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Protests over beach closures TRANSCRIPT: 5/1/20, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams

Guests: Michael Osterholm, Asa Hutchinson, Donna Edwards, Susan Page, Christopher Dickey


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The Empire State Building high above the city of New York lit up tonight in tribute to police officers everywhere. A memorial to the fallen and a salute to those now on the job.

Good evening on this day 1,198 of the Trump administration. 186 days to go until our Presidential Election.

And before leaving for Camp David today, the President left us with this quote. "Hopefully we`re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number."

And indeed it is. Here`s another one. This is the current death toll as of our air time tonight. You see it there. Almost 65,000 people across our country. The President had been using 60,000 as a kind of benchmark death toll estimate in weeks past. No more.

Tonight NBC News reports 14 possible COVID vaccines are now being developed as part of the administration`s new program to fast-track one for use as early as January. That number was, "Whittled down several weeks ago from 93 vaccines in development that were studied as part of the program known as Operation Warp Speed. The goal is to have three or four vaccines make it through final testing, cleared for use early next year."

Late this afternoon, the FDA announced it`s allowing emergency use of remdesivir to treat the virus. It`s the drug Dr. Fauci says has proven effective in early trials. Prior to this, though, it has not been approve for any illness in this country.

Tonight NBC News has also learned the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying next week before the House appropriations committee about the coronavirus response. The administration says it would be, "counterproductive" to have Dr. Fauci while trying to open up the country and develop a vaccine. As others quickly put it tonight, they were clearly worried about what he might say, the attention he might get.

Then just a short time ago, we learned Fauci will be allowed to testify before the Senate Health Committee May 12th. The Senate, of course, is in Republican hands.

Meanwhile, a new report out of the University of Minnesota suggests the pandemic could be around for two more years with recurring spikes until about two-thirds or more of the population is immune. One of the report`s authors will join us in just a few moments.

Another new report, this one from the CDC about the U.S. response in the early months of this year says, "The epidemic curve presented was likely affected by limited testing, particularly in the early phases of the outbreak." Despite all that, the President continues to focus on blaming China for the outbreak and now talking up retaliation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You talked about potential tariffs on China yesterday, is that something that`s under serious consideration?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we`re going to see what happens. A lot of things are happening with respect to China. We`re not happy obviously with what happened. This is a bad situation. All over the world, 182 countries. But we`ll be having a lot to say about that. It`s certainly an option.


WILLIAMS: As we head into the weekend, nearly 20 states are going through some form of reopening. Across the country, protesters came out to object to those restrictions that remain, like California`s decision to close Orange County beaches.

In Michigan just yesterday, hundreds of protesters, some of them with long guns, descended on the state capitol as Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended its state of emergency orders untll May 28.

Today Trump weighed in with this post. "The Governor of Michigan should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again safely. See them, talk to them, make a deal."

Late this afternoon, Governor Whitmer responded to the President.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We`re not in a political crisis where we should just negotiate and find some common ground here. We`re in a public health crisis. We`re in the midst of a global pandemic that has already killed almost 4,000 people in our state.


WILLIAMS: Michigan has recorded over 42,000 cases. New York`s Governor also coming down on the side of caution. Today Andrew Cuomo said schools would remain closed for the rest of the stool year. Some of the most important voices on how we should reopen the nation and when belong to those who would care for us if we move too quickly and have a resurgence of this virus. Earlier on this network, one physician expressed her concerns to Nicolle Wallace.


DR. KAVITA PATEL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY DIRECTOR: Everybody in health care is just mortified at kind of what is unfolding in some of those cities and states, and that`s going back to the data. We haven`t even finished our first wave, Nicolle. We`re still in maybe at best a plateau.


WILLIAMS: On that note, here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night, Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, best-selling author who`s now at work on a biography of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press, who was in today`s White House press briefing, and Dr. Michael Osterholm. He`s a Professor and the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. Also the co-author of the recent book Deadliest Enemy: Our War against Killer Germs.

Good evening and welcome to you all. Doctor, I`d like you to go first because of the urgency of the subject and the importance of the subject. It you synopsize your work and tell us what life is going to look like in this country for the next two years?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, first of all, we all know we`re in the middle of a pandemic. And a pandemic is something we have experience with. It`s when a new virus enters into our population and we don`t have protection against it. And we know it will ultimately take up to 60 percent to 70 percent of the population to become infected or immune through a vaccine before this virus will stop transmitting. We don`t see a vaccine coming nearly soon enough to keep that number down from vaccine itself. So all we can count on right now is we`re going to see many more cases over the weeks and months ahead, which could include that fall peak that everyone is talking about.

WILLIAMS: And that coincides with cold weather returning. The part of your report that I think got everyone`s attention today was this notion that this is going to be life for us, some form of it, for two years until enough immunity gets built up.

OSTERHOLM: Well, that`s right. Either we get immunity through a vaccine, which obviously that`s the hopeful scenario that we`ll have a vaccine early next year. I think we have to be very cautious about that. Otherwise this virus will keep marching through our population. Even when we try to smother it, it will keep coming back over and over again, and we very well could have that peak we talked about that could occur mid to late summer, early fall. That peak could in many ways make all the previous peaks seem like nothing more than foothills. That`s the challenge we have, and that`s what we have to understand we`re still preparing for. We`re not in recovery yet at all. We`re still preparing.

WILLIAMS: Well, Susan Page, you heard the doctor. That`s where we are. Have you ever covered anything like the rolling debate between public health and commerce, business in America, and staggering unemployment?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": And the idea of making tradeoffs. You really see the President talking about -- at least implicitly, the tradeoffs that he`s prepared to make to get the economy going, to get people going back to work, things back to some form of normal even though that is likely to cost -- likely to cost lives. And we`re about to head, I think, into a new phase of this whole debate because we have multiple states now preparing to open up to one degree or another to more business.

And as the Doctor is saying, we believe that is likely to lead to a spike in the number of people who have this disease, in the number of people who die from this disease. And the question is what is the response at that point from public officials?

WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, let`s talk about your beat because politics is intertwined in everything. Somehow the White House is going to explain how it is that they`re not going to allow Fauci to testify before the Democratic-controlled chamber and yet will allow him to testify before the upper chamber in the hands of the Republicans. Today we had a new press secretary making her debut in the briefing room. We noted you asked the question that brought about the answer. Here it is. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Will you pledge never to lie to us from that podium?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.


WILLIAMS: So, Jill, that was followed by the press briefing. How did she do?

COLVIN: Well, I mean it was, you know, the first time now that we had the press secretary standing up there in more than a year. And so I think everyone in the room, was kind of interested in how she would approach this new job. The previous press secretary spent her entire nine months never once appearing onstage.

And in general, she was less antagonistic certainly than some of her predecessors like Sean Spicer for instance and Sarah Sanders sometimes was. But despite answering that question and saying she would never lie from the podium, the next questions in the press briefing certainly -- there`s always a line of kind of what you consider lying or not, but there were certainly misstatements. There were certainly mischaracterizations, and she talked about, for instance, you know, sexual misconduct allegations that have been leveled against the President. And as she characterized those new documents that were released in the Flynn case, and so it really felt as a reporter sitting in the room, very much the same as some of the previous secretaries under this administration.

WILLIAMS: Susan Page, what`s the White House worried about? What`s Fauci going to say a Republican-controlled committee that he wouldn`t say to a Democratic-controlled committee or vice versa?

PAGE: Well, you know what, of course both of them are oversight committees, so he could get tough questions. And of course there are democrats on the Senate committee as well able to pose questions. But the tone of these hearings very much can reflect the chairmen of the committees, and therefore I think they assume they`ll get a friendlier, less critical, friendlier questions, less desire to probe on the Senate side than they would on the House side. I think they`re concerned about detailed questions about was the administration slow to respond to this virus at the time that it could have been controlled more easily, and does Dr. Fauci agree with the course that the President is setting, encouraging some states to open back up. I think they`re concerned about him talking both about the past and about the future.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Doctor, what strikes you when you see the news coverage of states like Florida, states like Georgia, states very eager to get back to business and reopen tourism? For example, we have the Governor of Arkansas standing by to talk to us. They`ve got 3,300 cases. They have suffered 64 deaths. If he were to call you and seek your counsel, what would you tell him? And in the next segment, we`ll ask him.

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, if you`re going to try to bring back society from its distancing location now, you have to have several things. One, you have to have testing in such a way that every individual in your state, if they have any signs or symptoms today, can be tested today and get the results back quickly.

You got to be able to test your health care workers if they have any symptoms at all so that they`re not sick, infecting people at work. You`ve got to be able to do that with your first responders. If you don`t have that testing capability, you do not know what`s going on in your state.

Second of all, it`s very important you have surge capacity in your hospitals. Do you have enough beds so that if suddenly we had a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in cases, could you handle that overnight? Are your health care workers protected? Do they have the equipment they need? If you don`t have those things, you haven`t even be talking about coming back yet. And only with those things, then you can start determining can we come back enough so that if we do see a problem quickly developing, we can again put the brakes back on.

WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, final question. Witnessing the President`s travels today, a weekend at Camp David to start the month of May, to put a hard edge on it, that is one way of controlling message and messenger by taking them out of the picture.

COLVIN: Yeah, and you`ve got the President right now, who is spending the weekend in Camp David. I think staff have learned over the years that one way to keep the President from tweeting is to keep him busy. So you set up meetings. They do calls with world leaders. This is one of the first times he`s really left the White House in basically a month. He`s taken a couple of day trips, but the President is clearly -- he`s talked about how he`s feeling a little bit stir crazy there. He`s got a pretty, you know, developing schedule coming up. He`ll be in Arizona next week. He says he`s planning a trip to Ohio.

You`ve really got the White House here trying to project a feeling of normalcy. You`ve seen this week at the White House many meetings, people coming in, people close to the President, surrounding him. At the White House, remember, everybody who is with the President takes a coronavirus test, and so in the building it really feels like life is normal, and that`s the message. That`s the image that they`re trying to project right now.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Doc, I lied. I got one more question, and it`s for.


WILLIAMS: And it`s for the people who, for lack of a better phrase, have been following the rules. The folks watching tonight at the end of another long week on a Friday night, with nothing but the confines of their house have they seen for the last six or seven weeks. They`ve stayed in. They see outside the weather turning nicer. They see news coverage of a number of places where they don`t live starting to throw open the doors and starting to have restaurants and bowling alleys and barbershops. What`s your advice to the people who remain in, and in their view have done the right thing?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we can`t stay locked up for 18, 24 months. We know that. What we have to do is we have to start coming back into our everyday life, but we have to do it knowing if there is an increasing evidence of transmission, that we then can address that. So go outside. Enjoy the weather. But don`t get in large groups. Don`t stay close to lots of people. And if you do that, you can accomplish both getting out and being safe.

WILLIAMS: Terrific advice. Three terrific voices to start off our broadcast on a Friday night. To Susan Page, to Jill Colvin, to Dr. Michael Osterholm, our thanks for coming on.

And coming up for us, as more of these businesses reopen, the governor of Arkansas with us live to talk about his state is going to be allowed to get out there and get out and about it again.

And later, Joe Biden issues a direct denial of the sexual assault accusation against him. Will it be enough? As The 11th Hour is just getting under way on this Friday night.


WILLIAMS: While some parts of our country start another weekend in lockdown, others are easing up rules aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus. Tomorrow New Jersey state parks and golf courses reopen under social distancing restrictions. South Carolina says its home or work order will be voluntary starting Monday. And restaurants there will be able to seat customers outdoors beginning next week.

In Arkansas today the governor announced some businesses including salons and barbershops can reopen on Wednesday with restrictions. The state had already announced that restaurants can reopen with restrictions May 11th.

As of tonight, Arkansas, we said this earlier, has more than 3,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus. They`ve suffered at least 64 COVID-19 deaths. And as we mentioned, this new study from our previous guest, Dr. Osterholm, warns this pandemic could be with us in some form for two years. That`s a daunting task for our 50 state governors, and one of them is standing by to talk to us, Governor Asa Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas.

Governor, I`ve had the great pressure spending a great deal of time in your state. And let`s make clear what should be apparent to everybody.  It`s not New York. It`s not Miami. It`s not Washington. It`s not Seattle. It`s not Huntington Beach. It`s Arkansas. Each state has its own qualities. You never fully shut down as the more densely populated places, especially on both coasts did. But you heard the Doctor talk about standards. For starters, what percentage of our Kansans have been tested prior to opening the doors and letting folks out to a greater extent?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, Brian, it is good to be with you again. And I agreed with everything that the Doctor said in his interview in terms of being able to test hospital workers, being able to test anybody who is symptomatic. We have all of that in place. We`re increasing our testing capacity, and that`s an important ingredient.

The second thing he said is you got to make sure you`ve got hospital capacity. To put it in perspective, we have around 100 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. We have over 5,000 capacity in the state of Arkansas, and most of those hospital beds are empty because we`ve concentrated on COVID- 19 patients. And so the capacity is more than there. We didn`t enter a state shelter at home rule, but which did enforce social distancing, wearing of masks, and to doctor`s point, if we`re going to have this in the fall and we`re going to have it long-term, we`ve got to learn to move our economy forward. We`ve got to learn to live with this step by step, at the same time have the social distancing to reduce the spread and control it. We`re trying to put those -- that infrastructure in place, and I think we`ve been successful thus far.

WILLIAMS: Are you prepared, God forbid if this is a fall start, if we have a second curve -- are you prepared to move quickly? Will you know right away, and will you take further action -- I get it -- reluctantly?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you`ll have to. You`ll have to adjust it step by step. And our strategy, though, is one where we`re reintroducing some of the businesses that were closed like restaurants and our state parks and so on in a phased approach. And then secondly, as something might spring up, we`re really investing in our contact tracing capacity so that we can get it to the source quickly. We can deal with it. We can control it. And so you`ve got to have that capability as you look into the future. And, sure, we`re going to measure it step by step. We think that we`re past the peak on a plateau. We`re going down. And if that is the case, then we see it springing up again, we`ll have to take action.

But the key thing is that even though we`re lifting some restrictions, our social distancing is still in place. Our wearing of masks, the people of Arkansas are very proud, are disciplined on that. They understand the importance of it. And as we go to barbershops and beauty salons, the restrictions that they`re putting in place and the health requirements, we want to make sure they`re working. One of the things we`re doing is making sure they have the contact information so that if there is a positive case, we can trace it down very carefully. These are necessary steps for any state to take.

WILLIAMS: I want to play for you something from Judge Napolitano on Fox News tonight. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST:  Governors don`t write the law and don`t assess punishments. Only legislatures do. Every single one of the 50 governors in this state -- in this country has written new laws and assessed new punishment utterly and totally without authority to do so.


WILLIAMS: Governor, what do you make of that point?

HUTCHINSON: Well, that`s interesting. I mean obviously the 50 governors and including myself have issued emergency orders declaring a public health emergency very similar to the national guidelines and emergency that`s been declared.

I think that`s historically and appropriate for us to do that in terms of our own powers, executive branch powers. But I will add that I feel very uncomfortable as a conservative Republican telling a business that this is how many spaces you can have or you can do one-third of your occupancy if you want to reopen. That`s a very uncomfortable position for any executive to be in that believes in the free market system. But when you have a national health emergency and a state emergency, we know that we have to take these steps in order to control it, in order to get a handle on this virus. So we`ve got to exercise that power very carefully, and hopefully we`ll get out of that in the near future.

WILLIAMS: It was a gut check for us to hear this report out of Minnesota that we could be talking about two years of American life. I imagine it was a gut check for you too.

HUTCHINSON: It was indeed, but it also is a reminder if it is in fact going to be that long, we hope that we have a vaccine. We hope that we have other items in place. But if it`s going to be with us, we`ve got to learn to live with it, to manage around it, to control it, and life goes on. Life can`t be suspended for two years. We`ve got to learn how to deal with it, and I think we`re trying. And we`ll continue to do so.

WILLIAMS: Governor of the great state of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson. Thank you, Governor, for coming on our broadcast live tonight.  We appreciate it.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Brian. Good to be with you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, Joe Biden said it didn`t happen, period. Where the sexual assault allegation goes from here, the topic of our next discussion.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is not true. I`m saying it unequivocally. It never, never happened, and it didn`t. It never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you preparing us for a complaint that might be revealed in some way? Are you confident there is nothing?

BIDEN: I`m confident there`s nothing. No one ever brought it to the attention of me 27 years ago. This is any assertion at all.


WILLIAMS: That`s Joe Biden from this morning speaking out for the first time on this network to deny a claim that he sexually assaulted a woman 27 years ago. Tara Reade, is a former Senate aide, have said Biden assaulted her when she worked for his Senate office. She says at the time she filed a harassment complaint. In a letter to the secretary of the Senate this afternoon, the former vice president directed a search for the alleged complaint and asked that any results be made public.

NBC News reached out to Tara Reade for her response to Biden`s denial. We have not received a response. With us to talk about it, we`ve asked Susan Page to come back to the conversation. And joining this conversation, Donna Edwards, former Democratic member of Congress for the state of Maryland and now a "Washington Post" columnist.

Susan Page, you have covered all matter of candidates. You have covered all manner of allegations. What do you make of this?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, in fact I`ve covered three Joe Biden presidential campaigns. That`s how long I`ve covered politics. You know, I think this was a difficult day for Biden. I think they had hoped to not have to do an interview like the one he did this morning on "Morning Joe" and they decided that the time had come when it just -- it was inevitable that he was going to have to directly and by him personally address the allegations that Tara Reade has made against him.

You know, it was interesting his denial was unequivocal. How many news conferences have you covered where someone will say and, you know, I have no recollection of that event, which can mean any of a number of things. He unequivocally denied it, but he didn`t handle every question smoothly, and I think we have not gotten to the end of this story yet. I think this is something that Joe Biden is going to have to answer questions about again in the future.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, you are both an advocate for victims and a longtime friend of the former vice president. How do you negotiate your way through this topic?

DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I think that this was a really difficult day. I mean, I`ve known -- I worked with Senator -- then-Senator Biden and his team on the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and have dealt with him obviously over the years and in my time in Congress. And, frankly, I have not been able -- I wasn`t able to reconcile the person that I know with the charges, the allegations that have been made by this accuser, by Tara Reade.

But what I do know is what I know of Joe Biden. And I listened to him this morning, and I really do feel like he was speaking directly to me and probably to millions of others, and it was a strong denial. It was categorical. And I think that he displayed leadership in the way -- if you contrast President Trump, in the way that he have -- President Trump hasn`t by being very transparent and, you know, saying, you know, go and ask the Senate and the archivist to reveal any personnel documents that might shed light on this.

And I think that that`s really important, and I agree with Susan that he could have handled a couple of questions a little bit more smoothly. I don`t think this puts it to bed, but I do think that it was a strong statement from the former vice president, and it helps to address questions that people like me, who are advocates and allies of -- and supporters really of his, are able to say, you know what, he addressed us directly in a way that we`re frankly not accustomed to having candidates do.

WILLIAMS: Susan Page, how to put this delicately. This subject matter is in the president`s wheelhouse, and he talked about this sort of thing today on a podcast before leaving D.C. We`ll play that, talk about it on the other side.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve been falsely accused by people that I`ve never even seen. I`ve never even seen many of these people, and some of them, I met them, zero interest, OK? Like zero. And all of a sudden, you become a wealthy guy, you`re a famous guy, then you become president, and people just -- people that you`ve never seen, that you`ve never heard of make charges.


WILLIAMS: Susan Page, he went on to say the most interesting thing, which was almost to express -- to sympathize with Joe Biden, though I find it notable that both of you contend this may not do it, this may not end it.

PAGE: Yes. It may not -- different tone. Donald Trump took a different tone than Joe Biden did in addressing these allegations.

Here`s one great irony. You know, the Me Too movement was in part -- and the energy that we`ve seen around women and around this issue is in part a reaction to Donald Trump`s election. He helped create this landscape that has made it necessary for Joe Biden to take seriously and treat seriously these allegations by Tara Reade as much as he would want to just dismiss them completely out of hand. He has to treat them with respect. We expect that now.

And in part, that`s because of Donald Trump. And here`s another great unfairness politically, which is for Donald Trump, these accusations did not cost him his brand, which is, I can get things done. I can stand up for American interest. I`m not afraid to be politically incorrect. Joe Biden`s brand is I`m a decent human being. I`m an empathetic man. And so these accusations go to something that`s more central to Joe Biden`s appeal than in the case of Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS: So, congresswoman, give us 60 seconds of advice. I assume you`re not formally advising the campaign, but if you were, how to start today and every day that follows.

EDWARDS: Well, I think that he`s on the right track. I mean, he has to continue to be direct. He can`t be frustrated by questions that he will receive. I think he struck an important tone of respect, and the idea that he is treating this seriously and that he needs to continue to do that. And I think that to the extent that Ms. Reade comes forward, she`s going to have some questions to answer as well.

But for the former vice president, I think he stays on message. He clearly is getting under the president`s skin politically. And what he can`t allow is for him to be -- for himself to be distracted by not -- by failing to address questions that are directed to him. And, you know, so I really appreciated that the vice president -- former vice president was direct with us today. He was transparent, and I hope that he will continue to be.

WILLIAMS: I want to thank you both for coming on and talking to us about this tonight. Susan Page, Donna Edwards, we greatly appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the view of the American response to a pandemic from an overseas perspective. Veteran foreign correspondent Christopher Dickey live from Paris when we come back.



TRUMP: We`re now in the process of gradually reopening our country, and it`s being done with a tremendous -- a tremendous gusto and vigor. We`re getting it back safely, and we`re getting it back quickly.


WILLIAMS: The White House moves on with gusto and vigor to reopen. In Europe, they`re proceeding with more caution. The Rome correspondent for "The Daily Beast" puts it this way. The Trump administration is "going for a rip off the Band-Aid very quickly approach while here in Europe, countries are lifting it corner by corner slowly to make sure everything is fully healed".

Back with us again tonight, Christopher Dickey, veteran foreign correspondent, journalist, and author. He is the Paris-based world news editor at "The Daily Beast".

Chris, what is European-style lockdown like? I ask because we`re living the only one we know of here.

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, WORLD NEWS EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": I think our correspondent put it very well with the Band-Aid analogy. Basically, the European approach is one of science and reason and a lot of caution, stage by stage by stage, very, very gradual in places that have suffered tremendously with huge per capita death rates as a result of the coronavirus. There`s a lot of testing and a lot more testing that`s going to be going on.

Germany, for instance, is supposed to have 900,000 tests a week as of next week. France, two weeks from now, should have 700,000 tests a week. All of this so that they can identify clusters and isolate clusters and allow the rest of society to move about more freely and go to work more freely. But it`s a very gradual process, and they make it clear that if there is a spike in infections, a spike in deaths, they`re to shut down again. They`re holding that option open day by day.

WILLIAMS: Are our economies both similarly paralyzed or is their economic activity going on there that we can`t see?

DICKEY: No, I think economies are paralyzed, but there is a huge difference. There is a much better social safety net here in Europe than there is in the United States. And here in France, for instance, it was made clear from the beginning of the lockdown that people would get most of their salaries supported and paid by the government. It`s not just a question of $1,200 here, $1,200 there, one-shot spending that gets run out while other -- while big companies scarf up all the money. That`s just not the way it`s going. It`s going with real support from the government, and that makes it easier for people to endure the lockdown, at least in the medium term.

WILLIAMS: This week, we had a scene that unsettled a lot of Americans. It was just yesterday in the statehouse in Michigan. A couple hundred protesters, very few of them with masks on. That was a kind of a pointed bit of this. Often you see the gentlemen screaming at law enforcement wearing masks. A bunch of guys camoed up, a bunch of guys with long guns, a noose or two visible in the crowd, a swastika or two visible in the crowd. The governor mentioned both of those. How do we look at right about now to an overseas audience, say where you are in Paris?

DICKEY: Well, I think images like that crystallize exactly what Europeans think about the worst of America, the worst craziness of America, the white supremacy, the guns, all of that. But we`re talking about a relatively small number of people there.

The bigger problem is that the United States has essentially abdicated leadership at the moment of the greatest global crisis in living memory, and that is a real problem. This is a kind of situation where you would have expected the U.S. to take the lead, to be out in front, to be doing things better than anybody else. Even a few months ago, pandemic studies showed that the U.S. was the best prepared country in the world.

But, in fact, we`ve shown no leadership in the United States. It`s a disastrous situation. We are leading the world in deaths from this disease, and we`ll have tens of thousands more before this is over. So, that`s the real problem, more than a bunch of crazies with guns in the state of Michigan, although as I say, that image does crystallize the worst image of America in European minds.

WILLIAMS: I keep lamenting here night after night, it`s as if we have a red virus and a blue virus. But of course, that`s not true, and the particular danger of this virus is that it doesn`t come near to discriminating. It doesn`t respect state or local boundary lines. It doesn`t respect the people it comes in contact with. Has it been as politicized in Europe?

DICKEY: No, it`s not as politicized in Europe. I mean, obviously, questions are raised about preparedness, including here in France. Why were there not more tests ready, why were there not more masks ready, these kinds of things. But I think there`s a general understanding that you had to stop the advance of this virus, and everybody could look at Italy and see the disastrous death toll there mounting day by day and say, this has got to stop. We cannot endure this.

Some countries were very late to react and paid the price. Spain, I think, has the highest per capita death toll in Europe. I think maybe Belgium does, but Spain in numbers as well. The -- and why? Because they were holding a huge protest march, a huge solidarity march as the pandemic was reaching the country, and it spread everywhere, including to members of the Spanish government cabinet.

So, I think there are issues, but it`s not the same. It`s not the red, blue kind of issue that exists in the United States, not at all.

WILLIAMS: An American in Paris and a friend of ours at that. Chris Dickey, our audience joins me in thanking you for getting up before 6:00 a.m. in Paris on a Saturday morning. Thank you very much as always.

And coming up for us, we`re going to go inside the ICU with one of our correspondents when "The 11th Hour" continues on what is still a Friday night, not yet Saturday morning.


WILLIAMS: The U.K. prime minister who, remember, happens to have been a COVID patient says his country is "past its peak and on a downward slope". A lot of that going around lately. But hospitals there are still busy. Our chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel went inside the emergency room in one of the hardest-hit British hospitals and brings us that story.


RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It`s the first time we`ve been given access inside an E.R. in the U.K., University hospital in Coventry north of London, one of the hardest-hit areas. And COVID-19 is changing how they operate. The admitting nurse has to make an on-the-spot call. Is the patient COVID positive or not?

So these people are going to come in now 7:00 and you`re just going to say, OK, you`re going for more COVID testing and you`re not?

EMILY JONES, NHS NURSE: Basically, yes.

ENGEL: It`s a tough call.

They have tests here, but results take 10 hours at a minimum.

JONES: I put that patient in an area and they might have caught COVID because they didn`t have it previously.

ENGEL: Administrators divided this hospital into zones, one for COVID positive or suspected positive cases, the other for likely COVID negative. And we see how much PPE the hospital burns through. Each move into a COVID area requires putting on protective gear and then disposing of it there in the room. And then doing it all over again when they go back into COVID areas.

This sign is indicating that behind this plastic barrier, there are confirmed COVID cases. So when you enter and go into the next ward, we`re entering into a COVID area. So, let`s move forward. It means we have to wear a mask from here going forward.

Following hospital guidelines, we met Dr. Tom Billyard in a clean zone as he suited up to enter the critical care unit. We asked him to take a camera inside. Nationwide, half of COVID patients who need this level of care don`t survive.

DR. TOM BILLYARD, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL CONSULTANT: We`ve never had quite so many patients quite as sick as they are. We`ve seen a lot of death.

ENGEL: But even with all the checks and all the divisions, this virus can still spread. Nicola Wesson (ph) is a surgical nurse. She started to have a fever and cough a few days ago.

Today, she came in for a test. She`ll get the results in 48 hours.

You look pretty nervous.

NICOLA WESSON, SURGICAL NURSE: I`m scared just in case because I`ve got young family at home.

ENGEL: Nicola`s husband is an electrician, laid off, now taking care of their two kids as she isolates in a room at home. British officials say the U.K. past the peak of its outbreak days ago, but it`s still stretching the capacity of even the best hospitals, which are now hospitals within hospitals.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Coventry.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, a spectacular weekend forecast in so many areas, which in normal times would be straight-up great news. These days, it means spectacular challenges.


WILLIAMS: OK. Last thing before we go tonight, it`s about timing and discipline and the calendar and our health. The investment that millions of us have made in our collective health by staying home and staying out of circulation.

One journalist put it this way recently, aware that this was a gross oversimplification. He said in the blue states, coronavirus is a health crisis. In the red states, coronavirus is an economic crisis. Again, an oversimplification with bits of truth and reality mixed in. The big blue- state protest today was Huntington Beach, California. They are suing the state in light of the governor`s order to close the beaches. They say in the words of our local station covering the story today, the state is taking the surf from surf city.

Indeed, millions have cabin fever. How can you not? Millions need work. How can you not? It`s also true that in a host of places, this is going to be a spectacular weekend. Best of the year so far here in the northeast. It`s going to be sunny in 74 at the Jersey shore, sunny in 78 in L.A., sunny in 86 in Jacksonville. A really nice weekend in Florida, which of course will bring out the grim reaper.

If you haven`t seen this guy, his name is Dan Uhlfelder. He`s a lawyer, Stanford grad, husband, father, who is dead set, you`ll forgive the term, against filling up Florida`s beaches with people, and he makes his case in his costume every chance he gets, including on local news.


DAN UHLFELDER, LAWYER: I think it`s premature that we open our beaches. I`m a huge proponent of public beaches, and I`ve been fighting for that for years. But I think that the danger of bringing all the people here to our area and spreading the virus, and I think it`s going to prolong the recovery we have, and I think that we should take better measures.


WILLIAMS: A guest appearance by the grim reaper to take us off the air on this Friday night along with our thanks for being with us all week. Our wishes for a good and safe weekend filled with smart choices.

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