We head into this weekend with the country in a new phase of its fight against COVID-19. The next few weeks could be critical. Within the past 24 hours, the U.S. passed the 40,000 mark in new virus cases reported on a single day. We are now well north of 2.4 million total cases in this country and 125,000 lives lost. This afternoon President Trump offered this assessment of his administration`s progress in handling the crisis.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re making a lot of progress with the whole situation that came in from a place called China. You probably see, but we have a little work to do, and we`ll get it done. We`re having some very good numbers coming out in terms of the comeback, the comeback of our nation, and I think it`s going very rapidly, and it`s going to be very good.
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KORNACKI: The surge in cases now engulfs more than half of all states. Florida recorded nearly 9,000 positive COVID cases on Thursday, shattering its single-day record. And just tonight the mayor of Miami-Dade County announced that he will sign an emergency order to close all beaches next Friday, which happens to be the day before the July 4th holiday.
The dramatic rise in cases has triggered a demand for testing near one Miami Beach testing center, the line of cars stretched for nearly a mile. Today Florida`s governor said the rice in cases was linked to residents` actions.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): When people follow the guidelines, we`ve not had any problems. You had people that weren`t following it. There was widespread non-compliance, and that led to issues. When you depart from that, you know, then it becomes problematic. So I think that that`s been clear from the beginning. Remember, the beginning of May, you know, we went to this. You didn`t see any problems. Very, very good solid May, beginning of June. Now you started to see more, but part of that is less business than it is social interactions.
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KORNACKI: Florida has now suspended on-site consumption of alcohol at bars statewide. Texas has also made a similar move while also putting strict limits on indoor dining at restaurants. In the Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has raised the COVID-19 threat level and asked residents there to stay home and to minimize all contacts. Harris County in Texas includes Houston. That is the largest city in the state. We`re going to have more on the situation there in the Houston area later this hour.
This was also the day that the White House Coronavirus Task Force held its first briefing in nearly two months. That briefing took place at the Department of Health and Human Services, not at the White House, and it was done without President Trump. That left Vice President Mike Pence to defend his administration`s actions.
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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We now have seen cases begin to rise precipitously across the south. The reality is we`re in a much better place. We saved lives. We did slow the spread. We flattened the curve.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there a message that would like to send the people about the importance of wearing masks?
PENCE: What`s most important here is that people listen to the leadership in their state, the leadership in their local community, and adhere to that guidance whether that have to do with facial coverings, whether it have to do with the size of gatherings.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the correlation between the spike in cases we`re seeing in states like Texas and Florida and the way those states handled their reopening? Was it too much too soon?
PENCE: In the case of each of these states they reopened, in some cases, almost two months ago. And their test cases -- their new cases from testing was low and steady, their positivity rate was low.
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KORNACKI: And Pence was also asked about the Trump campaign`s decision to resume indoor rallies in Oklahoma and Arizona, rallies that have both -- states that have both seen increasing numbers of new cases.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re telling people to listen to local officials but in Tulsa you defied local health officials to have an event that even though you say it didn`t result in a spike, dozens of secret service agents, dozens of campaign staffers are now quarantined after positive tests. And then in Arizona, one of the hardest-hit states, you packed a church with young people who weren`t wearing masks.
PENCE: Well, I want to remind you again that the freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. And even in a health crisis, the American people don`t forfeit our constitutional rights.
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KORNACKI: And tonight the Associated Press is reporting that a journalist for the Oklahoma Watch, who was in attendance at President Trump`s rally in Tulsa last weekend, says that he has tested positive for COVID-19. This afternoon Dr. Anthony Fauci noted that many of the new infections are among younger Americans and indicated that the White House is looking at a new testing strategy.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The overwhelming majority now of people getting infected are young people, likely the people that you see in the clips and in the paper who were out in crowds. You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility because if we want to end this outbreak, really end it and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin, we`ve got to realize that we are part of the process.
What we`re dealing with right now is community spread in the context of a substantial proportion of the people who are getting infected do not know they`re infected. They`re not symptomatic. They`re asymptomatic individuals.
What we`re going to do and we are doing -- and you`re going to be hearing about this -- you know, flooding the area of a community to get a feel for what`s out there, particularly among the asymptomatic.
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KORNACKI: Before the task force briefing, Fauci told the Washington Post that the new strategy was something called pool testing, or testing samples of a large group, which would allow for a rapid increase in the number of people tested. That rapid increase in cases in the U.S. is being closely watched in Europe. Tonight the New York Times reporting that the European Union is ready to ban most travelers from the United States because there is no sign the coronavirus outbreak is under control here.
Meanwhile, the President is pledging to prevent more monuments from being torn down. He tweeted earlier tonight this. "I just had the privilege of signing a very strong executive order protecting American monuments, memorials, and statues and combating recent criminal violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our great country."
Trump was originally scheduled to spend the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, but this afternoon canceled the trip. He "wanted to stay in Washington, D.C. To make sure law and order is enforced." Trump has also renewed his attacks on Obamacare, asking the Supreme Court to overturn it. Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had this reaction to trump`s efforts.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I`m in a mood because this is a matter of life and death. This administration has failed miserably. Two days in a row of record numbers of cases. Same one of those days, the President wanted to overturn access to Quality Affordable Care.
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KORNACKI: And here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night, Shannon Pettypiece, a Veteran Journalist and Senior White House Reporter for us here at NBC News Digital. Susan Page, Veteran Journalist and Best-Selling Author, who is also the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today. Anne Rimoin, a Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA, where she also runs the University Center for Global and Immigrant Health, specializing in emergingeing infectious diseases.
Thanks to all of you for being with us. Well, Shannon, let me start with you. We mentioned the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings, which were an everyday staple of our lives a couple months back. The briefing returned today. The President wasn`t at the briefing. What are we to make of that?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS.COM SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think that is certainly something worth noting. The President had been told by his advisers back in May, in April, that these were not helping him, to avoid them. And we`re sort of back to where we were in the beginning where they`re sending the Vice President out there
I think holding one of these is an acknowledgement that the administration is accepting the problem despite the Vice President continuing to characterize these as isolated outbreaks in certain communities, not mentioning the fact that these communities he`s talking about have millions and millions of people in them. You know, you can see the fine line that he is trying to walk between masks and trying to uphold this idea that it`s an individual`s choice whether to wear a mask or whether to go to the rally.
But within the White House and the President`s outer circle, they understand the seriousness of the situation they are in. Months ago, I remember a White House official telling me the worst-case scenario would be if we open our economy and then have to pull back and close it again like we are seeing in Florida and Texas.
The advisers, the political strategists here, realize how damaging this is to a key narrative they were hoping to sell going into the fall of a great American comeback story and a President who has led the country through a crisis.
KORNACKI: Susan, right this does seem like the message we were hearing from the President obviously even as this virus was taking hold, it was the idea of getting the country reopened quickly, having -- you know, calling it a comeback, the idea of getting things going again. And that sobering message coming out of that task force briefing today seems to be, at least right now, at odds with the message the President has been trying to convey.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: You know, I thought that briefing today was kind of two briefings in one. You had Anthony Fauci pleading with Americans to do things like wear a mask and feel an obligation to fellow citizens to try to get this virus under control. And then you had Vice President Pence unwilling even to say the word mask despite a couple questions that reporters posed to him, putting the shiniest possible spin on the numbers that we`re seeing coming out.
You know, this hurts the President`s narrative of a comeback. It also has big consequences for the economy. It makes it hard to envision millions of kids going back to school in three months. If kids can`t go back to school, can their parents go back to work? And in a situation like this, is this a political landscape in which an incumbent President gets re-elected in November. I think that`s a very tough situation the President faces right now.
KORNACKI: Anne, I want to ask you a couple questions about what is behind this surge in numbers we`re seeing in some of these states. Maybe put this up on the screen. This is a headline from our friends over at CNBC on a new study that came out. JPMorgan Chase put this together. And they link higher restaurant spending. They say higher restaurant spending appears to be linked to a faster spread of the coronavirus. Basically they`re looking at the dining reservation data, in-person, indoor dining, and saying the states where this has been much more common, much more frequent, these are the states that seem to be having a little bit more of an issue here. I`m curious what you make of that link. Is that telling us something here?
DR. ANNE RIMOIN, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR: Well, what it`s telling us is that people are going to restaurants, and they`re sitting in places where they are going to be exposed to others because you`re not going to be eating with your mask on, and you`re going to be likely to get infected if there`s somebody near you that has coronavirus. So what this data is just telling us is that if people are out and about and life starts to go back to normal, we`re going to see a rise in cases. It`s pretty straightforward.
KORNACKI: I guess, though, the other question I`m curious about there, that it`s indoor. It`s an indoor, closed space, you know, number of people there. Is there sort of a flip side to that where outdoor is significantly safer and there`s an opportunity there to gear some of the sort of reopening towards getting people outside, getting them to outdoor settings, finding ways to make -- you know, creative ways maybe to find outdoor spaces and make them available to people as opposed to indoor spaces like a restaurant?
RIMOIN: Well, the bottom line, Steve, is that we just really don`t know if people being outdoors in closed -- or close to each other is also going to be a problem. You know, we`ve seen spikes because of Memorial Day, of people getting out and about. We are likely seeing some of these spikes due to protests where people are close to each other. So really there`s no activity that we`re not going to see risk involved.
Going to a restaurant, if you`re outdoors and there`s still a lot of people around, I mean the fact of the matter is the virus still has opportunity to spread. And that`s what we`re seeing here is we`re seeing no matter where you are, if you`re close to somebody else, if you`re not able to observe social distancing and if you`re not wearing masks, you`re going to see increases in cases. That`s exactly what is driving all of these spikes everywhere in the country. And certainly if you`re indoors, it`s definitely worse.
KORNACKI: Shannon, in terms of where the administration goes from here, you talked about the message they`ve been trying to send, where they are right now in terms of grappling with this caseload. Where do they go from here?
PETTYPIECE: Well, it will be interesting to see where the President`s mind is at this week or even over the past 24 hours. You alluded to this in your intro. He`s talking about monuments and having to stay in D.C. to protect the city apparently from lawlessness and looters and these anarchists when, I mean, there`s been some poll data that`s come out this week. And I know you`ve been digging into it. When you look at where Americans` minds are at, what they are concerned about, it is not monuments. It is coronavirus and the economy. Polls consistently show that people are putting their health and safety even above their own economic interests. There`s people scared. They`re at home.
You don`t have to be an epidemiologist to know that, you know, even though the cases are rising and the deaths aren`t, eventually the deaths are going to follow, and we`re going to, you know, see thousands more Americans lose their lives. That`s where people`s heads are. You know, the disconnect, though, between where the President is trying to send the message, talking about Obamacare and monuments, that`s what advisers are warning is a risk to him. But there`s not been a real successful coronavirus message that this President has been able to land on in these past three or four months now.
KORNACKI: Susan, we mentioned we`re 130 days until Election Day, basically four months out and a little bit of change until the election here. Can you recall, can you conjure any parallel in past elections to the kind of volatility, uncertainty, the sorts of stakes that are out there right now? Any kind of comparison you can think of to the political situation we`re looking at right now in this country?
PAGE: Not in my lifetime. Not in the elections that I`ve covered. I mean there`s always volatility in elections. In June, we never know what is going to happen in November, and that`s something we should remember. But you look at the confluence of crises that we have. We have a health crisis and an economic crisis, and we have the most fundamental debate over racial justice that we`ve had in decades, and all that is happening at one time during a presidential election season.
We also have an election -- we also have a presidential election that`s going to be fought out in ways that we`ve never seen before. We`re going to have very different kinds of political conventions, at least on the democratic side, and very different kinds of campaigning than we`ve ever seen in modern times. And so I feel that -- I do not see a model for the place that we`re in right now.
KORNACKI: All right. Susan Page, Shannon Pettypiece, and Anne Rimoin, thank you all for joining us. Appreciate that.
And coming up, what it`s like on the front lines in Tucson, Arizona, tonight. An emergency room doctor with this warning, he and his colleagues say they are close to breaking.
And later, you`ve heard of the defund the police movement, but what if someone told you chances are you are actually paying for police misconduct. We`re going to talk to one lawyer who explains how that happens every single day, the 11th Hour just getting started on a Friday night.
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HOWARD SANDAU, BROOKLYN ICU NURSE: If I could give any advice to my colleagues who are fighting this battle in Florida, Arizona, California, and all the other states that are taking care of COVID-19 patients, make sure that you`re taking care of yourself. I know it`s a very, very scary time for everyone, but we need to be careful.
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KORNACKI: Crucial advice there from one of the many New York City health care workers who know all too well what some of their counterparts in the south and southwest are going through right now.
People like my next guest, an emergency medicine physician in Tucson, Arizona, who writes this. "When we are understaffed and overworked, when there is no staff to triage patients, when more and more patients are piling up at the emergency department door, the system breaks down, then people break down. You cannot magically produce more nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, or other professionals."
We welcome Dr. Bradley Dreifuss with the University of Arizona`s College of Medicine in Tucson. He serves as both an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and the Director of Rural and Global Emergency Medicine Programs.
Doctor, thank you for joining us. We start hearing -- seeing and reading these headlines about hospital capacity, ICU capacity being tested. We played the clip there from the New York first responder there. All those flashbacks to what March and April was like in New York City. Talk a little bit about the strain. What is the strain like in the hospital around you right now?
DR. BRADLEY DREIFUSS, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: First of all, thank you very much for having me. It`s wonderful to actually have our frontline voices being heard, and I can tell you that since the article was posted, it`s been an overwhelming outreach of comments thanking me and thanking us for getting the voice out. And I should say I had a whole team behind me helping put this together and to make it relatable to the general public.
But I should also say that I`m not speaking on behalf of my university or my employer. This is coming from the standpoint of an individual emergency physician on the front line working with a wonderful team of professionals to actually enable us to provide care.
When I wrote the op-ed, I was coming off of a string of nine shifts and I just finished another five. And I can say during the initial nine, we were watching a significant uptick in the number of patients presenting with COVID symptoms, with the classic respiratory as well as the strokes and blood clots, et cetera.
And in that time, we were filling our hospital and filling our emergency department and having more and more boarded patients. And I was noticing that more of our zones were being closed -- number of beds in the emergency department because of not enough staffing. And we`ve been on the front line have been pushed and pushed since all this started with our first peak of this first wave happening at the end of March and early April and kind of being on guard and stressed, if you will, ever since. We have significant number of colleagues get sick. Some unfortunately died. And as we, you know, saw that happened in New York that plays a significant toll. As health care providers, not just physicians, not just nurses, but I`m talking respiratory therapists, social workers, our unit coordinators, or even environmental services, we`re husbands and wives and parents, and we`re humans. And we need to be able to take care of our families. And when our family members are getting sick or when we`re not feeling mentally and emotionally healthy, people are going to make a choice that they can`t come to work, whether it be because they`re getting physically ill, which some have, or because they`re feeling stressed and don`t have that emotional capacity to be working in their full scope of job, holding our patients` hands.
Sometimes patients are coming in. We don`t have this nurse, right? So we`re holding these patients hands before they`re being intubated. They understand the severity of what`s going on and are scared, and we`re their last points of contact. And that`s exceptionally emotionally draining. It`s hard for us, it`s hard for our staff. Our fear getting sick is also an issue.
KORNACKI: You`re describing just an incredible toll, I can see this is taking on you and everybody around you. I`m curious too just, you know, sitting here thousands of miles away trying to get a sense of what the picture is like in your hospital, what the picture is like on the ground there. We see these statistics about hospital beds starting to fill up in Arizona. We have state officials who say there`s still plenty of capacity there when it comes to beds. Can you describe what the situation is in your hospital right now, how close to capacity are you? How much more do you think you can take just in terms of more patients? Just in term from that level, where do you stand right now?
DREIFUSS: I mean looking at the state numbers, it`s been obvious and epidemiologists are also reporting this out. But, yeah, our number of beds are limited. There are flex beds that are opening and decompressing. But the concern is who is going to be staffing those beds, and how long can we staff them for with the numbers of folks that are -- we currently have? Even if we were to get more, what`s to keep them from getting burned out and suffering moral injury and not feeling emotionally well enough to address this? Or just getting frustrated that we feel like we`re not able to actually deliver on why we went into health care in the first place and being challenged because of the structural issues within our organization.
KORNACKI: Can I ask you, what specifically, then, right now -- it`s an emergency right now. What specifically and realistically for that matter could be done to help the situation you`re describing right now?
DREIFUSS: Better providing more wraparound services for health care workers. It`s not employer-based, having it more community-based. Our communities have been reaching out since the very beginning. We saw it in New York most poignantly where the community really wanted to be able to support the clinicians. Everybody from the physicians all the way to the respiratory therapists and nursing staff et cetera, with housing, with support for families. And that`s more and more of what we actually need. We need to actually put together peer-facilitated emotional support groups that are not from on high but really us who understand what we`re dealing with and what we`re feeling and the stresses we have, being able to come together and really come to terms with our vulnerability. That`s not something that`s been part of our training in any of the health care disciplines.
Vulnerability and acknowledging vulnerability has been a sign of weakness. When I think honestly in this day and age, it`s actually a strength if we can find a way to use it to articulate what our needs are and have our needs met, whether it be changing our staffing models to build more resilience and building teams that rotate on and rotate off much like in military deployment, or having a transparency in how our beds get flexed, when they get flexed, how we can actually move the admitted patient who`s are sitting in the emergency department upstairs and out to ensure that we`re able to take care of the folks that are coming in from car crashes and heart attacks and having strokes and more of the bread and butter of what we deal with in the emergency department as teams.
And I want to just reiterate, it`s really -- I feel like I`m a conduit voice for our team members across the spectrum of professions because people frankly don`t feel empowered to speak up and state their needs for fear of retribution. And it`s not one health care company. It`s the model of corporate health care, and that it`s not mandated to really appreciate the health care workforce beyond just being a resource that`s a line item on a spreadsheet.
KORNACKI: All right.
DREIFUSS: And that`s challenging.
KORNACKI: All right. Well, you are making a very stark -- painting a very stark picture there. I appreciate you sharing your perspective, though, you and your colleagues have. Dr. Bradley Dreifuss, thank you for joining us. Thank you.
Coming up, the biggest county in Texas, it`s home to the city of Houston, home to about 5 million people. It`s now under a red alert for COVID-19. That county`s Chief Medical Officer is here to explain what that means, when The 11th Hour continues.
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JUDGELINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: Let me begin by stating a simple but harsh truth. Today we find ourselves careening toward a catastrophic and unsustainable situation. Our current hospitalization rate is on pace to overwhelm the hospital in the near future.
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KORNACKI: Officials in Harris County, Texas, that includes the city of Houston, are sounding the alarm over hospital capacity after a surge in new coronavirus cases. The top county official increased the threat to its highest level today and urged people to stay home except for essential reasons. Texas reported over 5,000 new cases today. That brings the state`s total to over 137,000 confirmed infections and more than 2,000 deaths.
There`s been a steady increase in cases since the beginning of June. Dr. Umair Shah is the executive director of Public Health in Harris County, that is home to nearly 5 million people. Doctor, thank you for joining us.
Let me start on that very simple question of hospital capacity, very important question of hospital capacity. We played the clip there that capacity could be reached soon. How soon?
DR. UMAIR SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: Well, first of all, thanks for having me. And judge Hidalgo, I think, described the situation completely the way it is. We are very concerned about increased cases in our community, community transmission, and certainly that is now also relating to what`s happening in our health care system.
Hospitals, ICUs that are really filling up with COVID-19 as well as additional other kinds of patients, heart attacks, you know, car accidents, et cetera. When you put that all together, that`s the concern that we have. And if we do not move this in a direction that`s going to go better, unfortunately in a matter of weeks, we are going to be in a markedly worse situation.
KORNACKI: You in Harris County now are urging people to stay at home except for essential reasons. That`s an even more dramatic step. We saw the governor of Texas today, Greg Abbott, look at closing bars, you know, telling people you can`t go into bars to drink. You can pick up the drinks. You can`t go in. Reducing restaurant capacity. But you`re going further in Harris County. You`re saying just don`t go out at all unless you absolutely have to.
SHAH: Well, you know, what I said from the podium when I got up there, honestly my remarks were enough is enough. We have been fighting this pandemic for months in our community, and I have to give credit to our community. Our community has done a remarkable job, and the case rates, the death rates, all of those numbers that we have been looking at in the early parts of the pandemic, March, April, even that early part of May, really show that.
However, as the states started reopening, we started having what I call the layering effect of reopening, you know, restaurant 25 percent, then 50 percent. You have gyms and you have nail salons, et cetera, et cetera. And then also holidays, milestone events like Mother`s Day and Memorial Day weekend. We had the protests here.
And then after that, you start to see graduations and all sorts of other activities. That layers upon each other, and that`s our concern is that our community, while we have fought this pandemic thus far, we have to remind our community that we are now seeing a very dangerous level, and we need to do everything we can, which means if you don`t have to go out, stay home. And if you can and have to go out, then obviously wear the face coverings, wear the face masks. Make sure you social distance and do all the precautions we`ve been talking about for months. But if you don`t have to go out, do not go out.
KORNACKI: There`s a lot of talk right now across the country. Dr. Fauci was talking about this today. Younger people, a lot of new cases being among younger people. You`re nodding your head. That`s what you`re seeing in Harris County?
SHAH: Well, we`re seeing a combination, right? So earlier in the pandemic it was actually an older population that was both testing positive. Also what was happening in the health care system. We are now seeing the trend so that it is now a younger population. It doesn`t mean older people, seniors aren`t getting sick. It doesn`t mean you -- don`t have kids that are getting sick, absolutely.
But we`re seeing a trend towards a younger population both in the community testing side as well as what`s happening in the hospital side. And that`s why it`s so critical that it`s not just the message for, you know, we`ve had this message, right, to older populations. It`s OK for the younger ones to go out and do their things. That`s the message we`re getting out to our younger population.
No, you`ve got to be thinking about the rest of the community because you could be infected, be asymptomatic or even have mild symptoms and you brush it off. But guess what? You could infect somebody else, and that`s why this is so critical in our community.
KORNACKI: I`m wondering too, we were talking about this with a guest earlier, but this question of indoor transmission versus outdoor transmission. I`m curious what your perspective is on that. Clearly outdoor, everybody thinks safer than indoor. Do you have a sense of degree there, the degree to which it`s safer?
SHAH: I think it`s hard to say degree in the sense that, yes, absolutely, outdoor you have all the factors, right. You`re outdoors. There`s fresh air. There`s ventilation. You tend to be further away from people. Indoors you`re crowded in. You know, this is why, you know, during the winter months we also see, you know, flu and other kinds of viral illness that really are very much about people being indoors and you have crowded locations. People are coughing on each other and, bam, that`s where you have increased transmission.
But I think the key message is that we have a lot of things that we can do as a community in order to protect ourselves regardless if you`re indoors or outdoors. If I could just pivot for one second, I am very concerned about inconsistent messaging and, you know, policymaking is one thing. But just inconsistent messaging at that federal, state, local level, I don`t care what level it`s at. It is causing confusion and complacency at the individual community member level where people are saying, you know what? If they don`t have their act together, if their message isn`t onboard, I`m going to take a risk. I`m going to chance it. And that`s when people get into trouble. And that`s what we`re seeing in communities like ours across Texas, but certainly across the country. That`s why we`ve got to make sure our messaging is solid all the way down. All right.
KORNACKI: All right, Dr. Umair Shah from Harris County, Texas. Thank you for joining us. Appreciate that.
And coming up, some of the debate on reforming the police concerns qualified immunity. Probably hear that term lately, what is it? What is it mean and why do so many people want it changed when "The 11th Hour" continues.
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REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): I think finally the American people can hear and believe that policing is different in our communities. This is now, I think, the veil has been lifted off of that, and people are not questioning in the same way.
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KORNACKI: In the wake of the death of George Floyd and the mass protests that have followed, polls now show strong support for reforming policing in this country. But translating that sentiment into action on Capitol Hill is proving elusive.
This week Senate Democrats largely banded together to block consideration of a bill proposed by South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott. Scott`s plan would have used federal grant money as leverage, denying funds to local police departments that refuse to ban choke holds and to mandate body cameras. It also would have set up a national database to track the use of force by police.
Democrats say they don`t think Scott`s plan went far enough. A bill passed by Democrats in the House this week bans choke holds and no-knock warrants and makes it easier for people to sue police departments. Qualified immunity was not part of Scott`s bill, raising the possibility that there will be no legislative action on police reform in the near future.
For more we welcome MiAngel Cody, the founder and chief lead counsel for the Decarceration Collective, a group focused on harsh sentences for drug violations, particularly prisoners serving life sentences for drug charges. MiAngel, thank you for joining us.
MIANGEL CODY, DECARCERATION COLLECTIVE: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: Let`s talk about this topic. This term "qualified immunity," which I think the average American, myself very much included, had not heard anything about. And suddenly the term is everywhere. I want to put the definition up there and have you talk about this. This is from the Supreme Court. This is been litigated. The Supreme Court says that government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.
That is qualified immunity. It is said that that offers too much protection, critics say, to police officers. You are one of those critics. Translate that and tell us why you think that offers too much protection to police officers, what I just read.
CODY: Absolutely. So here`s the problem with qualified immunity. It means that a police officer can kill, maim, or impair a person and not be personally liable in their personal pockets financially for that harm that they commit. The reason why that matters is that most Americans have never heard of qualified immunity, but most Americans have paid out of their personal taxpayer dollars when a local police officer commits brutality. That`s why qualified immunity is so important for us to think about and to talk about.
For example, if I get in my car and I drive, I don`t mow down 10 pedestrians because I have to pay insurance premiums, and I have to pay a deductible. As a lawyer, I have to pay malpractice insurance. Doctors have to pay malpractice insurance.
There are things in place for professionals to make sure that we do not engage in harmful conduct, and if we do, that we are personally liable. That`s not the case with qualified immunity. It immunizes police officers from their bad conduct. Here is how that translates into dollars, right? So where my office is located in Chicago, over the last eight years, Chicago has paid over a half a billion dollars in settling police misconduct, brutality, and murder lawsuits.
Those settlements are paid by Chicago taxpayers. That money isn`t just printed from somewhere. And I think in a pandemic economy, more taxpayers are going to wonder, is this really something we want to continue to invest our money into? Should we continue to hold the bag completely? That`s what qualified immunity does.
So I think many of us may agree or disagree about whether there`s a moral crisis of policing in this country. Some may agree or disagree about the phrase "defunding the police." But I do think that most Americans can agree that we cannot continue to have taxpayers subsidize police misconduct in this country, and that`s exactly what`s happening. And any legislation that does not address qualified immunity and does not lift that veil and deimmunize police is not what we want to see. That`s not progress.
KORNACKI: So you mentioned the legislative battle right now, the democratic bill contains the provision you`re saying you want. That Republican bill that the Democrats blocked in the Senate did not go to qualified immunity. Let me give you one of the arguments that`s made for having qualified immunity, for not doing away with it. And the argument basically goes like this. This keeps -- this protects police officers on the job from having to measure every single action they take against the potential threat of a lawsuit, resulting in a police force that goes too far the other way.
CODY: OK, sure. So let`s take that argument and apply it to doctors. Do we want a health care system where we say that we want to have measures in place that protects them from having to think about providing good health care to people, to having to think about every time they pick up a scalpel whether they`re going to murder someone?
Having qualified immunity or not having qualified immunity doesn`t mean that the level of care, the level of protection, the level of policing necessarily will go down. It means that it will go up because police officers will understand that there is a personal stake, that you are personally responsible when you sit on someone`s neck with your knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
KORNACKI: All right. MiAngel Cody, thank you for taking a few minutes in joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
CODY: Thank you for having me.
KORNACKI: All right. Coming up in this time of pandemic and lockdowns, the Vatican prepares to honor a teenager who found ways to harness social media for good. You mean that`s possible? Social media for good when "The 11th Hour" continues.
KORNACKI: Because the coronavirus pandemic has forced so many churches to close, worshippers around the world are going online to stream religious services there. Not long ago the Catholic Church was considering making a seventh century scholar from Spain its patron saint of the internet, but now the Vatican is taking steps to give the honor to a young man once considered a computer genius. NBC News correspondent Helena Humphrey has the report from London.
HELENA HUMPHREY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it a reboot for an ancient institution. The 2,000-year-old Catholic Church currently has a patron saint of animals, children, and even lost causes. Now it`s one step closer to naming a patron saint of the internet. Carlos Acutis, born here in London, was a teenage computer whiz. He tragically lost his life in 2006 to leukemia, aged just 15.
ANTONIA SALZANO, MOTHER OF CARLO ACUTIS: He was very normal but with a special spiritual life, and he`s very well known because of his special gift on internet, on a computer.
HUMPHREY: Online, Acutis used those gifts to create a website cataloging miracles around the world. And offline, his illness didn`t stop him helping hundreds of people.
BRENDEN ALEJANDRO THOMPSON, CEO, CATHOLIC VOICES: When he contracted leukemia age 15, his faith helped him to see his suffering differently. When he was confronted with various challenges, he saw people at school being bullied, he saw homeless people needing to be fed.
HUMPHREY: The Vatican says a person must pass five stages to become a saint. It can take hundreds of years. After a five-year reflection, a bishop is appointed to investigate. The pope declares the candidate a person of heroic virtue. Two miracles must then be proven.
The first for Acutis, 2013, a Brazilian boy is said to have been cured of a rare disease after Acutis prayed for him, leading to beatification. We`ll need proof of one more for the last step, canonization, and Acutis declared holy.
(on camera): The Catholic Church counts around 10,000 saints but far fewer when it comes to child saints. Carlos` canonization could be seen as an effort to attract new, younger followers and change with the times. Last year the Catholic Church launched an app for the smartphone, a set of digital rosary beads. Now it could be set to celebrate a patron saint of the internet.
(voice-over): In fact, the pope has called the internet a gift from god and he`s using it to spread his message. Many of followers on Twitter and Instagram. Masses streamed online during lockdown.
THOMPSON: There is a technological revolution that`s happened within the church. So the church will never be the same again after this virus much like the rest of the world.
HUMPHREY: Coronavirus has delayed Acutis` beatification. It will now take place in Asisi, Italy in October. But fittingly, the tomb where his body lies is already livestreaming 24 hours a day. A virtual shrine for a saint of a new generation. Helena Humphrey, NBC News, London.
KORNACKI: And there`s more 11th Hour just ahead. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: Before we go tonight, a few programming notes for you. Tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, join us for global goal. The special is hosted by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. It`s in support of fair access to COVID-19 testing and treatment. The event will also feature Coldplay, Jennifer Hudson, Shakira, Chris Rock, and many more. That is at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on MSNBC, also on NBC, NBC News NOW, and our streaming service peacock.
As for "The 11th Hour," you can always keep up with us on the MSNBC app or listen on Sirius XM or to our free podcast. That is our broadcast for tonight. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night and have a great weekend.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END