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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 7/23/21

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Don Calloway, Bill Kristol, Stephen Sample


Olympics begin in Tokyo, Japan despite global COVID crisis. Delta variant is now over 80 percent of new U.S. COVID cases. U.S. buys 200 million more doses of Pfizer shots. Trump All, Tom Barrack released on $250 million bond. January 6 select committee is set to hold first hearing next week. A growing number of top Republicans are urging GOP supporters to get vaccinated as the delta variant surges across the United States, marking a notable shift away from the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorizing that has gripped much of the party in opposition to the Biden administration`s efforts to combat the virus. Biden administration health officials increasingly think that vulnerable populations will need booster shots even as research continues into how long the coronavirus vaccines remain effective. Athletes from 205 countries participating in the Olympics paraded at the Opening Ceremony to officially kick off the Tokyo Games.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, once again, day 185 of the Biden administration and this was the day a Republican governor of a deep red state actually said out loud that it`s, "time to start blaming the unvaccinated" for this dramatic spike in illness in her state. You`ll hear her say those words in just a moment.

But first and importantly, it`s now noon Saturday in Tokyo. These are live pictures. The Olympic Games are underway in a world sterile very much in the grip of this pandemic.

The virus forced a year long delay of these games and once again, the illness is surging there in Japan. The risk made for a subdued opening ceremony, let`s call it, in a nearly empty stadium, even as for time Grand Slam tennis champion, Naomi Osaka let the cauldron. There was no doubt these Olympics will be unlike any other we`ve ever seen.

The IOC did not require athletes to be fully vaccinated against COVID. Just today, the doctor for Team USA estimated that 83 percent of the competitors were fully vaccinated. That`s still a lot better than our country as a whole over half the nation remains unvaccinated.

CDC says today saw the lowest number of shots given since early January. That, plus, this super contagious Delta variant continue to drive this surge in New COVID cases. CDC data are showing the seven day average of new cases now the highest it`s been, are you ready for this since the beginning of May. As we`ve been told this is now largely a pandemic of the unvaccinated this time around and anger and frustration at those who have not yet gotten the shot is growing.

As we mentioned at the top of this broadcast earlier today, the Republican governor of Alabama, the state with the nation`s lowest vaccination rate, called out those who are still holding out.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it`s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It`s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.

I`ve done all, I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can`t make you take care of yourself.


WILLIAMS: There was meanwhile New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, calling on private companies to require their workers to get vaccinated.

A new AP Poll found 45 percent of unvaccinated Americans surveyed say they will definitely not get a shot, 35 percent of them say they probably won`t get one, while 64 percent of the unvaccinated say they have little confidence that vaccines are effective against variant, remarkable numbers truly.

White House maintains it has no intention of getting behind any kind of mandates or requirements. They will stay the course trying to convince people to get one of the three vaccines that are available.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We always knew it would be harder as more people got vaccinated. That`s the stage we`re in now. We have to stay at it to save people`s lives.


WILLIAMS: Now the government has also purchased an additional 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered from October through April of next year. In fact, just tonight, the New York Times is out with a story that Biden administration health officials increasingly believe as is the case with other vaccines. Many of us will in fact need booster shots as expected.

Time says, senior officials now say Americans 65 and older or Americans who have compromised immune systems will most likely need that third shot from Pfizer or Moderna.

There was a victory of sorts tonight for Florida`s governor where the number of new cases is soaring. Late today, a federal appeals court blocked CDC restrictions that have prevented a large number of cruise ships from docking and Florida. CDC had argued the rules were needed to prevent further outbreaks. But the state said the rules were overly burdensome. Just today the state reported over 13,000 new COVID cases. That`s in one day.

There is an update and another story we`ve been following this week as well. Tom Barrack, the former Trump Inaugural Chairman charged with illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. He`s out of jail on $250 million bail. He was released today pending trial. His passport was seized from him. He`s been ordered to wear a GPS location monitoring bracelet. He`s due in federal court in New York City for his hearing on Monday.


And President Biden back on the campaign trail tonight for the first time since his inauguration over six months ago. He was at a rally to support former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe who`s running for another term to lead the state. The event was also seen as something of a test of Joe Biden`s strength among the all important suburban voters ahead of the 2022 midterms.

It`s a lot and with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this last night of the week, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associated Press, Susan Page, Veteran Journalist, Best Selling Author, most recently as biographer of speaker, Pelosi, longtime USA Today Washington Bureau Chief and Cynthia Alksne, Former Federal Prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Susan, with all the progress we made on this virus, watching our country now take such a big step backwards. What a test for this or any presidency?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Yeah, and of course, for Joe Biden, the success of his presidency, to some degree now depends on convincing voters who didn`t vote for him, who don`t trust him to go ahead and take this vaccine that they have been so resistant to. It`s the flummoxing, right? We`ve managed to get vaccines that work, that are safe and that are effective. And now the task turns out to be, I think, more difficult than the White House imagine to convince the resistant to go ahead and get it. I mean, the White House has not reached its goal of 70 percent vaccination rate by now that is a disincentive and a warning sign. It`s hard to do other things, unless and until this pandemic is under better control.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, I don`t have to remind you governors hardly act as a pack along party lines, but they do sit up and pay attention and they watch the actions of one another. And Governor Ivey in Alabama may have started something, tell us how resistant the White House remains on any kind of vaccine requirements?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yeah, it was striking words from the governor of Alabama today who noted the terrible vaccination rate in her state and talked about in very candid terms about how the people who would not get the vaccine, were delivering such suffering to themselves and potentially to their loved ones, the White House to this point still shying away from the vaccine past or something like that, they are every day trying to come up with ways to encourage Americans to take the vaccine. They`re well aware of these pockets of unvaccinated people that not only are they right now at great risk for contracting the highly contagious Delta variant, but the longer the virus kicks around in, you know, in the United States, the more chance there could be a further variant that might even be more able to dodge the protection offered by the vaccine.

But right now, there`s been discussions this week, as my colleagues and others have reported about masks whether there should be-- CDC is considering mask requirements back for vaccinated individuals. So far, not yet. But they`re having regular check ins about it. And certainly, yes, that the surgeon the virus in dangers, what the President is doing right now, it`s like the nation`s economic recovery and dangers agenda and endangers ability to tell the American people that the nation has turned the corner on the pandemic.

WILLIAMS: So, Cynthia, let`s merge your life`s work in the law with the topic of public health. You know, it was Fauci who said just a few days ago, if we had this kind of anti-vax campaign in this country during the fight against polio, smallpox, we may still be dealing with those diseases today, who knows we might yet, what are the legal rules and ramifications surrounding requirements to get vaccinated, say you want to attend a public event, a private event, say your own private company wants to require it?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, you know, the EEOC has said your private company can require it. And as long as they make some sort of arrangement if you have a health condition and can have it or if you have some religious objection, so private companies can do it.

You know, I was thinking about this today, there really is an analogous situation with smoking, which may turn out to be interesting, and that is states and insurance companies, for example, in Texas, the Texas public health system, there`s a surcharge if you smoke, it`s 30 bucks a month. Kaiser, it`s 25 bucks a month. And it may be that we have to have some of these carrot and stick things. It may have to be you can`t -- you know, the government may have to say, you can get on a plane unless you`re vaccinated. It may be that you`re employed is going to have to require vaccinations and it may be that you`re going to have to pay more for insurance if you refuse to get vaccinated because it`s costing us all a lot of money these people who are refusing to follow the science and are ending up, you know, 20 days on a respirator and then we`re all paying for it, or anything, any other terrible thing that happens to them, including spreading the disease to other innocent people.


So I think it`s a multi layered approach. But there are ways to carrot and stick and to try to up the vaccination rate in the country that are legal.

WILLIAMS: It sure is tied up in presidential politics to a sometimes fatal degree.

Susan, I want to read you, David Frum, in the Atlantic. And here, he gets a big one right. He writes, in part, experts list many reasons for the vaccine slump. But one big reason stands out, vaccine resistance among conservative, evangelical and rural Americans. Pro-Trump America has decided that vaccine refusal is a statement of identity and a test of loyalty as cases uptick again, as people who have done the right thing, face the consequences of other people doing the wrong thing. The question occurs, does Biden`s America have a breaking point?

And Susan, another way to ask that is, are we destined to become more to nations, then it already seems we are most days?

PAGE: Well, I hope not, although I would have been surprised at the beginning of this pandemic, with the idea that wearing a mask could become a partisan issue on which there would be a big partisan divide.

You know, it seems -- we talk about ways to encourage those carrots and sticks to convince the people who are reluctant to vaccines to do so, how about the fact that you`re more likely to die, get sick, go to the hospital if you don`t get a vaccine. It seems like that`s a pretty good stick. And yet it`s not working because I think of the rhetoric we`ve seen from President Trump, from some of his acolytes, from conservative media figures that depict this as a matter of liberty, not as a matter of health, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, bit of a change of subject, I`d love you to give us a preview of next week, specifically on Tuesday and specifically the start of the 1/6 committee hearings.

LEMIRE: Well, that`s right, Brian. We -- it`s a lot we don`t know about how this is going to play out. Of course, just this week, GOP Leader McCarthy nominated several Republican, five Republicans to the select committee. Three of them voted against certifying Joe Biden`s election on January 6, mind you a vote that was taken place after the riots that day.

So we know that House Speaker Pelosi objected to two of them, suggesting they might be called as witnesses to the committee and therefore wouldn`t be appropriate if they were also to serve as members, which call -- which caused McCarthy to pull them all down. And now the only Republican at least at the moment on the committee is Liz Cheney. You know, there`s talk that Adam Kinzinger another Republican, who`s pretty anti-Trump might be added.

So hearing start Tuesday. What the question is, will we have one or two committees. Will the Republicans form their own sort of working group, it won`t be the official committee, but it`s possible they will produce their own report to come up with their own findings, which undoubtedly, were meant to diminish and create more of a fog machine and confuse what the committee put together by Pelosi will discover and publish.

And before we go any further, though, we should also just note, of course, that the original intent was a bipartisan commission akin to one that happened after September 11th, 2001, those terror attacks, and it was the Republican senators who scuttled that. And because of that, because they undermine that cause we`re left what we have now, which is potentially dueling find groups, probing the same thing with just more and more messy politics, undoubtedly upsetting and undermine the confidence in Americans in the government. That meant to represent.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, you get the last word. Let`s talk about the curious case of Mr. Barrack, $250 million, gets your attention. That`s pretty much a quarter of a billion dollars, no matter which way you slice it, pulling your passport that gets your attention. That doesn`t happen to most people having to wear a band aid box size GPS bracelet. At minimum, it`s tough to accessorize with. What do you think is going on here?

ALKSNE: You know, a cry me a river. I mean, there are million -- there`s 1000s of kids who get arrested and nobody says, oh, you`re going to have to stay in Santa Monica, and then take the first class flight to New York. We -- you can`t be bothered to be with everybody else in jail who`s been charged with the crime.

I mean, the guys got millions of bucks. He only had to put up $5 million. It`s just great to be rich and white in America. That`s all I can say about this. All this, oh, this is such a big thing $250 million, he doesn`t have to put up $250 million. And he`s cut this deal and he has -- he`s obviously a flight risk. The guy`s got planes. The guy has a billion dollars. He`s got houses in different places. He has friends everywhere. And, frankly, I think it`s kind of a sweet deal compared to what your average defendant gets in America, certainly your average poor black kid who`s charged with a felony.


I refuse to go on and on about what a tough deal it is. I don`t see it as a tough deal. I just see it is more proof that if you`re rich and white, you get a better deal in America. I think it`s outrageous. I think he should be in jail. And he should have taken that plane with his cuffs on like everybody else. And he should have gone to Brooklyn and he should have had the arraignment and we would have dealt with it there. That`s the way everybody else would be treated. And he`s got a better deal. And I don`t approve it, since you asked.

WILLIAMS: I had a feeling you might have an opinion on this case. That`s why I asked.

Jonathan Lemire, Susan Page, Cynthia Alksne are starting line on a Friday night with our great thanks for starting us off. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Coming up, if telling the truth were an Olympic sport, what our elected officials even set their sights on bronze, six months into a new presidency, a huge agenda at stake. A pandemic that won`t go away, the stakes couldn`t be higher, as we`ll discuss with our next guests.

And later, about that pandemic, about our current spike among the unvaccinated, an E.R. doctor, friend of ours, standing by to share his outrage over preventable deaths going on. All of it as the 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night where in Washington it`s more like the red, white and blue House cheering on Team USA tonight.



WILLIAMS: With the President`s infrastructure agenda in flux, 150 different organizations, including civil rights groups, are now urging him to go ahead prioritize passing those two expansive voting rights bills.

New York Times puts it this way. Ultimately, the advocates fear that the Biden administration currently focused on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. And an ambitious spending proposal has largely accepted the Republican restrictions as baked in and is now dedicating more of its effort to juicing democratic turnout.

That`s saying a lot, let`s get reaction to it. For more, we`re joined again tonight by two of our friends, Don Calloway, Democratic Strategist, Founder of the National Voter Protection Action Fund, and Bill Kristol, Author, Writer, Thinker, Political Veteran of the Reagan and Bush administration`s, Editor at Large of the Bulwark.

Don, I`d like to begin with you, you know, you put it one way, pandemic that won`t stop infrastructure stagnation, voting rights getting taken away in broad daylight out loud, it would be enough to worry a Democrat, how worried are you?

DON CALLOWAY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I`m pretty worried because the reality of the matter is that even if we were to pass The For The People Act, and/or both and the John Lewis Act, we have a serious problem when it comes to implementation and budgeting because all of these things have to make their way through various state, local and county election authorities. People need to learn how to implement the new rules in time for the fall 2020 (ph) and summer fall and November 2022 election season. So I`m very worried if only from a practical standpoint, but from the political standpoint electorally in Washington, D.C., I`m particularly worried because it looks like Democrats are going through our bi-annual ritual of finding every way we can to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

There`s nothing that I`ve seen in the National Democratic Party. And then of course, I`m not privy to all the conversation that Chuck Schumer and Leader Pelosi are having behind the scene. But there`s nothing I`ve seen that suggests that there is an innovative way to corral the Democratic Senate caucus to be all on the same page. We`ve heard some encouraging messages from Joe Manchin. I believe that the Texas House Democrats had a positive impact on his psyche over the course of the last two weeks, but we have still not yet heard that definitive statement that shows that we are ready to use the actual power that we have. But at least while we have it for the next year and a half, so I`m concerned.

WILLIAMS: Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Hey, Bill, let`s push our focus to Tuesday and the first hearing of the 1/6 committee. Here`s how the AP puts it regarding one of the more famous members of that committee. Behind closed doors, those involved in the committee`s work, see and Liz Cheney a serious and constructive member, hardly a Republican figurehead, but a determined partner to what she has said must be a sober investigation. AP will forgive me for saying that`s a bit of a duh, I think, Bill, she`s obviously a consequential person. And of all the committee members chosen could end up being among the dominant drivers of the conversation, the questioning the investigation?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think that`s right. And I think actually, Nancy Pelosi is going to be vindicated for not accepting Republican nominees, not accepting at least two of them. And then McCarthy withdrew the other three. And I guess they`ll end up without any others, maybe Adam Kinzinger, will be asked to join by the speaker. They will have serious investigation. That`s a capable group, the Republicans will complain to their blue in the face that is partisan, at the end of the day, the testimony will be the testimony under oath, the depositions, the report, and we`ll learn I think more about what happened on January 6, what happened in the run up to January 6 in the White House, in the Defense Department, in the Justice Department. And I think that Speaker Pelosi short term that even a lot of Democrats and liberals are oh, she doesn`t understand, it looks bad to kick the Republicans off. I think it was a hard headed decision on her part that will end up being vindicated.

WILLIAMS: Don, we don`t -- nothing could make the topic of the 1/6 committee more serious. We saw it all and nothing tells us how serious it is than the Republican attempts to tell us what we saw wasn`t correct. What we saw wasn`t reality. Why not make this as big as they can get as much public attention as they can? How about one or two sessions in primetime to get the largest audience given that we`re in the middle of the summer that they can possibly get? What do you think the American people need to hear from this committee?


CALLOWAY: I don`t really think you need to hear anything. I think we`re focusing on the wrong since we saw it all. We saw it all on 1/6. So if I were Nancy Pelosi, and my good friend, brother, Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, all I would do is play the footage. And perhaps you could play the voiceovers from Officer Michael -- I`m sorry, I forget his last name. But the gentleman who has been so articulate and telling the story of how it felt to defend his country on that day, and that story is indistinguishable from what it must have felt like to be on the killing fields in Vietnam, or perhaps even in World War Two. So I think that we have seen all that needs to be said, and there`s very little testimony outside of that from those who were actually there that really matter.

But you make an excellent point. This should be primetime television. Unfortunately, it`s competing with the Olympics. But I mean, America needs to see this in the same way that we saw the Kavanaugh hearings, and in the same way that we see a presidential address to Congress or even the State of the Union, perhaps it`s a ratings play, perhaps as the sweeps play. You know much more about that than I do. But people need to see it. And people need to be confronted with the reality that this is something that we cannot look away from. If you talk to the veterans of the civil rights movement, they will tell you that seeing the images of dogs biting actual human beings and water being sprayed on, our people in our family in Birmingham, and in Montgomery, that was the thing when broadcast nationwide and even globally, that was the thing that tipped the scales to make a difference and make people take real action in the Civil Rights days. So perhaps there`s some value to that as well in this context. And we need to think about the power of the media that we have.

WILLIAMS: You`re so right even when the images of little girls in ponytails getting escorted into schools by federal officers didn`t sway people but those did, another point it was Officer Michael Fanone who did not think he was going to survive that day was of course, beaten up and heard the crowd around him say, kill him with his own gun.

Don Calloway, Bill Kristol are going to stay with us over this break.

Coming up, what to expect as the only twice impeached retiree in all of Florida, and that`s quite a distinction heads west to Arizona this weekend.



WILLIAMS: Tomorrow that twice impeached former president scheduled to appear in Phoenix for an event called the quote, rally to protect our elections. Donald Trump has yet to announce an official decision on running in 2024. But author Michael Wolff says he is sure Trump will run. Wolff writes this in "The New York Times" quote, it is an existential predicament he can`t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency. He can`t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king. And why would he ever give that up? Still with us are our guest Don Calloway and Bill Kristol. Bill right to you, is Michael Wolff right you think?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, probably. I mean, nothing is certain. And two years is a long way away. He is on an awful lot of trouble to cement his hold on the Republican Party. If he doesn`t want to run again in 2024 and I don`t know how much he cares that, you know, one heir of his -- is the nominee rather than another. So yes, I think you`d like to be president again. I think he thinks he -- he`s, you know, in his own way, he`s been incredibly effective over the last six months in a very discouraging way in people like me.

I mean, during that six months ago, we`re going to -- the November 3rd denial is going to come to hit and January 6th, total disgrace. We would then learn over the next few months incredible details about how it was even more recklessly irresponsible than we thought both in his conduct over those two months and his management of COVID. Biden would take over and do pretty well and things would seem to calm down.

And meanwhile, the Republican side, Liz Cheney gets purged for insisting on the truth that the kowtow to Trump gets more and more extreme, not less. We`ll see what happens in Republican primaries. For now he looks strong. So yes, I think Trump, Trump plans to run for president in 2024.

WILLIAMS: Don, it`s been remarkable to watch Republicans become the party of vaccines over the last, let`s say 48 to 72 hours. I want to play for you some of the angry reaction from one James Carville on this broadcast last night.


JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It`s been available for seven months, seven months after the Republican doctors finally say, hey, we need to take it. I mean, this is ridiculous. People are now having to disrupt social schedules. I haven`t moved plans around that kind of start closing things again, all because these dose wait until seven months after the vaccine is rolled out to get religion and say, hey, it might be a good idea if you took this.


WILLIAMS: Don, the conventional wisdom is either they saw some hellacious polling or they actually realize this was starting to kill people in almost exclusively red state areas.

DON CALLOWAY, NATIONAL VOTER PROTECTION ACTION FUND: Maybe it`s a bit of both. Two things can be true at the same time. I`ve actually I`ve had some great conversations with my family in Alabama, and throughout the south over the course of the last week. And, you know, I`m a lot more sympathetic to vaccine hesitators than I was perhaps even the last time that you, me, and Bill met.

I think that we`ve made a mistake in this country by casting the face of those who are reluctant to take the vaccine as toothless rednecks. I think that because of a history of distrust in the medical system, and because of the history of distrust in the government, I think that people are reasonable for being hesitant and being reluctant to take a vaccine that was developed with this feat.

I happen to trust science. I happen to trust the medical experts of the day, but there`s a very real history of medical malfeasance, as particularly against particular communities, that we need to meet people where they are. Now, if you don`t take the vaccine you need to decide to social distance and continue to quarantine. But I think that we need to, we particularly on the left need to be more cautious with our messaging by not casting these people as villains for deciding in the interest of a very real history that we may or may not want to talk about in this country to not take the vaccine.


I think we should be encouraging people to take it. But I think it`s wrong to use language like James Carville does such as dolts, because we`re talking about a specific region. We`re talking about African Americans who there`s not a single state in this country in which we are outpacing non- African Americans on vaccine adoption. I just think we need to be a lot more cautious about how we`re talking about this thing and meet people where they are, understand and meet with them with compassion and love and talking about the reasons why they`re not adopting the vaccine rather than just castigating.

This is not getting us anywhere and I`m happy to see Governor Kay Ivey, Governor Meemaw, as we affectionately call her, so Republicans would do the right thing. And hopefully that`s a message that can catch on. But it`s time that we started meaning a middle ground and cast aside a lot of the, you know, the rhetoric.

WILLIAMS: All points taken, I would also be remiss without a shout out to the South Carolina State Bulldogs without pointing out it is the alma mater of one Congressman Clyburn and the hometown of Eugene Robinson. So they have been noticed tonight. Thanks to our guest Don Calloway. Thanks as always to our guests, Bill Kristol. Gentlemen, have a good weekend. Thanks for coming on and staying up with us tonight.

Coming up, an update from an emergency room doctor on what he is seeing where he lives and works, a report from the trenches as it were after this.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: If you don`t get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated, you will have the continual circulation and replication of the virus in the community. There are enough unvaccinated people that this could go on for a considerable period of time, there will be hospitalizations. There will be deaths and every death and every hospitalization, particularly every death is a tragic avoidable phenomenon.



WILLIAMS: Point of Interest here and it`s notable, Fauci continues to appear on "Fox News" where some of the guests they have on during the day and night call for criminal charges against him. But right there yet another warning from the good doctor today as the entire country faces this rapid increase in new cases fueled by the Delta variant.

Back with us again tonight another good doctor, Steven Sample. He`s an E.R. physician at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center out in Jasper, Indiana, also a volunteer clinical faculty member at Indiana University School of Medicine. Doctor, I`m going to ask you about the uptick in patients. I don`t know of it, but I`m assuming there`s an uptick in patients. How many of them are unvaccinated?

DR. STEPHEN SAMPLE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN IN JASPER, INDIANA: Sure, good evening, Brian. And the circle goes around again and we start over with this. Uptick is real. Seeing new patients every single shift now with COVID, 100 percent of the patients that I`ve seen so far have been unvaccinated people. I am certain that there are probably breakthrough cases, as they say here and there. But thus far I have not seen them. I`ve heard some anecdotes about, oh, hey, I knew this guy or I knew that guy. But overwhelmingly, this is right now the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

WILLIAMS: How ready or unready is a hospital like yours? This is the time we were all told we can take a breath. Let`s start enjoying something that reminds us of summer again.

SAMPLE: For sure. That`s where I`ve been. You know, for the last couple of months, once we had our big downturn in COVID cases kind of end of January started February, it started to feel really normal again. You know, all over the country, emergency department volumes, hospitalizations, they kind of fell through the cracks. I mean, we were hemorrhaging patients. We actually had time on our hands until we saw the big COVID spikes.

But now, since we have all started to gather together again and forget that there`s a pandemic going on, we`re starting to see all the old illnesses come back. And our volumes are back and they`re back with a vengeance. And you tack on just a few COVID patients, you stick them in the hospital, and you really start to gum up the works.

My hospital currently we`re doing great, we`re doing well. My biggest concern is actually the hospitals in the receiving facilities at the big cities that we transfer are very sickest to the ones that need services that we don`t provide. And those places, they are jam packed with people.

WILLIAMS: Anything about the news that we`re probably going to require a booster surprised you. In my experience Americans over 50 we kind of look back on our childhood, like we were pin cushions. We were always getting a sugar cube or a shot or that shot with the ring of needles and at that most of us still have a scar from on our arms kind of a marker of your age and where you grew up. I guess I was assuming that like so many vaccines, we would get a booster.

SAMPLE: For sure. You know, I was reading the article today talking about the potential of a booster and my reaction to that really is kind of, so what. You know, when this started, I just presumed that this was going to be an annual thing or a biannual thing. You know, I`ve been in the military for 20 years. So I know what a pin cushion is. I`ve had 11 anthrax vaccines in my life. And certainly, you could say that my risk of exposure to anthrax is much less than my daily exposure to COVID.

I think it`s early to get too worked up about it. And I`m curious to see what the data looks like as it comes in. And I`m learning this stuff right along with you. But I promise you when the vaccine, you know, when the science points to the fact that we need a vaccine booster, I`m in line. You know, I felt crappy for a day or so after I got my second vaccine. But as far knock wood I am COVID free.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I`m right there with you. A dicier topic about your profession and the people who work in medicine, Mayor of New York is in the middle of this fight kind of in disbelief that there`s such a high percentage of people working in health care who have not been vaccinated and in a way they regard themselves as the same as other people living in states that are either liberal or conservative, red or blue the way so much of life shakes out these days. Do you know that you work with unvaccinated folks at your hospital? Has it come up as an issue and in your view should hospitals be mandate, require if you`re going to work here and be involved with patient contact, we need you to get vaccinated.


SAMPLE: You know, absolutely yes to kind of all the things you said. A, yes, it`s dicey and B, yes, I know that I work alongside unvaccinated people, we`re still having people who are getting infected in our hospital, you know, occasionally now and then the community. And you have to remember, you know, healthcare is a -- healthcare is us. If you look at the amount of people nationwide who work in health care, it is one of the biggest if not the biggest employer nationwide, and it is a good microcosm of that.

So of course, you have the physicians and people who have been, you know, kind of rigorously scientifically trained, but then you`ve got a lot of people that work in, you know, in health care, they`re around, they`re critical to patient care, but they may not necessarily understand the immune system. And some of the intricacies that go with that stuff. Do I think it should be? Do I think it should be mandated? Yes, I do.

I think if you touch patients, you`re absolutely responsible to do everything you can to keep them safe. I get the flu vaccine every year. This is nothing like any flu I`ve ever seen. So I`m all for it.

WILLIAMS: Ladies and gentlemen, our guest tonight is a military veteran and reservist and E.R. doctor and come to find out a pin cushion in his spare time, Dr. Stephen Sample, always a pleasure. Thank you for always finding time to take our questions. Have a good weekend.

Coming up for us, this pandemic is a big player, no doubt. But the Olympics are underway no doubt about that either, an update from Tokyo after this.


WILLIAMS: Early afternoon right now in Tokyo live pictures of the cauldron were the first metals of the 32nd Summer Olympic Games are being awarded. The action will now continue for the next 17 days including the Olympic sports that are making their debut oddly in front of zero fans this year. Those include karate and sport climbing, and also skateboarding and surfing just as the ancient Greeks did. Our update from Tokyo tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Llamas.



TOM LLAMAS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At times it felt this day would never come. Athletes for more than 200 countries celebrating the official kickoff to the Tokyo games, one of the first truly global events since the pandemic began, the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron going to tennis phenom Naomi Osaka.

While Team USA was led by WNBA star Sue Bird and Major Leaguer, Eddy Alvarez. Cameras capturing the reaction of their proud families back home.

NANCY BIRD, SUE BIRD`S MOTHER: I`m just really very proud of her. It`s an honor to represent her country.

LLAMAS (voice-over): While Tonga`s flag bearer was a fan favorite again at his third Olympics. The athletes who couldn`t be there dress the part anyway, joining in the excitement. The ceremony celebrating the culture and achievements of this beautiful country, including this showstopper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those are 1,800 drones.

LLAMAS (voice-over): Drones soaring into the sky, creating a globe. And there was this moment of levity bringing Olympic sports icons to life. But there were also reminders of the pandemic everywhere. First Lady Jill Biden was one of less than 1,000 VIPs inside. Outside protesters gathered in the shadow of the stadium. Nineteen new COVID cases were reported today among people involved with the Olympics, bringing the total to 106 including American beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb devastated to watch the opening ceremony from quarantine.


LLAMAS (voice-over): Crabb is vaccinated and asymptomatic.

CRABB: I just am glad myself that I took every possible measure I could to make sure that I had the best chance to compete.

LLAMAS (voice-over): U.S. Olympic official state 83 percent of American athletes here are vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m very confident that we can have a safe and successful games.

LLAMAS (voice-over): And tonight the games have finally begun.


WILLIAMS: They have indeed. We`re hoping for a safe weekend there in Tokyo, our thanks to Tom Llamas for that report.

Coming up for us, the news today that was so big, so consequential it felt a Tom Hanks to announce it. The story when we come back.



WILLIAMS: It is time for the last thing before we go tonight. And in order for this segment to work, we need to agree on just a few things. First off, we need to agree that Cleveland, Ohio is a great American city full of great Americans. I mean for starters, they had to put the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame somewhere they chose Cleveland.

We also need to agree that our country is changing. And we need to agree that Tom Hanks as "Vanity Fair" wrote today represents quote, all that is still right and good about America. You see "Vanity Fair" wrote that about Tom Hanks today because Tom Hanks, longtime Cleveland Indian fans and fan and veteran of Cleveland summer Shakespeare Theatre Company as a young actor, that Tom Hanks gave us all the following, a video on behalf of the Cleveland Indians announcing a big change for the team and for that city.


TOM HANKS, AMERICAN ACTOR: We are a city on the rise forging into the future from our iron down past. We are a city of fire and water of trees and towers, built through generations of blue collars and the brightest scholars and all of those who have worked harder. We hold tight to our roots and set our sides on tomorrow. And this is our team that has stood with our city for more than a century, from old municipal to the corner of Carnegie, a team that has seen its own progress and prosperity.

Its history flows like a river through the heart of this city. The history that he`s given us miraculous moments, moments that spanned years and others, 22 games, moments that broken barriers and moments that broke hearts, moments that prove this was more than a game. We remember those moments as we move forward with change. You see, there`s always been Cleveland, that`s the best part of our name.

And now it`s time to unite as one family, one community to build the next era for this team in this city, to keep watch and guard what makes this game the greatest, to come together and welcome all who want to join us. We are loyal and proud and resilient. We protect what we`ve earned and always defended. Together we stand with all who understand what it means to be born and built from the land because this is the city we love, and the game we believe in. And together, we are all Cleveland Guardians.


WILLIAMS: You heard the man, Guardians it is. They get their name from the giant guardian statues there at the Hope Memorial Bridge that crosses the Cuyahoga River and is really the gateway to the stadium. Right on cue, Donald Trump branded the name change of disgrace and said quote, the people who are most angry about it are the many Indians of our country.


So Tom Hanks it is and look at the time. That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week, thank you for being here with us. Have a good weekend unless you have other plans and be careful out there please, on behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.