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Coronavirus Pandemic Special TRANSCRIPT: 3/31/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Anthony Fauci, John Bel Edwards, Vin Gupta, Jon Bon Jovi


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  These are simply not normal times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A challenge unlike any other our country has ever faced.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Things are happening that we`ve never seen before in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As the virus spreads --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Every minute is a minute lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And the toll mounts.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID:  Now is the time to put your foot on the accelerator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The health care pushed to the breaking point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I have some tears and crying right now because I`m so tired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It`s like a war zone. We`re in a war with limited resources.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I worry that it`s too late for some of us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Millions out of work.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m the only income.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As America confronts a new reality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the most important anything I`ve ever been on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And wonders how much worse will this get and how does it end?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK:  This is a moment that is going to change this nation, a moment that forges character.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is an NBC News Special Report: The Coronavirus Pandemic.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS HOST:  Hi, everybody, and welcome. It`s good to be with you. I`m Savannah Guthrie in New York with Hoda Kotb.

And for the next hour, we are going to be bringing you the latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has now infected more than 850,000 people worldwide, including more than 186,000 people here in the U.S.

HODA KOTB, NBC NEWS HOST:  And this day did start off with a sobering milestone. The U.S. death toll passed 3,000. It is likely to exceed 4,000 before the day is over, as this virus continues to spread.

GUTHRIE:  And this evening, a grim projection from the White House, that even in the best case scenario, we could see at least 100,000 deaths in this country. To put that in perspective, that is roughly the number of Americans that died in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and Korea combined.

KOTB:  We will be covering all aspects of this story. We`re going to take you to the epicenter. We`re talking about New York City. We have the latest on treatments and the search for a vaccine.

And we`re going to hear from doctors in their own words and see how people are coming together in this crisis. And in collaboration with Facebook, we`ll be answering your questions and we have a panel of experts.

GUTHRIE:  We got a lot of good questions tonight.

We`re also going to talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci about today`s disturbing White House projections.

But we`ll start with a closer look at this crisis like no other.


GUTHRIE:  Tonight, the nation is reeling, as the death toll climbs. Just hours ago, the administration said the virus could claim more than 200,000 lives.

TRUMP:  This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.

GUTHRIE:  Dr. Anthony Fauci asking for the public`s cooperation.

FAUCI:  Let`s all pull together and make sure, as we look forward to the next 30 days, we do it with all the intensity and force that we can.

GUTHRIE:  Dr. Deborah Birx.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR:  There`s no magic bullet. There`s no magic vaccine or therapy. It`s just behaviors.

GUTHRIE:  From coast to coast, an escalating crisis.

NBC`s Stephanie Gosk.

STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  In the last few weeks, Dr. Calvin Sun, an emergency room doctor, has worked in a dozen New York City hospitals, over 18 shifts.

DR. CALVIN SUN, ER DOCTOR:  Now we`re bursting at the seams, and it just seems that the system is about to collapse.

GUTHRIE:  Once again, the New York metropolitan area is ground zero. This time, not for an act of terror, but for this pandemic, which has instilled fear and horror just the same.

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  This is New York as we`ve never known it.

GUTHRIE:  NBC`s Anne Thompson.

What this makes this so different is that you cannot see this enemy. But you know it`s there.

GUTHRIE:  The rate of infections is exploding, as is the death toll. In just six hours Monday, 124 people died in New York City alone.

Calls to the city`s 911 system have set records for days, and first responders are overwhelmed.

NBC investigative reporter Tom Winter.

TOM WINTER, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  The New York metropolitan area is going through an unprecedented public health and first responder crisis all at once. You have tens of thousands of cases.

GUTHRIE:  Hospitals are desperately trying to respond.

DR. THOMAS MCGINN, NORTHWELL HEALTH:  Why don`t we get started?

GUTHRIE:  Each morning, Dr. Thomas McGinn of New York`s Northwell Health System, conducts a conference call with 200 physicians. So far he thinks they`re holding their own, but he`s not sure for how long.

MCGINN:  As I continue to repeat to everybody, the center of the storm is New York City, and Northwell is at the center of that storm.

GUTHRIE:  And in its wake scenes no one would believe just a few weeks ago. There`s now a temporary hospital set up in central park. It opened today.

One father and son team are in the vortex of the pandemic emergency. Dr. Irwin Redlener is an NBC News analyst whose youngest son is a New York doctor.

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Basically going to battle out there.

GUTHRIE:  Dr. Redlener is an acclaimed pediatrician and disaster preparedness expert, who has witnessed countless tragedies.

I. REDLENER:  But even that doesn`t really compare to the emotional toll that it takes to have a child on that front line at this particular time.

GUTHRIE:  His son, Dr. Michael Redlener, is associate medical director in the emergency room at Mt. Sinai West Hospital in Manhattan.

DR. MICHAEL REDLENER, MT. SINAI WEST HOSPITAL:  I`m worried about my safety, as well. He`s been teaching me my whole life it`s important to contribute to society.

It`s March 27, 2020.

GUTHRIE:  For a few days, he`s recorded his observations at the end of his shift. He spoke of a colleague, a nurse, who died from the virus.

M. REDLENER:  We were working side by side a couple of nights ago. So, it`s a hard thing to understand that we`re losing people already.

I think we`re all a bit shocked about what this is doing to our lives. It`s not just taxing the medical system, but taxing all of us.

GUTHRIE:  And then tonight, the family informed us that their other son, Michael`s older brother, who is 52, has been hospitalized with coronavirus.

But there are some brighter spots in these dark times. In Teaneck, New Jersey, at the hard hit Holy Name Medical Center, the CEO was diagnosed with coronavirus, but this week, Michael Maron was able to return to work.

MICHAEL MARON, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER CEO:  They all very happy to see me back. To know that this disease doesn`t win all the time, and now I`m walking, living proof of that.


GUTHRIE:  And joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a key advisor to the president in this crisis. He was at that White House briefing this evening.

Dr. Fauci, thank you for being with us.

FAUCI:  Good to be with you.

GUTHRIE:  I was watching the briefing, of course, at the White House. The president put it very bluntly. He said this is going to be a hell of a bad two, three weeks. You yourself said there will be a lot of suffering.

Can you tell people what that means, what they should be prepared for?

FAUCI:  Yes. What you`re going to be seeing over the next week or so is that there will be the acceleration and peaking of cases, places like New York City, New Jersey, New Orleans and other cities, and what you`ll see is that even though in some cases such as in New York, where the number of new cases per day appear to be leveling off a little, you always see hospitalizations, intensive care and death that linger on.

So the next couple of weeks, we`re going to be seeing some serious things that the American public unfortunately is going to have to get used to seeing. What we`re doing with the mitigation is to try and blunt that. No matter what we do, even with the positive effects that we`re seeing with the mitigation, it`s going to be a tough couple of weeks coming up.

GUTHRIE:  And we looked at the models at the White House briefing, and it suggests that if we do everything right, then perhaps the death rate in this country will be somewhere around 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. That`s if we do everything right.

Is the social distancing being done right now in every state enough for that scenario to occur?

FAUCI:  Well, there are a couple of things about that, Savannah, that deserve clarification.

First of all, the mitigation and social distancing clearly works. It`s worked in other countries, which was definitively proven, and we`re seeing it starting to really help right now in our own country, so we just need as I said at the press briefing, we need to put our foot on the accelerator, not on the brake. We have 30 days of the extension of the mitigation, the guidelines we need to really push.

Now, getting back to that number for a moment, it`s really important. The model tells you that even if you mitigate fully, you`re going to get to this rather disturbing number of deaths, the 100,000 to 200,000. However, as data comes in, the model is only as good as the assumptions that are put into it.

So, it is conceivable that if we really put a real full court press, a real push on with the mitigation, the data that comes out may have us modify that model.

GUTHRIE:  So, let me ask you -- 

FAUCI:  So, even though we anticipate -- even though we anticipate that we would get 100,000 plus, even with optimal mitigation, we can bend that curve a bit. It`s within our power to do that.

GUTHRIE:  Well, let me ask you about that very thing. As we sit here tonight, 33 states have stay at home orders, but the rest don`t. In your medical opinion, should every single state in this country have a stay-at- home order right now?

FAUCI:  Well, what every single state should do in this country is very strictly follow the guideline groups of what we spoke about, which includes that. No unnecessary travel, telework when you possibly can. No crowds of more than ten people. Six feet away from individuals.

GUTHRIE:  Well, are they doing that?

FAUCI:  No restaurants, no bars.

Well, I don`t know. I mean, certainly, some of them are, but I see pictures on TV, Savannah, that you do where people are not paying attention.

And that`s why I plead with them, when I get up at the press conference, even though you think that this is not having an impact, not only are you putting yourself in danger, but you`re putting society in danger, because as you get infected, you may be inadvertently and maybe even innocently infecting others, particularly those who are vulnerable.

So we`ve really got to get everybody on board. We don`t need beaches with people frolicking. We don`t need crowded bars where people are interacting. We`ve just got to stop that.

GUTHRIE:  Just real quickly because I got to move on, if you could wave a magic wand, would you ask every governor to do a stay-at-home order?

FAUCI:  You know, I mean, stay at home -- stay at home orders, you know, they`re kind of complicated for people to really adhere to. What I would really like to see, and I`m seeing it, because certain of the governors are doing it, is just make sure everybody strictly follows the guidelines of physical separation. If we follow them, Savannah, we would be in much better shape than we are right now.

GUTHRIE:  Can I ask you to clear something up, Dr. Fauci, there`s this question of masks and whether regular folks who have to go out in public should be wearing some kind of face covering. We can agree that there should not be taking the medical masks that our first responders, doctors, health care workers need. But there`s been conflicting guidance on this.

Do people need to wear some kind of face covering, even if it`s just a bandanna when out and about?

FAUCI:  Well, the guidance that`s out there has not changed, where the CDC says people who are health care providers should be wearing it. If you have someone who is infected and you want to prevent them from infecting a person in the health care setting, they should wear them.

What is being actively discussed, and it is being actively discussed today and we`ll be talking about it tomorrow, given the fact that there is a degree of transmission from asymptomatic individuals who may not know that they`re infected, we need to at least examine the possibility, as long as you said correctly, as long as we`re certain we don`t take the masks away from individuals who are health care providers, who need them, have some sort of facial covering. It doesn`t need to be a classical mask, but something to prevent them from infecting others. So this is actively being looked at.

GUTHRIE:  I have a question from Facebook, someone named David says, why do they think warm weather will help? It`s been hot here in Florida, yet the virus is spreading here just like other places.

Do you have an answer for him?

FAUCI:  Oh, yeah, sure, because classically when you have diseases like influenza and other coronaviruses that are relatively benign, traditionally and consistently, what happens when the warm weather comes, viruses generally don`t do as well in warm, moist weather as they do in cold, dry weather, and people tend to be outside instead of closed environments where respiratory infections can spread relatively easy.

That is generally what happens. We are not sure at all, nor is there a guarantee that when there is warmer weather, we`ll see a diminution. We hope it happens, but we can`t guarantee it.

GUTHRIE:  Real quickly, Dr. Fauci, before I let you go, we expended the 30- day guidelines, people asked to stay at home. Do you think it could be longer than 30 days that`s required?

FAUCI:  We always take it on a literally week by week basis. I believe we will be able to see a turn around if everybody strictly adheres to those guidelines in 30 days. But we always keep an open mind, Savannah.

We will evaluate it, just like when we came to the end of the 15-days. I mentioned to you on a previous show that we`ll look at it on an individual basis, on a week by week basis and I`m going to do the same thing. I hope we don`t have to extend it, but if we do, we`ll seriously consider it.

GUTHRIE:  Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you for your hard work, sir, on behalf of our country. We really appreciate it.

FAUCI:  Good to be with you. Thank you.

KOTB:  While New York has been ground zero for this crisis so far, the virus is spreading rapidly, creating new hot spots across the country.

Among them, Louisiana, with more than 5,000 cases and counting. Nearly a third of them in New Orleans.

Joining us now is Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.

Governor, thank you for joining us tonight.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA:  Thank you, Hoda. It`s great to be with you and all your viewers.

KOTB:  Thank you.

Well, wow, we had some sobering numbers today. You had a news conference, and I was shocked by them. You called the numbers startling, a spike of 30 percent in cases in Louisiana.

Talk about what -- how sobering those numbers were to you.

EDWARDS:  Well, first of all, it`s a very tough day here. Not totally unexpected, because we knew this was going to get worse before it gets better. Hopefully, we just had a logjam that broke in terms of tests that were pending and they all came through at once. We`re still trying to sort that out.

But 1,200 cases in one day was an awful lot. And as you know, we went up to 239 deaths from about another 54 just over the last 24 hours. So, those numbers are very alarming.

KOTB:  Yes. Governor, you talked about the need -- the desperate need for ventilators. You said that in Louisiana, you could run out by the 4th or 5th of April, which is this weekend.

I know you asked the federal government for 5,000. You said you knew you were going to get a piece of the pie. You got a call from the vice president, and he said you weren`t going to get 5,000. You were going to get 150 ventilators.

Is that sort of the piece of the pie you were expecting?

EDWARDS:  Well, you know, I wanted to make sure that we got a piece of the pie. We did, it`s 150. Obviously, we continue to work other angles. We`re ordering from private vendors, as well. We got in a hundred yesterday.

But we`re woefully short of what we need. And we need a couple of thousand ventilators just in the New Orleans area. And it`s not the state that will run out in a few days, it will be the New Orleans region.

But we have growing cases here in Baton Rouge, and also over in Lafayette. Up in Shreveport, the number is well over 200 now. So, we know that the other regions of the state are just a week, or ten days, or two weeks behind New Orleans.

KOTB:  Wow, it`s desperate, I know. How much does a ventilator usually run not during this time?

EDWARDS:  Yes. Well, there are different types of ventilators, but a really good ventilator should run about $25,000. They`re $50,000 and more now, that all happened in the last few weeks.

KOTB:  Can`t believe the prices are doubled that they`re charging. Let`s talk about your extended stay at home order. You know, you want people to stay at home. You`ve been saying it. I`ve been hearing you, you`re repeating it over and over.

And yet I see, you know, people having second line kind of they`re like funerals, I see people gathering.

How do you get the message out to people in Louisiana to stay home?

EDWARDS:  Well, you know, that`s obviously difficult. First of all, we have an awful lot of people who are complying. I want to thank them.

KOTB:  Yes.

EDWARDS:  But we have some people who are not complying, as well. Maybe the numbers that came out today will do the trick. You know, some people are slow to grasp the reality of the situation, and just develop the sense of urgency we need them to have. But these numbers are sobering, so maybe that will help.

KOTB:  I think a lot of people may think, that this is a city problem, this is a New York City problem. This is a Chicago problem, a New Orleans problem. You said something in your news conference that 60 of your 64 perishes have cases. This ain`t just a city problem, is it?

EDWARDS:  Absolutely not. By the way, the four parishes that don`t have a case, they have coronavirus. They have COVID-19. They just don`t know it yet.

And this is going to be all over the country. And nobody should think of this as being somebody else`s problem. That is a recipe for disaster. We all have a role to play. Every single individual in this country has a role to play.

KOTB:  I know that`s going to happen. You`re a tough guy. You were in the 82nd Airborne. I know you`re tough.

I know folks in Louisiana are tough. But even tough people can get scared. What kind of reassurance do you have for your state?

EDWARDS:  We`re just going to be very truthful to people, very transparent. And we are going to get through this.

And between now and then, it`s going to get tougher. It`s not going to get easier over the next couple of weeks, and pretty soon, we`ll be able to get back to where we can -- we can hold hands and hug, and do those second lines like we want to. But we shouldn`t be doing them right now.

KOTB:  Yes, I do look forward to that day, too.

Governor John Bel Edwards, Governor, thank you so much. We appreciate your time tonight.

EDWARDS:  Thank you, Hoda. I appreciate you. Yes, ma`am.

KOTB:  All right. We do have a lot of people with questions, Savannah, we have and panel of experts answering your questions throughout the hour about the challenges facing our hospitals, our health care workers. And about what lies ahead as this pandemic spreads.

So, NBC News medical correspondent, Dr. John Torres, NBC News investigative consumer correspondent, Vicky Nguyen.

GUTHRIE:  Well, also, joining us, we have NBC senior business correspondent, Stephanie Ruhle. Virologist, epidemiologist and NBC News science contributor, Dr. Joseph Fair, and global health policy expert and NBC news contributor, Dr. Vin Gupta.

Welcome all. It`s good to have you here.

KOTB:  All right. Let`s get you started.

We`ve got our first question for you, Dr. Torres. This is from Jennette (ph) on Facebook. And she wonders this: how worried should she be because her 12-year-old daughter has asthma?

DR. JOHN TORRES, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT:  So the two biggest things we know that affect people with coronavirus and make them have worst outcomes are age, as you get older, your outcomes are worst, especially when you get above 65, and chronic medical conditions, including chronic respiratory illnesses. Asthma falls under that.

So the fact that she has asthma, puts her at higher risk. But she is 12, which is the age group that has the lowest risk for any effect of this coronavirus, so even though she`s at low risk because of her age, her asthma puts her risk up a little higher. So, she does need to practice extra precautions.

And if she does get coronavirus, they need to keep a closer eye on her for breathing problems that are outside of normal asthma type breathing problems. If they start noticing that, then she definitely needs to be checked because that could be an issue with her.

GUTHRIE:  OK. This one is for Dr. Gupta. Lisa from Instagram writes: Half of my family are essential works, the other half are non-essential workers. We`re trying to self-quarantine, but how are we supposed to do that? I`ve been cleaning and disinfecting before I even get into the house. Is there a solution to this problem?

Dr. Gupta, what say you?

DR. VIN GUPTA:  NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  I think she`s doing the best she can, and that`s what all American families are doing, especially in states that have passed shelter in place laws or advocated social distancing. There`s only so much you can do.

And that`s -- this is my advice, if you`re coughing, if you`re having symptoms, fever, shortness of breath, a cough, to wear a mask at home. That`s a case where, especially with the CDC potentially revising guidelines, if you have an asymptomatic family member, wear a mask. That is what we`re wrestling with. What`s the right thing to do? We don`t know really know.

Otherwise, infection control, making sure you`re washing your hands, you know, that is going to be key, and cleaning the house. Those are the right things. This is many ways just good infection control, good hand hygiene is the best you can do, especially living in close quarters with other family members.

KOTB:  All right. We`ve got a question now for Dr. Joseph Fair.

Nicky asks this on Facebook. She said: I`ve heard this could become a seasonal virus. Is that actually possible? And if it could take up to 18 months for a viable vaccine, what could that mean going forward over the next year and a half? So, what can she expect?

DR. JOSEPH FAIR, NBC NEWS SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR:  Well, we say that because coronaviruses are typically part of the cause of the common cold, coronaviruses and rhinoviruses. And we have a cold and flu season that drops off in the summer and then typically comes back in the fall.

The reason it drops off in the summer, like Dr. Fauci mentioned, it has something to do with, you know, temperature and humidity, but more so to do with we have longer sunlight hours. UV is a natural disinfectant. UV light inactivates both viruses and bacteria, including coronaviruses and we`re outdoor as more. So, the viruses are inactived.

She`s exactly right about the vaccine. We have a minimum of a year to 18 months to see a vaccine. So don`t put hopes to the vaccine being an end to this.

That being said, we can expect to see a resurgence of the virus in the fall. And I think everyone would probably unanimously agree that we will see that resurgence in the fall. So, we have to focus our efforts in the summer and getting testing up and running everywhere, replenishing those stockpiles of masks and PPE and getting ready for the second wave of the virus in the fall.

GUTHRIE:  Dr. Fair, another one from Alex on Facebook.

A lot of the focus has been preventing acquiring the COVID-19 infection and there`s little information on those that have made a full recovery. These that have become infected and have made a full recovery from COVID-19, are they still contagious? Can they have a relapse? What should they do to keep themselves and others healthy?

FAIR:  Let me start with the relapse. So, you know, some recent studies and recent attacks which are animal models, usually that we use for humans, studies have shown they can`t be re-infected in the laboratory. So that gives us hope that there is some lasting immunity to COVID-19. How long that immunity is? We`ll only find out as time goes on and we see survivors.

That also brings up to question, you know, there are different types of tests. There`s the tests that tells you if you`re acutely ill, that`s the nasal swab test, and a test from Abbott, et cetera, that tells you if you`re acutely infected.

Equally is important are your antibody test here, your IGM and IGG antibodies. That lets you know that you had COVID-19 and it`s let you know roughly how immune you`re going to be to it. That`s very important for a number of reasons. One, are you immune to it? And, two, can your serum or plasma be used to treat other patients? And what you have heard of as the convalescence serum treatment. It`s a tried and true and it works for many diseases where we take the antibodies from one person that survived and literally put them into another person who`s acutely under the fight and it helps them overcome the infection.

GUTHRIE:  All right, Dr. Fair, to other panel members, thank you. We`ll be back with you later in the hour.

But when we come back, we`re going to hear from some healthcare heroes on the front lines in their own words.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are under an immense amount of stress. PPE is dwindling so much. And I heard someone say today, another nurse as I was literally looking for another N95, because the one I had been using since March 23rd, for all of my patients, they`re all positive.



KOTB:  And later, doing what you can with Jon Bon Jovi.


GUTHRIE:  Welcome back, everybody.

If fighting the coronavirus is a war, then the soldiers on the front lines are this country`s health care workers, the men and women putting themselves at risk to help others and save lives every day, 24/7.

KOTB:  And some of those people have been keeping video diaries or documenting what they`ve been going through.

Here is a sampling in their own words.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It`s literally just got off work. You guys can see my battle scars from my mask wearing all day. We saw so many patients with presumed COVID. We intubated a lot of patients, and it`s the first day that this has felt super real to me as an ER doc. And it`s pretty terrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There`s definitely fear amongst the health care workers of, you know, of us growing sick or seeing our peers get sick. But, thankfully, we have the protective wear that, you know, readily available to us. I think it`s just crazy with the numbers rising, and the acuity of the patients is like nothing we`ve ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going through an insane amount of PPE. We are reusing as much as we can. It`s scary. And I just want to tell people in other parts of the country, take this seriously, because you do not want to end up like us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter how many times I work a shift, the one thing that always comes to mind about this disease is how lonely it becomes. How you see old people, young people, middle age people just slowly wither away. And there is no family, or there is no one here to just sit by their side and hold their hand. And I think that is one of the hardest things about coronavirus, how people just die alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today was an absolute uptick in sort of the amount of patients that came in with COVID-like symptoms or that were confirmed positive. It was essentially exclusively all that I saw today in the ER.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can ask any health care worker to name the worst shifts of their life, and hands down, today would definitely qualify as top-five for me - probably top-three. We are under an immense amount of stress. PPE is dwindling so much. I don`t know how we`re going to make people understand that this is serious, that people come in, walking and talking, and then they end up on a rapid decline, and we have no rhyme or reason why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like playing dominos every single minute over 10 hours straight. Feeling like any one of your patients is about to fall and collapse. I`m exhausted, but I couldn`t feel prouder of the team we have in this department and for what we`re doing as a health system and really as a country. We are overcoming so many major hurdles, but there`s only one way to do it. There`s only one direction to go, and that`s forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that I`ve seen more intubations in the past couple of weeks than I have in the past number of years that I`ve worked here. It`s the moments that break your heart right now.

And when you come across that patient in the car line who is so ill and they have to come inside and they need rapid intervention right now, they have this moment, this moment where they look at that family member that drove them there, and they`re both wondering, am I going to see this person again. That`s not something that I ever wanted to be witness to.

Every single nurse, every single physician, we`re committed, and we put our life on the line every day because that`s what we do. And that`s what nursing is.



SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, ANCHOR MSNBC: Some of the heroes that are working so hard right now. This is obviously, first and foremost, a medical crisis.

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: But because of this social distancing that`s required, it`s an economic crisis, too. And so many families have lost jobs and are waiting at home and are wondering. And our panel of experts is here because we have a lot of questions along those lines a well, and we`ll start with Stephanie Ruhle, who is our Business Correspondent.

Lisa on Instagram asked, "My husband and I are both retired. He receives social security and I receive teacher retirement. We don`t need a stimulus check. In the Senate package, will we be eligible?


STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Savannah. Lisa and her husband are eligible. People who are on social security, on fixed income, they are absolutely eligible. Now, she is in an advantageous position where she doesn`t need the stimulus package. It shouldn`t be looked at as a bonus. This is emergency funding. So I would recommend, tuck it away, keep it for an emergency when she might need it, because these are uncertain times.

KOTB: All right. Kim (ph) on Facebook has got a question, and this one goes to Dr. Fair. She says this. "I`m curious as to why public transportation is still allowed to operate under our stay-at-home orders, apparently - no groups larger than 10 people, six feet for social distancing." She says that "public transport is like a portable Petri dish." What do you think?

JOSEPH FAIR, NBC NEWS SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: She`s absolutely right. The unfortunate matter - the unfortunate truth of it, rather, is that a lot of people don`t have any other choice but public transportation. But this is where it calls for an all-hands-on-deck kind of scenario.

So whoever is in charge of public transport in your city or your locale, they need to adjust the schedules to make sure that there`s only so many people allowed on, say, a bus at a certain time, or so many people allowed on a certain subway car at a certain time.

I saw a picture just yesterday of the New York subway where it was absolutely packed. Some people wearing masks, some people not. And that`s obviously a major concern for us, especially here in New York, but all over the country in urban metro areas where people just don`t have the choice but to take public transport.

GUTHRIE: Dr. Fair, thanks.

Let`s go to Dr. Torres. Christy (ph) on Instagram wants to know, "What can we expect when we go back to work? Do we continue to worry about contracting and spreading the virus until there is an immunization ready? I`m a beauty industry service professional." What do you say?

DR. JOHN TORRES, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So - so, again, the main thing is that we think this is going to taper off when the warm weather hits here. And once they start letting people out and we start releasing the shelter-in-place type situations, that means that coronavirus is more under control and so it`s not out there as much.

But at the same time, we do know it`s more likely going to come back, and it might never completely disappear. So you`re going to have to take these measurements we`ve been taking at heart for the rest of the year. And this is going to be a new normal.

And by that, I don`t necessarily mean the six-foot distancing because she works in a salon, she`s going to get near people. But definitely, the washing your hands before you touch your face, maybe not shaking hands anymore, maybe doing some other form of greeting, just those things we know that can help keep us safe, because this thing is going to come back and it might not completely go away this summer. So you`re going to have to be careful. This is going to be the new normal.

GUTHRIE: So much has changed about our world. Panels, stand by. We`re going to have more questions, particularly about some of the economic and personal challenges faced in this crisis.

KOTB: Yes. When we come back, we`ll have reports on the race to ramp up testing and a potential game-changer in an effort to make sure this country has enough life-saving ventilators.

GUTHRIE: And then, a bit later on, we`ve got a special performance by Jon Bon Jovi. We hope it lifts some spirits. Stay with us.


BLAYNE ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I`m Blayne Alexander in Albany, Georgia. About three hours south of Atlanta, this small county has seen the highest number of deaths anywhere in the state, higher even than some areas with more than 10 times its population. Here, there is only one hospital to serve the entire area. So some patients have had to go more than 100 miles away for treatment.

Today, the Mayor told me that it hit suddenly and it shocked everyone, and in small towns like these, they`ve got even fewer resources to fight back.

KOTB: That was Blayne Alexander reporting from Georgia. A reminder that those rural, small towns really, really affected.

Now, while our focus has been on the coronavirus outbreak here in the United States, where there are far more cases than any country on earth, this is a worldwide pandemic.

GUTHRIE: Yes, by definition. In testing, the race for an effective treatment have been key in the effort to slow its spread worldwide. Cynthia McFadden and Keir Simmons have been looking at that part of the story. We`re going to start with Keir on testing.

KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Governments around the world are facing criticism for failing to provide enough tests for coronavirus. Many are racing to produce more. And the clock is ticking.


SIMMONS (voice-over): The coronavirus pandemic has stormed across the globe, an unrelenting and invisible army, leaving many countries ill- equipped to test for the virus.

In hard-hit Spain, Stacey Toops (ph) is a med student from Ohio, caring for patients with coronavirus.

SIMMONS (on-camera): How long have you been waiting for tests?


SIMMONS (voice-over): In New York, more than two months after America`s first positive coronavirus case, the sick have been lining up for tests. Too late to stop the spread.

PROF. HOWARD FORMAN, PUBLIC HEALTH & MANAGEMENT, YALE UNIVERSITY: Without testing, it is like an airplane flying without visibility. We have no idea of what is actually going on, on the ground.

SIMMONS (voice-over): It didn`t have to be like this. In January, South Korea began aggressively testing, and isolating suspected coronavirus carriers. It now has only around 100 new cases a day. If America had done the same--

FORMAN: We would have avoided having lockdowns at the level we have now. We have to work from where we are right now, and that still requires massive testing.

SIMMONS: What does massive testing mean?

FORMAN: Probably means over a million tests a day.

SIMMONS (voice-over): Complicating the picture, there are multiple types of test. The most effective, called PCR, looks for traces of the virus, but results can take hours. The test themselves in short supply.

On Monday, President Trump displaying a new, quicker PCR test, fast approved by the FDA. From tomorrow, thousands of these tests will be available in America. One in the U.K., this Oxford University team is showing us how they are making the process even simpler.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pink is negative. The yellow is positive.

SIMMONS (voice-over): Another type of test, now FDA-approved, looks for the antibodies that fight the virus. A simple blood sample in a cassette, like a pregnancy test. Antibodies to the virus appear days after infection, showing who has had coronavirus. But they might help governments calculate when and how to safely lift the lockdowns. And for the world to get back to business, technology is playing its part.

Governments and companies around the world are increasingly expressing interest in legally accessing location data from unsuspecting cell phone users, to track changes to their movements. While the data is gathered anonymously to map how effective self-distancing measures are, it has raised privacy concerns. Researchers designing an app that alerts people who`ve been in contact with you if you test positive.

CHRISTOPHE FRASER, OXFORD UNIVERSITY BIG DATA INSTITUTE: This is not about surveillance. This is about contributing to control the epidemic.

SIMMONS (voice-over): Coronavirus is testing our communities and our trust in governments. But without effective testing, the world is fighting an enemy it cannot see. And a vaccine or cure are months, maybe years away.


SIMMONS: The World Health Organization has urged countries to track and trace everyone suspected of having the virus. Health experts here in Europe now saying the secret of ending the lockdowns, mass testing.

GUTHRIE: All right. Keir, thank you.

Ventilators have emerged as the crucial tool in this pandemic, helping victims literally breathe, saving their lives. But with the surge in demand, ventilators are unfortunately in desperately short supply. Cynthia McFadden now taking us inside the race to get more of them to the front lines.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Tonight, NBC News has learned that four ventilator companies will be upping their production of ventilators by 50 percent. But even those 50,000 new machines rolled out over the next year will be a drop in the bucket of need projected to be in the hundreds of thousands.

But into this grim picture enter hope from an unlikely spot just a few miles outside Waxahachie, Texas. A device being mass produced that some of the nation`s top ICU doctors believe could help save thousands of people. Behind his house in a series of four car garages, Chris Austin, his family, and a few other volunteers are making what may be a miracle, helmets for ventilation, the only one available in the U.S. that meets FDA requirements and has been studied in a hospital.


CHRIS AUSTIN, PRESIDENT, SEA-LONG MEDICAL SYSTEMS, INC.: You have the tubes that feed the air. The opening is cut for the patient`s neck to make sure there`s no leakage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Versions of the space-suit-like helmet have been widely used in Italy but never really caught on in the U.S. except for here at the University of Chicago, where ICU doctors started studying it four years ago. They were encouraged by the fact some patients could be spared from being put on a ventilator by using the helmet.

DR. BHAKTI PATEL, PULMONOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER: Even if it`s one out of three or one out of five, that is the case that would be a game-changer when we`re see thing this tidal wave of patients who need a ventilator.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Dr. Patel and her mentor, Dr. John Kress have been working closely with Chris Austin to modify the helmets for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Kress put the helmet to work this week. Here is one of the first patients, an 81-year-old man.

DR. JOHN KRESS, DIRECTOR, MEDICAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER: Having the oxygen that comes right off of the wall supply without a ventilator at all is the idea. And it went very well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Back in Texas, orders pour in from all over the world. VA Hospitals, Johns Hopkins, Mass General have all placed orders, as well as Canada, Mexico, Italy and many more. Even though they`re now producing 1,000 helmets a week, they`ve been unable to keep up with demand.

AUSTIN: Working two shifts, basically 24/7. We`re all here until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 in the morning.

MCFADDEN: Is anybody sleeping in your household?

AUSTIN: The dog. She`s the head of security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): But he expects to be producing 5,000 units in just a few days, thanks to a surprise call from the CEO of Virgin Galactic.

AUSTIN: He said, Chris, I saw what you do, and we want to help, whatever it takes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): Chris told him he needed more machines but didn`t have the cash to pay for them. Later that day--

AUSTIN: We got a call from the supply that said, somebody just paid your bill. They`ll be shipping tomorrow.

MCFADDEN: And so, Chris, how do you decide who`s going to get them first?

AUSTIN: We know Boston, we know Chicago and places like that. So they really should get something quicker to save lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The 20 they shipped to Chicago were delivered yesterday.

KRESS: I think the helmet has the potential to avoid needing ventilators and then tracheal tubes for all of our patients.

PATEL: I hope that our contribution is that perhaps we can spare a few ventilators for patients and give them to the patients that need them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): And a final note, the helmets cost $162 before the coronavirus. And they still do.

AUSTIN: This probably sounds sappy, but we think of what if that was our son or daughter or grandfather sitting there in that bed gasping for air and we have to explain to them that, sorry, we don`t have anything for you. And this, I think, we`ll will make it much more available for a larger number of people, as many places as we can get. So that`s what really matters.


MCFADDEN: Chris has offered to share the design for his helmets with any manufacturer who can make them, for free. It looks like he`s already got two takers in Michigan. Savannah? Hoda?

GUTHRIE: All right. Cynthia, thank you so much. Doesn`t that just do your heart good?

KOTB: OK. I love Chris in this moment. Wow! What an incredible guy!

GUTHRIE: And to see a good American innovator--

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: --helping his fellow human beings.

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: Thank you to him.

We`re back with our panel in just a moment. We`ll talk about some of the things you can do to help.

KOTB: Also, we`re going to see what one of our favorite performers is doing to lift all of our spirits when we continue in just a moment.


GUTHRIE: Well, we`re back. It`s Tuesday night. If you watch the "Today" show, we like to do a morning boost. Just because we`re up late together, I think we need an evening boost, Hoda.

KOTB: I got an evening boost for you - some wonderful people right here in New York City. A family-owned restaurant on New York`s upper west side, the family has started something called "Feed the Frontlines NYC." It`s all about getting meals to the real heroes in this crisis. Of course, we`re talking about the health care workers.

So, with all the restaurants closed, they decided to put their talents and resources to work, preparing and delivering those meals to doctors and nurses, all those who are working so hard at such personal risk to take care of the rest of us.

So "Feed the Frontlines" has raised more than $400,000 from generous supporters since they started this past Saturday. They`ve delivered thousands of free meals to hospitals and other health care facilities all around the city. And I think people probably want to help. And maybe you shouldn`t make your own meals and take them because there are some rules to that, but you can go to

GUTHRIE: How good must that feel to have a nice meal in your belly, just know that somebody cared enough to send it.

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: We have a few moments to get a few more questions for our crisis panel. This is for Stephanie Ruhle from Michelle on Facebook. "I`ve heard a lot about small business. I`m not a freelancer. I run my own business with no employees. I think I don`t qualify for unemployment or the forgivable loans. Is there help for me?"

RUHLE: There absolutely is. She does qualify. Senator Chuck Schumer calls this benefit expansion "unemployment on steroids." So people who traditionally don`t qualify, freelance workers, people who are self- employed, gig workers, they are eligible. One thing I would say, chances are, if she applies now, the websites are crowded, phone lines are busy, but have a little patience. The Care Act is here to help, but you`ve got to give it a minute.

KOTB: All right. We`ve got a question for Vicky. This comes from Wendy on Facebook. She asks this. "Is it necessary to change out your clothes that you wore when you went to the grocery store when you come home?"

VICKY NGUYEN, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE & CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wendy. It depends a little bit on what you`ve been doing while you were out. Did your clothes come into contact with anything? For example, did you take public transit? Either way, health experts say that the virus can live on surfaces like clothes or shoes, but it`s unclear for how long. So if you can, change into some indoor slippers, change into some house clothes, and always wash your hands thoroughly whenever you come back inside.

KOTB: All right. Vicky, good - good advice.

GUTHRIE: And information.

KOTB: Do you have one more question? You got one?

GUTHRIE: I think we do have another one for Vicky. "Is it safe, Vicky, to use a community washer and dryer during this time? This came from Amy on Facebook. Her daughter lives in an apartment with other tenants. She takes precautions about touching the machine and washing her hands, but she wants to know is it safe, a community dryer, a Laundromat kind of idea.

NGUYEN: Great question. My cousin literally just asked me this today. Global health experts we spoke with say, absolutely. Soap and water kills the virus. Use the warmest water that your clothes can handle and just make sure you use enough detergent for the size of the laundry load that you`re doing.

KOTB: All right. Vicky, sounds good. I think a lot of people at home are wondering how can I help, how can I make a difference. So if you`re looking for how you can help or how to get help, you`re going to find some ideas on Facebook`s coronavirus resource page. So a lot of people really want to get out and--

GUTHRIE: Check that out and absolutely--

KOTB: --do their part--

GUTHRIE: --do your part. And the most important thing is to stay home--

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: --as we heard Dr. Fauci said. We want to thank you for being with us over the last hour as we`ve been trying to kind of navigate this new normal, this crisis together.

KOTB: Yes. We want to give a special shout-out to all the men and women of NBC News who worked with us tonight and who help keep you guys informed every day. Most of all, though - most of all, our heartfelt thank you to all of the health care workers, the police officers, the firefighters, all the first responders who are out there keeping us safe.

GUTHRIE: Of course, we just say our heroes.

KOTB: Yes.

GUTHRIE: They`re our heroes.

And now, as promised, a special performance from Jon Bon Jovi from his home to yours, a song he wrote with a little help from his fans who sent in lyrics for some of the verses. Good night, everybody. We`ll see you tomorrow morning on the Today Show.

And now, Jon, it`s all yours.

JON BON JOVI, AMERICAN SINGER-SONG WRITER: Savannah and Hoda, thank you for what you`re doing. I`d like to give a shout-out to all the nurses and the doctors, the truck drivers and the grocery store clerks, policemen, scientists, teachers, and moms and dads, who are all on the front lines tonight. You do what you can.

BON JOVI (singing): Tonight they`re shutting down the borders and they`ve boarded up the schools. Small towns are rolling up their sidewalks, one last paycheck coming through. I know you feel a little nervous. We`re all a little bit confused. Nothing is the same, this ain`t a game, we`ve got to make it through.

When you can`t do what you do, you do what you can. This ain`t my prayer. It`s just a thought I wanted to send. Around here we bend but don`t break. Down here, we all understand. When you can`t do what you do, you do what you can.

As we wave outside the window, older loved ones stay inside. In the sidewalk, babies blowing kisses (inaudible) They had to cancel graduation, it ain`t fair to scrap the prom. Our kids in home in isolation. TV news is always on.

When you can`t do what you do, you do what you can. This ain`t my prayer, it`s just a thought I wanted to send. Around here we bend but don`t break, Down here we all understand. When you can`t do what you do, you do what you can. When you can`t do what you do, you do what you can.

BON JOVI: Keep doing what you do.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR MSNBC: The pulsating red light atop the Empire State Building, a beacon above the city as unmistakable these days as the state of emergency on the city streets below.