COVID crisis takes hold throughout U.S. FDA poised to OK booster shots for immunocompromised. San Francisco is requiring vaccines for most indoor events. SCOTUS affirms Indiana University vaccine mandate. U.S. nation is increasingly polarized over mask mandates.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 205 of the Biden administration. Tonight a troubling new sign of the Delta variance increasing hold on our country. The CDC now says the strain is driving this latest surge in almost every county.
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DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Over 90% of counties in the United States are experiencing substantial or high transmission. Those at highest risk remain people who have not yet been vaccinated.
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WILLIAMS: You heard her, 90% of U.S. counties. A new Washington Post analysis revealing two-thirds of Americans in even highly vaccinated counties now live in virus hotspots.
FDA is working with Pfizer and Moderna to allow that third vaccine dose for people with vulnerable immune systems. Agency is expected to green light that after a CDC meeting tomorrow.
Newsweek reporting, the CDC estimates more than a million people who already -- have already received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. They have opted to get a third. But this is unauthorized, of course. Dr. Fauci said tonight, it`s still not necessary for most of us.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We don`t feel that right now, those people namely the general normal population of people who are not immune compromised, that they don`t need a boost fight now, but we are preparing for the eventuality of having to do that.
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WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the nation`s largest teachers union, the NEA now behind a vaccine mandate for educators. Federal Department of Health and Human Services says all of its health care employees have to be vaccinated. San Francisco`s Mayor today announced some of the nation`s toughest restrictions, barring the unvaccinated from, "a number of indoor settings including bars, restaurants, gyms, and large events."
Today, a Supreme Court justice shut down the first legal challenge against vaccine requirements. Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to block a requirement by Indiana University that all their incoming students must be vaccinated.
There is new reaction tonight from the video we showed you last evening of protesters threatening health care workers and Franklin, Tennessee after that school board meeting on mask mandates.
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CROWD: Will not comply! No more masks!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a place in hell for you guys. There is a bad place in hell and everybody`s taking notes, buddy. Keep that little smile. Yeah, we know who you are. We know who you are. You can leave freely but we will find you and we know who you are.
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WILLIAMS: An extremely ugly scene in Franklin, Tennessee. It turns out the President was among those who saw that video and today he called out those protesters.
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JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Our health care workers are heroes. They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders who are standing up to the governors politicizing mass protection for our kids. Thank you. Thank God that we have heroes like you. And I stand with you all in America should as well.
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WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, I`m we`re going to talk about this tonight. The president of course is now facing an escalating crisis in Afghanistan as he tries to end America`s longest war. Biden administration is sending a few 1000 troops back into Afghanistan within 24 to 48 hours. Their mission is to secure the airport in Kabul and help get most of the American Embassy and U.S. citizens. Those people help them leave the country as the Taliban takes more ground from Afghan forces who in many instances are just giving up. Here now the latest reporting from our Correspondent in Afghanistan Kelly Cobiella.
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a shocking announcement just weeks before the U.S. completes its full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus.
COBIELLA: 3000 additional personnel will be temporarily deployed to Kabul airport in the next few days to help evacuate a significant number of embassy staff.
Taliban fighters are rapidly storming into key cities. No one is defending us, the man recording these scenes says. Government forces reportedly collapsing in Kandahar to the South Herat in the west, and Ghazni, just 80 miles from the edge of the capital, Kabul. The State Department saying all Americans need to leave immediately and vowing to increase flights to evacuate Afghans who`ve worked with U.S. troops.
COBIELLA (on camera): The U.S. and its allies are now trying to convince Taliban leadership that no world power will recognize its government if it takes the country by force. Brian.
WILLIAMS: Kelly Cobiella in Kabul, Afghanistan, with our thanks for that report.
And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this busy Thursday night, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS Newshour, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Retired four star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf and a former cabinet member, member of the National Security Council, and Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccine scientist working with a team right now to develop a low cost vaccine for global distribution, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children`s. Also in his spare time, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Good evening to you all. And Doctor, it is, with a sense of urgency that we begin with you tonight. Are we anywhere near, in your judgment, the peak of this surge, and if you would, please talk about your fear for children heading back into the classroom?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: You know, unfortunately, Brian, it doesn`t look that way. Because what you`re seeing is, if you remember, this started in Missouri, went down to Arkansas then spread eastward, into across the Gulf Coast into Florida. Now that whole area in the south is filling in. But if you look at the map, it`s now creeping up into Illinois into the Midwest. So unfortunately, I think what`s happening is we`re seeing the Delta virus really pick off pretty much anyone who`s unvaccinated at this point in areas where there`s low vaccinations. I think the only places in the country that might escape Delta are the high vaccination areas in the northeast, New England, Mid- Atlantic states, they`ll have some trouble, but I think they`ll weather it a lot better, and then the West Coast. So but the south is getting hammered the worst right now, because the vaccination rates are so profoundly low. And in a very unique way, they`re low among young people. And that`s who`s piling at the hospitals right now, and into intensive care units, and even pediatric hospitals. You know, in the Texas Medical Center, the median age of people in the hospital right now are in their 30s. And that`s the new flavor of this delta virus is, it`s striking young people, and that`s going to continue now for the foreseeable future, especially as schools start to open, I think that`s going to act as an accelerant, especially in the southern schools where people don`t have masks and the adolescent vaccination rates around 15 to 25%.
WILLIAMS: Doctor -- let`s go to General McCaffrey actually, and General, is also with a sense of urgency that I asked you about your life`s work and your bailiwick. And I`m curious, are you surprised about the speed with which the Taliban has galloped across large portions of Afghanistan? And do you think, really, Kabul is threatened was falling sooner rather than later?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (ret.): Well, it`s shocking. On paper, the Afghan security forces police and army could easily dominate the Taliban guerrilla force. It`s now captured two-thirds of Afghanistan. It`s really astonishing. They`ve coming apart, they`re liquefying. And so I think President Biden and Secretary Austin are taking very prudent or emergency measures. They`re deploying a package of around 8000 troops, three battalions initially will go into Kabul International Airport, backup Brigade, the 82nd will go into the Middle East to standby and other troops, air force and army will be processing Afghan refugees coming out of the country. Simultaneously, the staff of the embassy, which was over 4000 people will be dramatically reviews. But, you know, Brian, I`m telling you, the longest four miles in the world in the coming 30 days will be the distance from the U.S. Embassy Kabul, the Kabul International Airport. This is a very tricky ship and dangerous situation.
WILLIAMS: Reminiscent of the airport road back in the battle days in Baghdad, in fact.
Yamiche Alcindor, how concerned according to your reporting, is the White House really about Afghanistan? And to be gross about it the only optic worse than American troops going back in would be of course, a wholesale slaughter of Afghans?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBS NEWSHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. Well, when I speak the White House officials, they double down on this idea that President Biden does not regret his decision that it is in some way stunning and surprising to a lot of White House sources. How quickly the Afghan forces have really lost control of some key areas. And it`s also really quite surprising to them, just how fast Kabul could possibly fall, possibly in the next 30 days.
That being said, there is this sense inside this White House that this was a president who had a real strong idea of what needed to happen in Afghanistan. And he went forward with that, of course, with people like Senator Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and Republicans hammering away at him and criticizing for him for that decision. But the other thing that`s really tough here is that there are critics, even people who supported the idea of pulling out of Afghanistan, who say, it seems as though the White House is a bit flat footed here and caught flat footed here, because now they`re having to send troops back in. The Pentagon spokesman was really trying to say that withdrawal is still on measured and still going in the way that it`s supposed to be going. But then, of course, you saw -- you heard reporters pushing back rightly saying, that doesn`t make sense, because now you have some 7000, 8000 troops going in Afghanistan without a real deadline of when they may actually leave.
WILLIAMS: Doctor, back over to you as we continue to hopscotch these important topics. Are you surprised that we now learn tonight that a million or so Americans, either connected or just concerned or perhaps both have found a way to line up for themselves a third vaccine shot? And do you think that in the reasonable future, it`ll be -- it`ll spread to those Americans, not just immunocompromised who are allowed to get a third shot?
HOTEZ: Yeah, I think that`s what`s happening. There`s a lot of people going rogue at this point. They`re seeing that Israel is now vaccinating individuals over the age of 60. They`re not really getting a lot of clear communication of why the Pfizer CEO said that we need to -- we`ll need a third immunization for Delta. Israel`s doing it, but the U.S. doesn`t feel it`s necessary. And yet, anecdotally, they`re hearing a lot of breakthrough cases. So there`s kind of a disconnect, I think, between the White House corona group communications and what they`re seeing on the ground with hearing about friends and families getting symptomatic breakthrough cases. So I think that needs to be clarified.
The answer, of course, is that hospitalizations among vaccinated people are not going up at this point. And we`re not seeing deaths from it. But I think the rationale for how the U.S. government is planning on phasing in booster shots, or third immunizations, as some would call it, needs to be clarified. So we`re -- they`ve made it, now they`ve said that immunocompromised individuals, those that immuno suppressive therapy, are going to requirement, but even then they`ve not really specified. We know the data shows that solid organ transplant recipients need it. But they haven`t really said, well, does that mean, people on Humira, monoclonal antibody therapy or so many others, maybe up to five to 7% of the U.S. population has some form of immunological issues. And they all need it? And then what about older individuals, and how are they going to phase it in?
So it`s a little vague right now and a little bit chaotic. And I think people just responded, and they`re saying, look, the shots are going unused anyway, I might as well just get it. And what they`re doing is they`re kind of more often than not faking it, meaning that they`re not showing the vaccine card because they think the pharmacist and then generally they won`t give them the third shot. So they just say, well, I haven`t been vaccinated before. And the problem of doing that is the level of safety data to support that is unknown. And so there`s no publicly available or very little publicly available safety data. And that needs to be clarified by the U.S. government as well. So I think they`ve got to get their arms around this.
WILLIAMS: Does indeed, seem to be what people are doing.
General, back over to you, I just want to review Joe Biden on the subject of Afghanistan. In two comments he made the first of these two was July 8, and the second was this week. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?
BIDEN: No, it is not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?
BIDEN: Because you have the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped, as well-equipped as any army in the world, but they`ve got to want to fight. They have outnumbered the Taliban. But we`re going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision.
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WILLIAMS: So, General, you see it there in the President and it leads me to ask you, I mean, I made multiple trips over there and saw multiple instances of U.S. training these commando forces. What happen to all the money all the training, years of it, all the EM wraps, all the hardware and software that the United States government paid for over 20 years? What happened to this fighting force that you heard the President say at one time, number 300,000?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, Brian, I`ve also been in that war zone multiple times over the years. There`s no question that the Afghans have great courage that includes a police in the army, Sunni commando forces are absolutely first grade. The problem has been a balkanized country, an attempt to form a federal army out of tribal society. And then on top of that the leadership of the country, both political and military, is caught incompetent and corrupt. And so the notion that, you know, Army units are surrendering their weapons and negotiating their way out of provincial capitals just indicates to me that the chain of command has now come apart. It`s hard to know how this will play out. But the local tribal militias may will still fight. But the Taliban have captured the northern tier, the non- pashtun areas. So this situation looks incredibly grim. We have no options left. I think the President was politically had no choice but to pull out the forces. And now we`re going to watch objectively the brutality of what happens when the Taliban regain control. It`s very difficult situation.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, indeed, reports every day that they`re executing some of the Afghan soldiers that are laying down their weapons and surrendering.
Yamiche, you get the last word. If you can sum up, what is going on with this Biden, White House and Biden administration, kind of a welcome to the NFL moment, a pandemic we thought might be under control is not. A situation in Afghanistan, we thought might be a simple withdraw is whatever the opposite of that is. And I imagine this White House has no stomach for friendly fire from their own party with all they are trying to attempt to do right now.
ALCINDOR: That`s right. The way that this can be summed up is that the President is really facing dueling crises. He`s facing crises abroad in within Afghanistan, as well as, of course, crises here with the Delta variant surging and igniting COVID hotspots. I also think the understanding -- underlying this is -- there`s this -- you see a President and President Biden, who wanted to mark these really important dates, he wanted to say on July 4, let`s celebrate the normalizing of our lives. Let`s celebrate a little independence from the virus, even though we know it`s still a problem. And then he also wanted to say on August 31, let`s celebrate the idea that we`re finally gone from Afghanistan. And what have we seen in the last few weeks here? We`ve seen both of those dates really blown up? We`ve seen that July 4, was really just a foreshadowing of the fact that that there are so many other challenges when it comes to this pandemic, and so many other things that we don`t know and so many messaging issues that this White House is going to have to deal with. On Afghanistan, there are so many people now, they`re looking at more young, talented U.S. troops are going to have to go back into the Middle East just when the President wanted to turn a corner.
WILLIAMS: You are so right, Yamiche about their hopes that those were important dates on the calendar with lasting effect and we`ve seen the reality here. Great thanks to our frontline tonight. Yamiche Alcindor, retired General Barry McCaffrey, Dr. Peter Hotez, greatly appreciate you starting off our conversation this evening.
Coming up for us, what could possibly keep a Republican governor from doing everything possible to protect the people in their state? Isn`t that the job of governor? Our political experts standing by to take on that question.
And later, what could be the hardest job in our country right now? A Florida E.R. doctor standing by to join us tonight to tell us about the nightmare scenario unfolding all around him right now and it didn`t have to happen. All of it as the 11th Hour is just getting underway on this busy Thursday night.
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FAUCI: Which may be what we`re going through now, which is such a painful experience, that people will realize that the common enemy is the virus, not each other. We`re in this together. And the only way we`re going to conquer this virus is by working together.
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WILLIAMS: Would that everyone agreed on that? Tonight hospitals across states like Florida and Texas are overwhelmed with patients. Yet to stay on brand and be cheered by the MAGA base a lot of Republican politicians are anti-maskers in effect even while their own constituents die.
The Atlantic`s Adam Serwer sums it up this way, "Something is wrong when an extreme primary electorate has such a stranglehold on Texas a state of 29 million people that a public official believes it is against his interest to take basic steps to keep his own constituents alive."
So back with us tonight, David Plouffe, former Obama Campaign Manager and Senior Adviser to the President, also Member of the Board of Directors of the Obama Foundation and Mark McKinnon, former Adviser to both George W. Bush and John McCain. He is among the co-hosts of the Circus on Showtime.
And Mark indeed, I`d like to begin with you. Is it a sustainable brand? What Fred Wellman of the Lincoln Project calls this ghoulish? No masks, no problem, science be damned as long as these Republican governors don`t piss off the MAGA base.
MARK MCKINNON, FORMER ADVISER TO JOHN MCCAIN & GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it`s a huge dice roll that`s playing with human lives, Brian. And the reality here is that the measures that we`re being asked to take now, which is wearing masks and mandating vaccines, in some cases, are precisely because of Republican effort, MAGA efforts, Donald Trump supporters` efforts to defy those. I mean, the reason that we have a surge in the in the Delta variant is because people didn`t get vaccines. Or they wouldn`t wear masks.
So the kinds of things that the health officials are asking us to do are simply basic safety measures. And the irony is that Republican governors like Texas and Florida, are doing exactly the opposite of what Republican orthodoxy generally asked for, which is to let local jurisdictions handle their own business that`s Republican -- that`s the way Republicans normally govern. Let locals make their own decisions. So it`s up, is down and down, is up. It`s kind of Alice in Wonderland. I worry that the Republican Party`s becoming sort of the grand old pandemic party now by embracing the pandemic and sort of damn the consequences of the health problems.
WILLIAMS: David Plouffe, I want to play for you the latest from Governor DeSantis in Florida. We`ll discuss these remarks on the other side.
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GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: I think the non-pharmaceutical interventions we`ve seen member we were promised that they would end the pandemic, lockdown, school closures, mandates, and it just hasn`t done that. This is a very transmissible virus. COVID is not going to go away. We`re going to have future. I think a trend that just natural.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So David, as I keep pointing out, this guy went to Harvard and Yale, so maybe to coin a phrase he does think we`re stupid. How much is this, the actions of these Republican governors going to actually set back the public health fight against a pandemic?
DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Oh, Brian, enormously so. I mean, we have selfishness and stupidity and sabotage coursing through many state houses in the country. So first of all, you know, you can`t think of anything worse, particularly an executive, governor, mayor or president, then to willfully allow your citizens to die. And that`s what`s happening. We`re all going to pay a price for it, by the way, with additional health care costs and things like mass mandates and private sector vaccine mandates.
But the politics of this to me are puzzling. So listen, let`s look at Ron DeSantis. He`s kind of the hot new thing for 2024. Maybe he runs and maybe he`ll run for president and say I defied mask mandates. I think Donald Trump won the election. I wasn`t sure that vaccines really worked. And he may win the primary. But, you know, two-thirds of the country, my guess is, by the end of the year, we`ll be north of 70, 75% of people are vaccinated. They want this pandemic to be over. So yeah, the tragedy is, in most places around the world, they look at this, and they can`t imagine what`s happening here in America, we have more vaccines than we need, and we can`t get people to take them. And in most of the world, you know, they`d all sign up to take vaccines tomorrow, if they could. So it`s a tragedy. So this is -- this was a -- this is extending the pandemic is a man-made disaster by certain Republican politicians who want to beat their chest in the cause of freedom. But it`s killing our economy, it`s killing people, listen to the high school in Mississippi, I believe it was pearl Valley Central High School, 40% of their students are now in quarantine, they`re going back to virtual, this is going to happen all over the southern states. Unfortunately, we know what`s going to happen. It`s happening in slow motion, unfortunately.
WILLIAMS: And Mark, it`s perverse business. But perhaps the clearest way to say it is this you`ve got state and local officials who are defying their governors in order to save lives in their states?
MCKINNON: Well, they`re defying the governor, because their first order of business is to do the job that they were hired to do, which is to protect the health and education of their constituencies. And, you know, the governors are asking them to defy their mission, their fundamental mission, which is to educate children and keep our -- keep patients safe. And the governor asked him to do that. So I understand why they`re defying the orders. And I suspect, and again, it`s so hypocritical of Republicans to say, we`re going to mandate this, they`re mandated for that, they`re mandating what you can or can`t do. They`re the ones mandating, right? And again, it`s so opposite of what the general Republican approaches to governing which is allow local control. So, you know, I think it`s a very unfortunate situation with real life consequences as David mentioned.
WILLIAMS: Incredible times we`re in, and incredible story we`re covering here. David and Mark have both agreed to stay with us.
Coming up, the persistent, pernicious and lingering influence of the only twice impeached retiree in all of Florida over an entire political party.
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REP. DAN CHENSHAW, (R) TEXAS: (Inaudible) these problems but don`t kid yourself into believing that`s why we lost, it`s not. It`s not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re wrong.
CHENSHAW: I`ll tell you openly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re wrong.
CHENSHAW: And I`m not wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes you are.
CHENSHAW: If I have --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A plenty of proof, I have proof in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
CHENSHAW: -- the Maricopa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
CHENSHAW: That turned out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And guess what, it`s going to turn out and it`s going to flip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that`s Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Texas getting heckled after refusing to say the 2020 election was stolen. To be clear, Crenshaw is a trumper, who signed on to the Texas lawsuit to get to the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election. Nonetheless, a Republican Senate candidate is turning on Crenshaw.
Still with us, thankfully, David Plouffe and Mark McKinnon. David, this one goes to you. It reminds me of Trump`s health secretary and surgeon general who are now insisting they were the quiet heroes of the pandemic. Here`s a hint they weren`t, they were closer to the opposite of that. Is this going to keep happening? I`m glad you`re sitting down because Congressman Crenshaw is trying to have it both ways.
PLOUFFE: Of course he is. Now, yes. So Brian, let`s rewind the tape. What if in the days after the election, through November and December. Even for the late comers maybe on January 6, Republicans on mass said Joe Biden won the election and let`s move on.
You might still get some, you know, people shouting you down at fundraisers, but they created this mess themselves. And so now the people who drive Republican politics who vote in Republican primaries, the -- you know, ridiculous figures on Fox News primetime, and the folks who are on social media and donate the campaigns believe that Donald Trump won the election. And so they have made the bed and now they need to lay in it. And this is going to be with us for a very, very long time. It`s not going to peter out in 2022. I doubt it will peter out in 2024. This becomes the rallying cry. And I think the question, and Mark will probably have some interesting insight here is, it stands to reason maybe it`s only two to three to four percent of Republicans who get told consistently, the election was stolen, you can`t trust elections, they`re all rigged, might decide that they believe that and not vote. So I`ll be really curious. You know, there`s a sense that hurt them in the Georgia runoff back in January, the Republicans and Democrats win back to the Senate. But we see this now, somebody like that, who went all the way along with it. It`s really hard to reverse yourself and get any points for courage. But they created this mess and they deserve all the turbulence in my view, as sad as it is for the country, that it`s causing them.
WILLIAMS: All right, Mark McKinnon, your name was invoked I want to hear some of that insight too, what say you to what Mr. Plouffe just laid out?
MCKINNON: Well, Brian, I want to push back a little bit on Crenshaw, I really appreciate, salute what he`s doing. And in fact, what he meant signed on early on in that lawsuit. He has been for a long time saying that the election was legitimate. And he has been a clear voice on this. And I think that, you know, I want to thank people like Dan Crenshaw, and others in the Republican Party are willing to stand up and tell the truth. I mean Dan Crenshaw almost gave his life, he gave an eye for his country, but he`s not willing to sell his soul to the Republican Party to perpetuate in lie on. I appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Well, let me push back and say for the majority of his time in office, he was a completely reliable trumper and a steadfast supporter of the president and all the President`s beliefs.
MCKINNON: Well, so let`s give him some credit now for standing up against it.
WILLIAMS: Is this going to be a two tier party like a streaming service? Is there going to be like a GOP plus for the people who still insist the election was stolen and the kind of straight up subscriber part of the GOP, the tiny percentage at the bottom is going to be the folks who now have drummed up the courage to raise their hand and say, folks, you understand this selection wasn`t stolen, right?
MCKINNON: Well, I`m just glad to see that there`s some sprouts, you know, surfacing here, and that there`s some sanity prevailing not enough of it, not soon enough, but it`s happening and when it happens, I`m going to give it a shout out.
WILLIAMS: All right, and you will always have a home here for said shout out and I appreciate the candor and the conversation, gentlemen, two friends of this broadcast, David Plouffe, Mark McKinnon tip of the hat to you both, thank you both for coming on.
Coming up for us, exhaustion turning into outright anger for some health care workers treating unvaccinated COVID patients, a doctor on the front line standing by to talk with us.
WILLIAMS: In the time we have been on the air tonight as expected, though the FDA has just officially approved that extra dose of third shot for both brands, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. This is for immunocompromised Americans. That means the additional shots could be available to the folks in this subcategory as soon as this weekend. CDC is expected to work out the specifics tomorrow and then announced them to all of us. We`ve also learned tonight, over a million Americans have found their way anyway to get that third shot.
Meantime, as our nation struggles to contain this new Delta surge the AP reports, hospitals everywhere are running low on nurses, again due to burnout and lucrative out of state temporary work, "Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oregon, all have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic. And nursing staffs are badly strained. In Florida virus cases have filled so many hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies."
Then there`s the burden of course on our doctors. One of our favorites is back with us tonight. Dr. Murtaza Akhter, he`s an emergency physician at Florida International University in Miami. Doctor, take us on the job with you figuratively, tell us what the situation is in Florida and the burden it has placed on your honorable profession?
DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, Brian, trust me you don`t want to go on this job with me. It has been quite straining. I feel like I`ve been saying this since last summer. We were hoping we would get better, especially as vaccinations were rolled out. But I was pessimistic that would go away. And unfortunately, that ended up being true. We`re getting not just a massive surge in COVID cases, which you`ve all heard about in the news. But there`s also all the other people who maybe were avoiding the ERs last summer, but this summer, they`re coming in. So they`ve got a double whammy. But add to that you`ve got the massive shortages that we`ve got, especially with nursing, as you just mentioned. You got more and more patients, fewer and fewer staff. And it`s basically just a nightmare situation. We`re trying to do the best that you can with very limited resources. It`s a very stressful, and I`m saying that somebody who`s been doing this for a large number of years.
WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. I want to talk about the oath you took to perform your profession without fear or favor or question. This is how it`s written in the current Atlantic. This is a doctor in New York who wrote this, "To many medical providers working today, the rejection of life saving COVID-19 vaccines feels like a giant `F*** you` from 29% of American adults. We will keep providing the best care possible," here`s where that oath comes in, "but they are making our job much harder."
Doctor, how would you express those same sentiments that I assume you agree with wholeheartedly?
AKHTER: Yeah, I mean, I think the editorial spot on maybe a bit time to even listen, everybody is able to make choices for themselves. I feel like maybe in the cases where you`re affecting others, you should actually consider that. And maybe some of those choices should even be limited. But remember, if you`re going to refuse what every healthcare expert in position is telling you to do. And then when you get sick, go to those very experts, we`re going to, for one find that ironic. And you can imagine how demoralizing we find it as well. We`ve given you the solution. And by we, I mean, the amazing scientists who came up with this miracle drug, because we were just not willing to do the appropriate distancing and masking measures that would have been the pandemic, even without a vaccine, we came up with this multibillion dollar, blockbuster drug, people still don`t take it. They were lying. I don`t get -- anything to be honest here, Brian, as you know, say we`re lying to them. And then when they get sick, guess where they come? It`s very frustrating for us, we`re going to provide the best care to them. But there are only so many of us and that people have heart attacks are still coming in. People with gunshots are still coming in. And if you`re strained with resources, everybody`s hair is delayed and therefore not optimal. I hate to put it that bluntly, but it`s just true.
WILLIAMS: Maybe I`m a softy, but I had an emotional reaction when I got my first vaccine shot. It is a blockbuster, as you put it, it is a miracle drug. And to Dr. Fauci`s point, imagine if our politics today existed back when the smallpox and polio vaccines first came out? We would be living today with smallpox and polio. Can you believe you`re living in a country where the advice and pressure of politicians and parties takes precedence over science? How did that happen?
AKHTER: Hey, Brian, I`m just a physician, not a political scientist. But you`re right, we did beat so many diseases. We did with vaccines, and with contact tracing. Everybody has got some level of -- almost everybody`s got some level of vaccination, whether going to school or work to be against this one. For this one to say, I don`t believe the scientists after hundreds of years of developing all these amazing treatments now, when they`re at their most advanced at the forefront now, I`m not going to believe them is utterly ironic. And yes, again, I`m not a politician. But clearly politics plays a role here. If you look at the data, the people who are vaccinated versus not, yes, there are racial breakdowns that are state by state breakdowns or educational breakdowns or income breakdowns. But the biggest fault line, the most closest correlation association, is with your party affiliation. And it`s amazing to me that, that, that polarization has superseded income raves, state education, is whether you like Trumper or Bidener however you want to call it, that that`s what it determines whether you take a life saving vaccine, truly phenomenal. I don`t know of any time in history of that is that has happened.
WILLIAMS: Sometimes I think med schools are going to have to add political science courses to better equip young physicians to this climate we`re living in, in the America of 2021 and beyond. Doctor, thank you so much for always coming on, staying up with us and agreeing to take our questions and offering forthright answers to same, appreciated greatly.
Coming up for us, another side of this pandemic, the work that can be done from home and now those wondering why they`d ever want to go back to the place we call, the workplace.
WILLIAMS: Forgive me for stating the obvious but this pandemic has meant vastly different things for different people, for too many, tragedy. Over 600,000 of our fellow citizens are gone. Families have been torn apart, economic disaster for some. For others, it`s been somewhere between a blessing and a bonanza, getting paid to work from home and not leave the house. They`re now wondering if going to work is worth it after all, our report on all of it tonight from NBC News correspondent Tom Costello.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Paul Sherman (ph) says moving to Florida during the pandemic was life-changing, leaving snowy Chicago behind to work for the same employer from home in Sarasota.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I live in paradise. Blood pressure is lower, family is happy. We spend so much time outside.
COSTELLO: Millions of Americans have made similar moves, leaving big city offices for the suburbs or smaller towns, even when it`s meant taking a pay cut. Google telling employees who move to less expensive locations they may lose up to a quarter of their salaries. Google tells NBC News, our compensation packages have always been determined by location. And we always pay at the top of the local market based on where an employee works from.
Other companies including Facebook and Twitter have made similar announcements. Since June, 10,000 Google employees have signed up, even though working from home is not cost-free.
TSEDAL NEELY, PROFESSOR, HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL: There is a big cost to working. You`re giving up real estate. You`re displacing parts of your household, and you`re dedicating space for work that companies have to account for in their calculus.
(On camera): Still, a recent survey found 75% of employees asked were willing to give up benefits like cash bonuses and time off in exchange for choosing where they get to work.
WILLIAMS: Some interesting issues there are, thanks to Tom Costello for that report. Another break and coming up what we learned about ourselves today?
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Let`s talk about the census figures out today with one giant caveat. This census will always be viewed suspiciously by a good many Americans. First of all, they know the count was done during a pandemic when millions of people were displaced and in new locations during lockdown. Second, the millions of people who watched the Trump administration cripple things like the U.S. mail and will never believe. The census was free and fair and wasn`t monkeyed with at some level in ways we don`t yet know.
But here`s the thing, the census is what it is, meaning these numbers are going to stand for the next decade and they will decide a lot including the congressional makeup. So the Associated Press out today with their list of important takeaways. Number one is the shrinking white population. Down for the first time ever in our history to 57.8%, the lowest on record, though, they point out white people continue to be the most prevalent racial or ethnic group.
The U.S. also became more urban and, "Phoenix was the fastest growing of the nation`s top 10 cities." The number of children has declined, number of adults is up. The birth rate is falling and we boomers are sticking around longer. The groups that are growing, "The Hispanic population grew by almost a quarter over the decade. Meanwhile, Asian growth jumped more than a third over the decade." The fastest growing single metro area in the country, the Villages, the massive Florida retirement community getting even bigger, while places like Puerto Rico and West Virginia actually lost population.
And the big news in western New York State, Buffalo`s population has grown for the first time in 70 years. The Buffalo News reporting gains across the region were, "driven and entirely by residents of color, many likely refugees and immigrants."
The effect of a successful drive to welcome new Americans by the place known alternately as the Queen City, the City of Light, the city of good neighbors, Buffalo, New York, the great city of Buffalo, New York.
That is our broadcast on this Thursday night with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.