ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
I`m glad you talked about the mask curve issue you just did because it`s so easy. I`m sort of dumbfounded by the fact that the chart you are putting on Maddow Blog, and the other charts we see about the effect of mask wearing and social distancing -- never in the history of the world has there been such an infection, and never in the history of the world has there been such an easy way to flatten the curve and to prevent getting it, and yet we have managed to politicize that. It`s a remarkable thing.
So thank you for doing that and reminding us about the basics about how to beat this thing. Rachel, you have a great evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Ali. Much appreciated.
VELSHI: All right. We are doing something a little different tonight. We normally start this show with one topic in the news. Today, we`re starting kind of with all of it and why it`s making you feel the way you feel.
We`re living in the middle of a pandemic under an incompetent administration. People are not just worried about staying healthy, but also have to pay rent or put food on the table. Protesters are demanding racial justice. They`ve been met with unnecessary violence by police.
Our politics are as divided as perhaps they`ve ever been. And if you`re human this gets to you. And sometimes it helps to hear that others are feeling the same way, especially when that someone is Michelle Obama.
In the second episode of her new podcast, the former first lady opened up about how this difficult moment is weighing on her.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve gone through those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels where you just don`t feel yourself. And spiritually, these are not -- they are not fulfilling times spiritually. You know. So I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression, not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it day in and day out is dispiriting. So I`ve had to kind of give myself that, those days, those moments.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s easy to understand how she feels because so many people are struggling with the same issues. The United States is approaching a grim milestone, 5 million coronavirus cases. We now have over 160,000 deaths.
The United States is now averaging more than 1,000 deaths a day. That`s equivalent to one person dying from the coronavirus every 80 seconds. And a key model predicts the United States could see nearly 300,000 dead from the virus by December the 1st.
But data indicates about 70,000 of these lives would be saved if everyone wore a mask. A precaution, Donald Trump and those who follow his lead still refuse to do on a regular basis.
Today, another 1.2 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits. This is the 20th straight week where more than a million people have filed for jobless claims. Recent polling shows that 69 percent of Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
A new report from the Bloomberg Misery Index, that`s actually a real thing, it tallies inflation and unemployment outlooks for 60 countries, reveals that, quote, the United States is projected to see the worst reversal of fortune this year in a ranking of global economic misery, underscoring just how much havoc the pandemic has wrought.
America fell 25 spots from the number 50 spot to the number 25 spot. That puts us behind countries like Russia and Mexico on the economic misery ranking.
And yet Donald Trump seems ton content to say it`ll all go away. He`s not pushing Republicans to come to a deal with Democrats to extend enhanced unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions. He`s blaming problems in states on governors, pressuring states with spiking cases to reopen their schools and spreading disinformation, actual disinformation about the virus, including a claim about children that is so dangerous that Facebook and Twitter both took it down. They hardly take anything down.
And, today, he twice claimed without evidence that a vaccine will be ready before Election Day -- only to be fact checked by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We`re trying very hard to ultimately get a vaccine that might be available by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021. But that`s many months away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: But it`s not just the pandemic that`s taking a toll on Americans.
Michelle Obama also confided that the depression she`s feeling stems from the civil unrest she continues to see every day.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
OBAMA: What we`re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest that has plagued this country since its birth, I have to say that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a black man or a black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. And it has led to a weight that I haven`t felt in my life in a while.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELSHI: It`s been over two months since the death of George Floyd sparked massive protests across the country, demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality. That was just after the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the police shooting of Breonna Taylor and the so-called no- knock warrant in Louisville, Kentucky. No arrests in that case.
Since then we`ve watched police shoot Rayshard Brooks after he was found sleeping in his car in a Wendy`s parking lot in Atlanta. And there have been more videos from before and since. We`ve seen protesters met with tear gas and rubber bullets for simply exercising their right to protest. And scenes of racial injustice are still happening across this country like this one in Colorado.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED KID: I want my mother.
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Can I have my sister next to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Those are the cries of children after police in Colorado mistakenly pulled over a black family, handcuffed them and held them at gunpoint thinking the car was stolen.
Rather than try to unite the country through all of this, Donald Trump has stoked racial divisions in his campaign and painted Black Lives Matter protesters as violent Marxist anarchists who burn down cities and must be dominated by police. Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge systemic racism as a problem.
Even today, he repeated his wildly false claim that he has done more for African Americans than any other president, including the nation`s first black president, Barack Obama. We`re living in challenging times. Sometimes it helps to hear someone voice that pain out loud.
Michelle Obama is telling you that we will get through this together.
Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at Sirius XM radio and an MSNBC political analyst. She`s the author of "The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide."
Also joining us, Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the CEO of the Character Lab. She`s the author of a remarkable book that is uniquely relevant these days. It`s called "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance."
Welcome to both of you.
Let me start with you, Zerlina. It is kind of interesting because even though we are in this job in which we talk about this all the time, I was listening to Michelle Obama thinking, yeah, I kind of feel like that, too. I`m not -- I`m not immune to it. None of us are.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely not, Ali. And I think that one of the things on my radio show we talk about all the time with grief counselors and trauma counselors is the idea that we`re experiencing collectively as a nation an exorbitant amount of mass loss and grief and trauma all at the same time. And this is an unprecedented moment for a generation of Americans of all different ages and backgrounds.
And so while everybody`s experience in this pandemic is not equal, everyone has had some impact. Their life is fundamentally different than it was in the before times. And additionally, I think when you`re experiencing this type of trauma, I`ve experienced trauma in my life like so many other people, and one of the moments where that`s the most resonant is when you decide to move forward, that you can`t go back to the before and that fundamentally you have to press forward and move forward to something better.
I think that`s what Michelle Obama was speaking to -- this idea that if you feel discomfort in this moment or if you feel a little off, if you`re having trouble sleeping, that is completely normal. Number one, because we`re going through this mass trauma like I said, but also because we`re being gaslit by a president who is essentially rudderless and incompetent but is walking around and acting like everything is okay. And nothing is okay.
And so we as the American people need to stand up in November and take back our country and move it towards that area of progress that I think we can be proud of because what`s happening right now is not something that makes me feel great because I want my fellow citizens to care about me the same way that I care about them.
VELSHI: One of the things that was interesting about the way Michelle Obama framed this is that there is a piece of this that is political and societal and we yearn for things to be back the right way up on that front. And we look at the unrest and we look at the death. It looks wrong to us. The world looks upside down. But some of it that Michelle Obama was talking about is personal.
And when you just said I`ve experienced trauma like so many people have, in this moment, health trauma, the trauma of losing someone, the trauma of sexual assault, the trauma of racism, to many Americans, I would argue most Americans, some combination of those is personal, not political or societal.
MAXWELL: Well, I believe the personal is political, Ali. But I also believe that those personal experiences can be brought to the floor. You know, Representative Ayanna Pressley always talks about the people closest to the pain needing to be the closest to the power. And I think this is a moment where we can all agree with that statement. Because if we had people in positions of power and authority to pass legislation that could help the most vulnerable, you know, those people that are on food lines, those people who are worried about eviction, those people who are worried about being homeless with their children who are maybe going back to school but in unsafe conditions clearly, and certainly the teachers and administrators are also very anxious.
So this is a moment in which I think we all are feeling it physically, and I think that`s why we need to sort of look to those professionals that deal with trauma and grief to help us individually move past this and beyond this moment but also I think collectively as a country because this is going to impact a generation to come.
VELSHI: Professor Duckworth, one of the things that you have done to put this into context for us gives me some hope, and that is you say that the more you care, the more you despair. So if you`re feeling really bad about this, it means you`re a functioning human.
ANGELA DUCKWORTH, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Yeah. And I couldn`t agree more with Zerlina`s observations. I can`t imagine anybody who is not struggling in some way. And one of my favorite quotes, I think it`s often misattributed to Plato, but I love it anyway, is be kind to all you meet for each is carrying their own heavy burden. And I do think that having some feeling right now, negative feeling, you know, if you are not -- if you`re not feeling something, I can`t imagine how it is that you`re processing reality.
But if we can go a little bit past that and say and I`m going to be empathetic toward what you may be experiencing that I may not even know about, I think it`s one step toward healing.
VELSHI: Let me ask you about something you said to me the last time you were on and I`m reminded that it was actually before the social justice movement that we`re in the middle of right now. But you talked about seeing what you can control. In a world that seems out of control, take stock of what you can have control of and exercise your power over that.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Well, I think that the research on depression, which the former first lady mentioned, you know, a mild depression, I mean, one of the things that will put us in a sad or depressive state is feeling helpless, feeling like there is nothing we can do to change our futures, and even though there are absolutely many things that we can`t do that we`re increasingly angry about, frustrated about, despairing about, I do think holding on to what you can do.
Let me just give you one very specific and I think optimistic example. So I see young people these days, high school and college students, actually many of them doing more than just going to social media and expressing themselves. They`re actually doing something. There`s a non-profit organization called Poll Hero. This is completely grassroots. High school and college students thinking how can we change what`s going on? They`re actually trying to figure out how to become workers at the polls in November. Of course, they`re less vulnerable to the coronavirus.
And I can see this happening partly because my teenage daughter is like on these calls with these people, and like they`re not waiting around for us dysfunctional adults to get our acts together. They`re doing it and because they`re young, they`re a lot smarter than us.
VELSHI: That`s a big deal, though. When you think about the things that are in your control we often think about our lives, our family, our house, our job. And sometimes even those things are not in control. But in fact you as an American have control over something that is much larger. You have the vote.
DUCKWORTH: You have the vote. You have your time. You have your -- for some people, you know, a dollar to give, two dollars to give, maybe more.
I mean, if you really ask yourself is there nothing I can do, it can`t be that there`s nothing you could do. There`s got to be something, even if it`s small. I think that`s the way to get started.
VELSHI: You know, you talk about during the war people planted victory gardens or they thought they were working in a factory. There is some sense of that today, some sense that we can collectively do something to get out of this.
So I appreciate the optimism that both of you have brought to a discussion that`s tough.
Zerlina, I think I`m going to see you this weekend. I think you`re going to be my TV buddy.
VELSHI: You`re in for "A.M. JOY" Saturday and Sunday, is that correct?
MAXWELL: That is correct, Ali.
VELSHI: That is amazing. I look forward to seeing you Saturday and Sunday morning.
And, Angela Duckworth, thank you for being with us. We will continue this conversation.
Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and she is the author of "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance."
Zerlina is with Sirius XM Radio and she`ll be on with me -- not with me but after me, 10:00 to noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Coming up, are you ready to be inspired after that conversation? A single mom started protesting with the Black Lives Matter movement in her Missouri neighborhood after Michael Brown was killed by police. Then she ran for office and she lost.
Then she ran again. And in the meantime, she kept protesting and organizing and running. And this week she won. And now, she`s poised to be the next member of Congress for Missouri`s 1st congressional district.
Cori Bush joins us to tell us how she channeled her anger over injustice into action.
VELSHI: Now, the best advice for people who are dismayed over the state of politics as you just heard is ultimately to vote and make sure other people vote. But some people are channeling that feeling into action beyond Election Day and are working to make sure that politicians in Washington or wherever they are better reflect the true diversity of America. One of those people is Cori Bush. She decided to run for office after leading protests that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Here`s part of my conversation with Cori Bush from when she was running for Congress in 2018.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORI BUSH (D), MISSOURI CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We need to have fighters. We should have champions, people that are willing to lead the issues.
It`s not okay anymore to vote decent. You have to stand up and fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Cori Bush would not win that primary in 2018. But like any fighter, she picked up and ran again. Now she`s one of the record-setting 130 black women who are running for Congress this year.
On Tuesday, she defeated a ten-term incumbent in Missouri`s first district and is on her way to being the first woman of color to represent the state in Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It is historic that this year of all years we`re sending a black working-class single mother --
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
BUSH: -- who`s been fighting for black lives from Ferguson all the way to the halls of Congress!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Joining us now is Cori Bush. She recently won the Democratic primary for the first congressional district of Missouri which includes St. Louis and Ferguson.
Cori Bush, good to see you again. It has always been a pleasure to talk to you. Congratulations.
How are you feeling this week?
BUSH: I`m feeling amazing, Ali. Thank you.
VELSHI: I want to ask you because in that conversation you and I had two years ago, you had complaints about some very basic things that was before coronavirus, that was before the discussions about social inequality that we have been going through, about wages and how people live. I just want to play that back for our audience and tell -- have you tell us where you are on those things today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: How do you get these ideas into that non-voter crowd when you actually face built-in resistance?
BUSH: So one thing about it is people that make $7, $8 an hour, they don`t work less hard than people who make $30 an hour. And so, giving -- making sure people have what they need to be able to support their families, pay their bills and still have money left over to save should not be something we have to beg for.
We have -- we have companies that we know of that moved to $15 an hour minimum wage -- $15 an hour wage and they`re prospering. They`re doing well.
When I think about it, so we can come up with money to be able to build these tent cities and pay $800 a day per child to be able to house thousands of children. We can come up with the money to do that. Millions of dollars a day to have people in these detention camps, these detention centers, but we can`t make sure that people that are working hard every single day are able to take care of their families.
I think that we can do better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Ms. Bush, that was the day after the election. The day after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected and you weren`t. But those words seem truer today. They don`t seem like a conversation that was two years ago.
BUSH: Right. It`s still the same. It`s the same today. And the thing is COVID-19, like put it right in our faces, like -- and let me tell you, I feel vindication. It`s like I`ve been saying this for so long. And people weren`t ready to hear it or they knew it but they didn`t want to accept it. Now we see why that was necessary.
VELSHI: And the conversation I just had with Zerlina Maxwell and Angela Duckworth, we talked about Michelle Obama saying that she`s feeling a little bit of a low-level depression that apparently a lot of Americans are feeling. And Angela Duckworth talked about doing the things you can do, about her teenage children going out and organizing to work at polls.
You have two kids. You`re a single mother. When you get elected to Congress, you`ll be I think the second single mother in Congress. These struggles are real for you, but your way of dealing with injustice is to run for office.
BUSH: You know what, because somebody has to represent that voice. Let me tell you. I won`t forget the way that it felt every single time I received my paycheck and I looked at it and I knew I didn`t have anything left from it. It was going all over to bills or the Monday before I would get paid and I knew I was happy. On Friday I`m getting paid. But I knew I didn`t have anything left over and I knew I still wasn`t able to put money to the side for my student loans and put money -- you know, having money left over to save in case something happened.
And so, yeah, I went back to school. I tried to better myself, went into nursing. But then there was still this fight. When do we stop struggling?
So that`s why I`m running for office, because I don`t want other people to go through what I`ve gone through. You know, this fight doesn`t have to be this way. We should have -- we should be able to have a better quality of life. I`m done surviving St. Louis. It`s time to live.
VELSHI: How do you feel about the fact that we seem to -- that Republicans in Congress today, in the Senate have said they`re worried about the debt, another relief plan and what it will do to the debt. We seem to have endless money for corporations, for loans, to keep interest rates low, to do all of those things. But for poor working people who through no fault of their own are out of work, facing possible eviction, facing foreclosure, losing the $600 a week federal benefit, all of a sudden, folks are worried about debt.
BUSH: I know. I don`t understand it. You know, we`re talking about hard- working people, the same people that were the essential workers that showed up when other people were staying at home -- the same people that put their lives on the line, the same people.
We lost people. You know, I have people that are close to me who contracted COVID-19 as essential workers and then who had their bosses calling them saying, are you done being sick yet? Can you come back to work? Because you don`t have paid leave. You don`t have this time. We need you back at work.
These are the people we don`t want to take care of? I know what that`s like. I know that it`s such a hard way to live. And so that`s why I need to be in Congress, to advocate for those people because those people are me. Those people are the people next door to me in the community.
VELSHI: We don`t have paid leave on a national basis in this country and we don`t have universal health care, something that every other major democracy needs. You made a point. You said maybe people weren`t ready to hear it then.
Do you think they`re more ready to hear it now?
BUSH: Absolutely. When we see that over 150,000 people have died and so many people, 30 million people right now don`t have enough food, that food insecurity, you know, when you get hungry, let me tell you, I`ve been hungry, when you get hungry and you don`t know where that next meal is coming from, not only today but you don`t know where it`s coming from in a week, you know, that changes things.
And people are seeing right now with so many people being possibly -- 43 million people possible being evicted coming up soon, people are seeing that now we have to do things differently. What about somebody who has been evicted before, somebody who has been hungry before, somebody who can speak about being low wage and uninsured. That`s me. I can speak about it and I can push forward.
This is the thing. Being somebody who has been there, I know all the holes in the way that the system is built. And so I`m not -- I`m not willing to shut up about it. You know, I`m going to fight for people who are like me.
VELSHI: Cori Bush, good to see you again. I`m glad for that prescient conversation you and I had two years ago, because like I said, it feels like we might have had that conversation last week. Congratulations. I look forward to many more conversations with you.
Cori Bush is a congressional candidate for Missouri`s first district, St. Louis and including Ferguson. If she wins, she will be the first black woman to represent that state.
Coming up, with the end of summer fast approaching, parents and teachers are facing agonizing choices about school. But one doctor on the front lines of coronavirus says we are not ready to return to full-time in-person school. He joins us next.
VELSHI: Across the country, the well-being and survival of thousands of children, their families and their communities is on the line. Parents and teachers now facing the decision on how to educate children who are not immune to coronavirus, by the way, despite what Donald Trump says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sixth grader is so happy to hungry to see him, his friends and his teachers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not a teacher. I do not have that gift.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not feel that it is developmentally appropriate for their educational experience to be doing it remotely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not reinventing what it means to build connections with students. We`re just simply translating that to an online platform, which our students are more fluent in than we are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody should be required to be somewhere that they don`t feel safe or productive.
VELSHI: Schools that already opened in Mississippi, Indiana, Tennessee and Georgia are reporting coronavirus cases, dozens are now in quarantine. A new poll by "The Washington Post" found that only 16 percent of parents agree with Donald Trump in wanting children to return to all in-person class. 39 percent of parents want all online classes for their children and 44 percent want a mix of in-person and online classes. The poll also found that 56 percent of parents say in-person classes are not safe.
Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is treating patients with coronavirus in Austin, Texas. The seven-day average of new deaths from coronavirus in Texas has increased by 41 percent over the last two weeks. Austin is in Travis County where more than half of the coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are Hispanic patients.
Dr. Gandhi wrote on Twitter, quote, "America is out of its mind thinking that we are even remotely prepared for school this fall. We are definitely not ready and if people say we are, it is either out of ignorance or arrogance."
Joining us now Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, associate chief medical officer at a community health center in East Austin, Texas.
Dr. Gandhi, I just want to be clear here. You have written extensively about this. And you are clear that kids need school. We want kids to be in school. Painting this as a conversation about people who would like to have kids in school versus kids who -- those who don`t is silly.
We`d all like our kids to go to school. We`d like them not to get coronavirus. We`d like them not to infect other kids and their family. We`d like them not to die. But we would actually like to them to get the socialization and education necessary from school.
DR. PRITESH GANDHI, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER -- AUSTIN, TEXAS: That`s exactly right. I mean, let`s get that out of the way right now. Kids need to be in school. It is good for their social, mental and developmental well-being. And the only reason that I`m here right now talking to you and the only reason that physicians and public health professionals around the country are talking about this issue is that we fail our children by failing to take the necessary steps to mitigate this pandemic. We have the solutions in front of us, we`re just not taking them.
VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, you do talk though -- I was just having a conversation with Cori Bush (ph) that you may have heard. Part of this is the way we`re built. Part of this is that unlike any other developed nation, we don`t have certain infrastructure in place. It`s part of why in Travis County, you have so many cases of Hispanics getting coronavirus and dying. It`s why Hidalgo County is in the trouble that it`s in. We have almost developing country statistics in Hidalgo County in the most developed nation in the world.
DR. GANDHI: That`s exactly right. I mean look, it is a tale of two cities here in Austin. When I go across town and work in east Austin, I work in a facility where roughly about 80 percent of my patients are likely Spanish- speaking. And there are baseline inequities in health.
If you are a black or brown child in East Austin, you are probably three or four more times likely to go to bed hungry. That poverty rate is equally as high for black or brown children versus white children.
And so when you super impose on a pre-existing set of inequities COVID, a pandemic without having the kind of institutional support for these families, it is a disaster and we`re not taking the right steps.
VELSHI: You pointed out that this is not beyond us in terms of science. We can do a few things, including rapid testing at scale so we can contact trace, funding schools to ensure that they have got health resources, nurses, PPE and proper ventilation, requiring everyone to wear masks and to social distance which we`re not doing across this country, and a national plan to determine what happens when clusters of students, teachers or their families start testing positive so we don`t have this let`s figure this out as we go along idea.
DR. GANDHI: Right. I mean look, this doesn`t have to be a conversation in the abstract. We`re doing it now, right? The NBA has been unbelievably successful at having no positive cases over the last few weeks with its players, and they`re doing it as Coach Rivers said, I think, just two days ago because they`re all made to wear masks, one. Two, they`re getting tested every single day. And, three, they have an app that they sign into every day that says what their temperature is and their vital signs.
And so if we can stand up that kind of system for the NBA, there is no reason why we can`t stand up the same kind of system for school children and teachers around the country. But I will tell you what the reason is. It is because school children don`t have lobbyists. They don`t have money behind them, and they don`t have advocates in Washington, D.C. who are willing to fight for them and it is simply not enough.
VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, you had a couple problems in Texas. You have the President who feeds disinformation out on a regular basis to the extent that he even got Twitter and Facebook to get involved. They don`t get involved as you know in anything.
And you have a governor in your state who seems to continue to push back against the evidence and do the right thing to stop the spread of coronavirus.
DR. GANDHI: Yes. I mean I think it is hard for parents when you are looking at disinformation coming from all levels, right? You are hearing one thing from the President, one thing from the governor, one thing from your local doctor. Who do you listen to, right?
In Texas, the percent positivity rate is roughly 17 percent. That is unacceptably high and that number has increased over the past few days.
So when you look at the figures, 17 percent positivity rate, cases that are well above 10 per 100,000 and insufficient funding to schools to retro fit them for adequate ventilation, we`ve got a situation here where the conditions are not right for a successful school reopening.
VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, good to see you. Thank you for the work that you are doing in east Austin. Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is an associate chief medical officer at a community health center in east Austin, Texas.
The school conversation is happening across the country right now. In order to provide you with the best information possible, I`d like to know how you are preparing your kid`s return to school. Send your stories, our photos, your videos to my email address Velshi@MyStory.com. and I`m going to try and get them on air this weekend on "VELSHI".
Coming up, Beto O`Rourke joins me from the battleground Texas or if you prefer, toss-up Texas.
That`s right. NBC News` first battleground map has Texas as a toss up stake with a T. We`re going to talk to the former congressman about coronavirus, the economy and Donald Trump`s slipping grip on that state, next.
VELSHI: We just heard from a Texas doctor on the front lines of fighting coronavirus who says America is out of its mind if we think we`re ready to reopen schools. "The Texas Tribune" reports that nearly 20 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the state were reported in the last week.
In El Paso there have been over 15,000 reported cases of coronavirus and at least 285 deaths. The El Paso city council just extended its disaster declaration for another days which will delay the start of in-person school at least until September 8th or possibly later if the city or the state issue new guidance.
Joining us now is former Democratic congressman Beto O`Rourke from El Paso. He`s the founder of Powered By People, a grass roots organization with the goal of helping Democratic candidates get elected across Texas.
Now, I want to talk about elections and tossup states and all of that with you. But really what I want to talk about is the coronavirus. You have been raising the alarm for months in Texas about the dangers, about how things are going wrong, about the Rio Grande Valley and everything you warned was going to happen has happened.
BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN, TEXAS: You`re right. It was totally preventable. And when the governor chose not to follow the science and the facts and public health experts like Dr. Gandhi who you just had on, he`s one of our heroes, the result was totally predictable.
And you now have 7,803 of my fellow Texans who have lost their lives to this pandemic and who didn`t have to if the governor had shut down this state earlier and kept it shut down until we had a contract tracing and test testing regimen that we could aggressively follow to contain the spread of this virus and until our positivity rate came down.
It is still at 17 percent right now. And as you just mentioned, he`s going to open up the schools in Texas and in fact, by executive order, will not allow local school districts, including those in the Rio Grande Valley to delay their reopening even when they have uncontrolled spread and deaths so bad they`re piling up the bodies in refrigerated trucks. That`s what`s going on in Texas today. We reported 306 deaths.
And when you look at the entire United States, I think that the U.S. was a little over 1,200 deaths. So we`re almost a quarter of the deaths reported in the United States. And there is still no plan whatsoever to get this under control and to save the lives of our fellow Texans.
One human face that I want to put on this. Daniel Morales, 39 years old. He was a nurse working in different dialysis centers in El Paso. When COVID hit and it hit hard in this community, he started treating COVID patients in area hospitals.
He just succumbed to COVID-19. 39 years old, four children that he`s leaving behind and he did not have to die. And more will die unless we change course and change course now.
VAUSE: We have a social safety net in this country that is skewed. It`s skewed against the poor. But in some cases, the way that manifests along the Mexico-Texas border is that it skews against Hispanics.
O`ROURKE: Absolutely. You look at El Paso, this is an 85 percent Mexican American community. You get down in the Rio Grande Valley into Cameron, Hidalgo, and Star counties. And I have talked to folks on the ground there including elected leaders and hospital folks and nurses there.
Those communities are 90 percent to 95 percent Mexican American. Let`s be honest about who is dying because of the inaction of our state government and the ineptitude of our national government.
By and large, it is Black Americans, it`s Native Americans and it is Latinos in this country and in the state of Texas. And so this is on the hands -- this is the responsibility of, and we will hold accountable our Governor Greg Abbott, our President Donald Trump who are responsible for these deaths so far but still have the opportunity to get this right.
You know, follow the science and the facts and the truth and let`s shut down some of these communities, especially the hardest hit, and have people stay at home until we can get this contained and under control.
And by all means, do not reopen schools and put those kids and by extension their parents and grandparents in harm`s way. The teachers, the support staff, the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers -- all of whom undoubtedly will be affected by this if you send people back into schools when the positivity rate and the testing that we do have in Texas is still 17 percent.
VELSHI: Yes. New York is at 1 percent, just to give people a comparison at this point.
Let me ask you about your election or your attempt to get elected to statewide office. You almost became the first Democrat elected to statewide office in a long time in 2018. Now NBC has put Texas down as a toss-up states. What happened? What do you do to take Texas into the Democratic column?
O`ROURKE: This is a reflection of what those of us who live in Texas have been seeing and have been saying to the rest of the country. This is not a red state. And it may not be a blue state.
It historically has been a nonvoting state. And on the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in one of the most voter suppressed states in the union where the voter turnout was 50th in the country because black and Latino Texans have been drawn out of their democracy.
The people are taking power back. WE are registering tens of thousands of new voters. Our group Power by People is literally calling every likely Democratic voter in this state, a state of 29 million people to make sure that Democrats up and down the ballot, including Joe Biden have actionable contact information for every likely voter.
We can`t have rallies. We can`t hold town halls. We can`t knock on doors, but we can call and text those who will decide the most important election of our lifetimes.
And with 38 electoral college votes. Even if Donald Trump tries to steal this election and create chaos and confusion, he`s already sending the signals that he`s going to do this over mail-in balloting. If Texas comes in on November 3rd for Joe Biden, the first time it will have for a Democrat since 1976, then we can begin to start to turn a new chapter, turn the page on Donald Trump and Trumpism and get after the big work that we have to do in this country.
VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke, stay with us, please. I want to ask you about Donald Trump`s new outlandish claim about the coronavirus vaccine and when it`s going to be available. And I want to know how that`s going to work with voters. We`ll be back in a moment.
VELSHI: Today the President of the United States, without any supporting evidence, claimed that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of vaccines under study by the way. We look like we`re going to be really good on vaccines and with therapeutics also.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what`s the earliest we could see that, a vaccine?
TRUMP: Sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sooner than November 3rd?
TRUMP: Oh, I think in some cases, yes, possible before, but right around that time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Later today at the White House, President Trump once again reiterated that a vaccine could be available before the election without any proof.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, a vaccine could be ready around November 3rd. Are you optimistic that that will happen? And will that give you a boost in the election?
TRUMP: On the vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TRUMP: I am. I`m optimistic that it will be probably around that date. I believe we`ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly but around that date, yes. I think so.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will that give you a boost in the election? Will that help you in the election.
TRUMP: It wouldn`t hurt. It wouldn`t hurt. But I`m doing it not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So here`s the thing. For those of you who are thinking about voting for someone else but because Donald Trump says there`s going to be a vaccine by November 3rd, maybe you should vote for him. If he`s right, and there`s going to be a vaccine, you`ll get it either way.
Donald Trump`s view of the coronavirus vaccine is really not something that thinking people should depend upon. They can depend on guidance of experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: We`re trying very hard to ultimately get a vaccine that might be available by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021. But that`s many months away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke is back with us. Mr. O`Rourke, this is not high science. We talk to epidemiologists, virologists, people who know things about these clinical trials. They take a certain amount of time.
This is going to be the most popular vaccine in the history of the world. Everybody is going to want it, which means we have to actually go through proper tests to make sure it`s not detrimental to people.
There`s nobody who suggested we`re going to have a vaccine by the beginning of November. Why does the President do this? This is disinformation? This is lying. This isn`t misleading. This is straight-up lying, and it`s damaging.
O`ROURKE: It is. And I think the way that you are presenting this within that context is the only way to report this. I sometimes wonder how you and other journalists can do your job with a president who operates with this level of mendacity.
Lying all the time about the most important things in our lives, like the life or death of our family members, in a country that now has more than 160,000 of our fellow Americans dead, representing a quarter of the deaths on Planet Earth right here in the wealthiest, most powerful, most medically and scientifically advanced country that the world has never known. How could this happen but for a monumental failure in leadership?
So you are right to be beyond dubious and skeptical and call that the lie that it is and instead listen to Dr. Fauci, who by and large has been right about this at every turn. And whenever he`s been wrong, he`s admitted it. He`s corrected the record, and he`s been governed by the science and the facts and the truth that we all deserve.
So look, let`s hope that this administration is as successful as they can possibly be in helping to develop a vaccine. Lives literally depend on it. But let`s not hold out hope that the President is telling the truth because this would be the first time in his administration that he has told the truth about something that`s important to this country.
The best thing that we can do now is to stay at home. And if you must leave, wear a mask, wash your hands all the time, and stay more than six feet away from any other human being that`s not in your household.
That needs to be the direction that we receive from the federal government, from our state governments, and from our local government.
O`ROURKE: And in states like mine where you have hundreds of people dying a day, I think you need to lock down these communities again until you get transmission under control.
VELSHI: Congressman, I just want to talk to you about something that Joe Biden said today about your hometown of El Paso. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: On Monday we marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting in El Paso, where a gunman explicitly sought to target Latinos, and 23 beautiful lives were stolen from us and their families.
I know what it`s like to lose a child, and I know what it`s like to lose a wife. It is awful. It is starkly -- I shouldn`t get started --
VELSHI: Things move so quickly that that seems like so long ago. What a tragic moment in our history. I wouldn`t mind your reflection on it, please, sir.
O`ROURKE: First of all, what you just showed makes the case for Joe Biden as a leader of this country. At a time that we are so deeply divided, when so many people are suffering and so many have lost a family member because of this pandemic and our president`s inability to address it, we need somebody who can bring us back together again, who can help to heal and who understands pain and suffering at this level. And that uniquely is Joe Biden.
And on the other hand, you need to know that the 23 people who were murdered in this community, murdered because of the color of their skin, their perceived ethnicity or immigration status, were murdered in large part because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump, who called immigrants, Asian, an infestation, animals and treated them as such sent a signal to this killer that he should take them out and he did.
So we have a very clear choice before us in November. We better hope this country comes down for Joe Biden.
VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke, former presidential candidate and former Democratic congressman from Texas, thank you for joining tonight.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" begins now.