they started spreading the word using loudspeakers. Despite a deep distrust of the military here, soldiers kept people in their homes not by force but by becoming caretakers, delivering food to families, earning goodwill. And they tested, bringing families without cars to the testing site by ambulance. More than 10,000 tests in this community so far. Then there was another problem.
SHAFIR BONER, MDA DIRECTOR, PARAMEDICS EDUCATION CENTER: There`s a lot of population, a lot of families with a large number of person in the same family that live in small apartments.
COBIELLA: The solution? They moved 600 people to special coronavirus hotels set up by the government.
Today Bnei Brak still has the highest concentration of coronavirus cases in the country but the rate of new infections has been cut in half. Saving a community that had to look beyond its own rules, traditions, and fears to overcome a modern killer.
Kelly Cobiella, NBC News, London.
WILLIAMS: And coming up, why some of us are better equipped than others for the era of home confinement that we`re in.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, if the folks you`re watching on TV are maintaining the same look during this quarantine, it could mean a couple of things. They are adept at self-haircutting and/or hair coloring, or they have a quarantine partner who is, or they still have access to a hairstylist even though that is by definition close-in work during this era of social distancing.
Some are better equipped to be home hairstylists than others, like this tweet we saw from Christina Koch, NASA astronaut. Christina Koch, and not just any NASA astronaut. She happens to be a rock star among astronauts. You see, Koch, is the record holder for the longest mission in space by a woman, 328 days. That`s about 11 months, and that means learning weightless haircuts. As she has learned as a garage stylist to her husband, they are a heck of a lot less complicated with gravity here on earth.
That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we begin a new week of home confinement. 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