Meet the Press - April 12, 2020

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CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday: Flattening the curve.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

We know now for sure that the mitigation that we have been doing is having a positive effect.

CHUCK TODD:

Good news as new cases are easing.

DR. SETH COHEN:

I will say the last few days we've been able to take our first breath.

CHUCK TODD:

But the death toll -- still rising.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO:

The bad news isn't just bad. The bad news is actually terrible.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY:

It's almost unfathomable folks, when you think about that.

CHUCK TODD:

With millions newly unemployed, President Trump wants to reopen the economy quickly.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

Hopefully, we're going to be opening up. Very, very, very, very soon, I hope.

CHUCK TODD:

But how can we do that without adequate testing?

DR. ANNE RIMOIN:

We still are missing the widespread testing that's needed for us to understand exactly where we are on this curve.

CHUCK TODD:

And what metrics would the president use?

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The metrics right here, that's my metrics, that's all I can do.

CHUCK TODD:

Also, the devastating effect on people of color.

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK:

COVID-19 Is the perfect storm for our black and brown communities, which are mostly low-income.

CHUCK TODD:

My guests this morning: FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization, former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and pulmonologist Vin Gupta, from the University of Washington. Also, Bernie bows out.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS:

While this campaign is coming to an end, our movement is not.

CHUCK TODD:

Can Joe Biden do what Hillary Clinton could not: win over Sanders' supporters? Joining me for insight and analysis are: NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, author and historian Jon Meacham, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and Lanhee Chen, fellow at the Hoover Institution. Welcome to Sunday and a special edition of Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, the longest-running show in television history. This is a special edition of Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning and a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover. It's hard to talk about good news when more than 2,000 people are dying on a daily basis in this country, but this past week we did see some reasons for optimism, very cautious optimism. As of this morning, there have been more than half a million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States and more than 20,000 deaths. Both numbers, sadly, now lead the world. But the curve appears to be flattening, as the pace of new cases has slowed and the rate of hospitalizations is down. All suggesting that eventually, the rate of deaths will also slow. The New York Times has a deeply reported story that for weeks President Trump ignored repeated warnings from White House and other government officials, partly out of fear of hurting the economy and partly because he, perhaps, refused to accept what he was hearing. With nearly 17 million Americans filing new unemployment claims in the last three weeks, the president is eager to open the country again for business by May 1st, but getting back to normal depends on two big ifs. One is if we continue social distancing, which clearly is working and if we are able to institute large-scale testing to see who has the disease, who's recovered, and do contact tracing. Maybe it's appropriate to wrap up the past week with a quote from Winston Churchill. After British forces finally routed the Germans in Egypt in World War II, Churchill told his people, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get our country open

CHUCK TODD:

As the president signals he wants the economy to reopen as soon as May 1st.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

The metric's right here. That's my metric.

CHUCK TODD:

Many governors who will actually make the decisions on whether to ease restrictions, warn widespread testing needs to be a condition.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO:

We need an unprecedented mobilization where government can produce these tests in the millions.

GOV. MIKE PARSON:

The goal to win against this virus is to be able to do as much testing as possible.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS:

We don't have the amount of testing that we would like.

CHUCK TODD:

Mr. Trump has claimed repeatedly --

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We have more tests than anybody in the world.

CHUCK TODD:

But the reality is though testing capacity has improved, the U.S. trails Germany, Italy, Canada, and South Korea in testing per capita. Less than 1% of the population has been tested, just 2.7 million diagnostic tests conducted. This week, the administration shifted responsibility for testing back to the states.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We're the federal government. We're not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing. They go to doctors, they go to hospitals. They go to the state.

CHUCK TODD:

Then, after pushback, reversed course and said states can choose whether to run community-based testing themselves, or with federal help. The president does not accept any responsibility.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

We've taken testing from a broken system that I inherited to having the best tests. In fact, the faulty test was created this winter by the CDC.

ROBERT REDFIELD

We found that, in some of the states, it didn't work.

CHUCK TODD:

The FDA also became a roadblock, with regulatory barriers to private and public health labs conducting tests. And the government did not provide labs enough testing supplies.

GOV. JAY INSLEE:

We are particularly short on the test kits to be able to test for the virus.

CHUCK TODD:

Without a vaccine or treatment - public health officials say widespread diagnostic testing - as well as antibody testing, to determine if someone has had the virus and might have some immunity - are required.

DR. ANNE RIMOIN

We still don’t have good testing in place. We still do not -- are missing the widespread testing that’s needed for us to understand exactly where we are on this curve.

CHUCK TODD:

An HHS and DHS projection leaked to the New York Times concludes if stay-at-home guidance is lifted at the end of April, the death toll could be as high as 200,000.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI:

The one thing you don't want to do is you don't want to get out there prematurely and then wind up, you’re right back in the same situation.

CHUCK TODD:

And as public approval of the president's handling of the crisis begins to slip. He continues to look for targets to blame.

PRES. DONALD TRUMP:

China has been unbelievably taking advantage of us. The World -- WHO -- World Health got it wrong. I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn. Dr. Hahn, welcome to Meet the Press. Happy Easter. And I want to start simply with this. The president would like to lift social distancing guidelines on May 1st. Is that timeline at all realistic in the next three weeks?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Well, thank you, Chuck, for having me on the show. Really do appreciate it. I think, obviously, everybody wants to get back to work. I've been hearing that from friends and colleagues around the country. Certainly there are urgent economic reasons for that. However, I think the task force, the president, the vice president, all the doctors on the task force are really looking at this from a balanced approach. The primary issue here is the safety and the welfare of the American people. That has to come first. That has to be our first consideration. And I think we've seen the mitigation efforts working. We have really good signs of that now, which I think just -- is so -- such a great -- speaks to the resiliency of the American people. But that has to be balanced with all the other issues that have to be taken into account as we move forward with a plan for getting Americans back to work and out to their lives.

CHUCK TODD:

Seems like the biggest impediment has been the testing issue. Diagnostic. In particular, we still haven't been able to test 1% of the population. We're still only testing those, it appears, with the most severe symptoms. We don't seem to know -- obviously, I know you guys are excited about an antibody test that may be coming out soon. What's realistic? When are we going to have the ability to test, as Governor Cuomo said, 30 million? He needs 30 million tests to feel comfortable lifting guidelines.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Well, Chuck, testing is one component of the response to the outbreak in addition to the mitigation efforts. And you're right. The testing is both diagnostic, which we're working with developers every day. FDA is working with developers, innovators around the country to try to ramp up further testing. I think it's important for the American people to remember we have multiple systems around the country that use different platforms and different types of tests. What we're trying to do at this point is to actually increase some of those platforms that don't have a lot of utilization right now. Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci have spoken from the podium about that. So all hands on deck to try to get more diagnostic tests in. And we're seeing more people come forward with very novel approaches to getting more tests. So that is one component. The other --

CHUCK TODD:

You know, with all due respect, --

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

-- the other one, Chuck, that you mentioned --

CHUCK TODD:

-- Dr. Hahn --

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Yes?

CHUCK TODD:

Can I pause you there? With all due respect --

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Yes sir.

CHUCK TODD:

-- we're in April. It seems as if this testing problem has been over two months now, and we're still looking for innovation here. What went wrong? Why are we so -- it’s -- other countries are testing at a higher rate. What went wrong? I know we initially blew it with the CDC. Is this the delay -- I mean, the delay that you were able to -- with lifting regulations, is that the reason we're in this situation?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

I think there's going to be plenty of time to look back on this. And I think that's going to be really important. What I can tell you -- what FDA did is we started working with test developers on January 22nd. And, Chuck, it's really important to remember that these tests have to be valid, and accurate, and reliable. So the science behind these has to be the right science. We've seen reports in other countries where the tests haven't been that accurate. And in many ways, having an inaccurate test is worse than actually having a test.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. You're fairly new into this position. Did you ever go through one of these pandemic exercises that the government -- were you there the last time a pandemic exercise had taken place?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

No, I wasn't. I was confirmed in December and started in late December, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you feel as if in hindsight, did you have enough people around you that had gone through this? I want to read you one email. And I know you want to look -- you say that eventually you want to look backwards but right now you don't. But I've got to read you this very detailed New York Times story. One leaked email from the Red Dawn email exchange that I don't know if you were on some of this. But he said this: "We are making every misstep leaders initially made in tabletops at the outset of pandemic planning in 2006. We had systematically addressed all of these and had a plan that would work and had worked in Hong Kong, Singapore. We have thrown 15 years of institutional learning out the window and are making decisions based on intuition." Do you feel like you had enough institutional knowledge to deal with this pandemic?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

So I'm not aware of that email. What I can tell you is I do feel that we've been surrounded by experts. Particularly at FDA, we have a lot of scientific and clinical experts who know a lot about testing. So I do feel that there has been the appropriate expertise to help us get the tests at least initially where we need to be. And then obviously we have responded to the changing situation and changed our regulatory approach based upon that.

CHUCK TODD:

Have you felt pressure though, political pressure from toning down sounding alarms? I mean, there's a lot of implications that some in the White House, the president himself, didn't like the sounding of alarms that was taking place about this virus over the last six weeks. Have you felt that pressure?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Chuck, I have not felt political pressure. I have not exerted political pressure on FDA. Where we do feel pressure is on the urgency of the situation. You pointed that out earlier in this conversation, and I think that's right. This is a rapidly moving -- it's a novel coronavirus. And we have had to respond to that as information has come into us. So there is an urgency around this. But I have not received political pressure to have FDA make one decision versus another.

CHUCK TODD:

I know you are going to be approving some antibody tests soon. There's been some reports out of South Korea and their Centers for Disease Control that some, some of these antibody tests aren't working. Some people seem to -- they thought were antibodies and they get -- they end up getting the virus. Not -- asymptomatic the first time but symptomatic the second time. I know we keep learning more about this virus. Are you concerned these antibody tests won't work?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

I am concerned that some of the antibody tests that are on the market that haven't gone through the FDA scientific review may not be as accurate as we'd like them to be. We've authorized one antibody test already, and I can assure the American people that what we're doing is using data and science to look at those tests to make sure that they're valid, they're accurate, and they're reproducible. We know, Chuck, that no test is 100% perfect. But what we don't want are wildly inaccurate tests. Because, as I said before, that's going to be much worse, having wildly inaccurate tests than having no test.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to go back to reopening. And I know that you guys, the medical experts on the task force, are being confronted by the economic folks. And I get that. What, what do you feel has been the balance between economic pressure and medical advice on the task force?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

I think we've had really good and vigorous debates. Since I've been on the task force, all the doctors are very free to express their opinion. The doctors debate issues. We exchange issues. We all bring information to the table. One thing, Chuck, that's been really helpful is interactions with people on the front lines. I consult with colleagues on the front lines all the time. Bringing that information back to the task force and then discussing what's happening on the front lines but also the data associated with infections and other things has been very helpful to provide the most up-to-date and accurate medical input into this. And we -- the vice president and the president have always led with the medical input into this. Because, as I said, the primacy here is the safety and the welfare of the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

May 1st, is that a real, is that a realistic date or not? Or should Americans plan for a lot longer than May 1st?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

We're looking at May 1st. Obviously we want that to happen as soon as possible. I can't predict at this point because, as I said, things are happening very rapidly. But this team, this team of doctors, this team of experts, all-of-government approach, they're focused at looking at the earliest possible time that we can get Americans back to work safely and to give Americans the confidence they need to make sure that these are the right decisions.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. It sounds like May 1st -- it sounds more aspirational then, not a real target.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

Well, I think we're looking at all these targets. If it can be May 1st, that would be great for the American people.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Dr. Stephen Hahn, head of the FDA, thanks for coming on. I hope you enjoy your Easter. A Zoom event for many, many families around the country.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN:

You bet, Chuck. It certainly will be. Thank you very much for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump had some harsh words for the World Health Organization this past week. In addition to accusing it of not being aggressive enough in responding to the virus, Mr. Trump is threatening to cut off U.S. funding to the organization. Well, joining me now is David Nabarro. He's the WHO special envoy for the coronavirus. Dr. Nabarro, welcome to Meet the Press. Happy Easter to you.

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Hello sir.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me just start with a basic question that we've all become familiar with in this country, which is flattening the curve. We're trying to flatten the curve in America. Where are we on the world's curve? Have we begun to flatten the curve globally?

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Well, certainly when we look at Europe and the U.S., there are signs of flattening the curve. But the virus is still advancing in other parts of the world. However, very rapid action in many countries, particularly through introducing physical distancing and lockdowns, means that it's not advancing quite as fast as we feared in some parts of the world. We're still very worried. And so we're still very much on high alert, and trying to support the countries that have got weaker health systems to really be able to get on top of it as best they can.

CHUCK TODD:

What are you learning about the virus in the Southern Hemisphere that will give us clues about what our fall is going to look like, our September, October, November? How likely are we, here in the United States and in Europe, are going to get a second wallop from this virus based on what you've learned in the Southern Hemisphere?

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

We're not so sure that it will come in waves in the way that influenza does. We think it's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come, until we can all have a vaccine that will protect us, and that there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically. And they will break through our defenses. So the key for this particular virus is that every community as a kind of defensive shield, can pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them, and stop outbreaks from developing. It's going to be necessary for every single country to have that capacity. And so we're actually encouraging countries to put that in place now. And that will facilitate releasing lockdowns and prevent further massive outbreaks.

CHUCK TODD:

What would you -- how would you assess the global cooperation right now?

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

I've worked before on Ebola. I've worked on influenza pandemics. And I've worked on other threats. You can only deal with these by countries working together. I'd love to see much greater cooperation between leaders. I'd like to see them uniting, and showing the world that they believe that this global threat has to be dealt with through united action between all countries and their people. I like the fact that the World Health Organization is seen by public health professionals everywhere to be a really good direction finder. And I'm very pleased that we've been able to help different health professionals to find a way to go, and a direction to find. But I would like leaders to be a little bit more cooperative. Yes please.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. Obviously our American -- the American president, Donald Trump, our president here does not believe the WHO has acted on the up and up, in particular when it comes to interpreting data or dealing with China. Address that, address that critique.

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Thanks very much. The World Health Organization actually works on behalf of all the governments in the world. And it operates within mandates that are given to it. And we have to rely on information that's received from different governments. And that then permits us to work out what's going on. We believe that we've had the best information coming to us that can come under the current circumstances, and that all recommendations and decisions have been made on behalf of that. But we know that there will be many things that are found to have perhaps not been done as well as they could have been done. And we're anticipating there'll be lots of examinations afterwards. Right now we have to move forward. We have to get the best possible cooperation. I just heard you discussing with the head of the FDA some of the challenges, the things that we're learning about this virus all the time. That's why we need a strong WHO, a trusted WHO. And we hope all leaders will continue to work with us in that way.

CHUCK TODD:

You used an interesting phrase here. "The best information you can get under current circumstances," that seems to be a hint that certain governments are more transparent than other governments. Do you believe China's been honest about the damage this virus did in their country, number 1? And number 2, if they haven't been honest about that, are you confident they've been honest about the science?

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

So first, we really do have to work with the information we get. We don't have, in the World Health Organization, the power to go and inspect beyond what countries tell us. That's been made clear in the treaty that governments agreed in 2005 on how nations work together, and how the WHO operates. But I say this, that they did invite a team pulled, together by the World Health Organization, to come and inspect everything in mid-February. There were no restrictions on what that team investigated. It included American experts as well as experts from others in the world. So we are trying to be clear to everybody that we have been given access to the information we requested. And so therefore, I don't like, at any time, to say we don't believe. We believe what we've got. We work with what we've got. That's how we operate in the World Health Organization.

CHUCK TODD:

President Trump has talked about withholding funding to the WHO. I believe the United States is anywhere approximately 15% to 20% of your annual budget. How devastating would it be if the United States pulled its funding?

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Well, you know, we're right in the middle of this massive epic struggle. Every single human being in the world is affected by it. Businesses are really in trouble. Communities are in distress. I really do hope that all nations will not find any reason to make threats or other such things that will undermine our capacity to bring together all the best knowledge that we can find. And of course we love our partnership with the United States. We work with United States scientists for years. I personally have huge respect for what you bring and what you offer. And that would be so unfortunate if anything happened to lessen that cooperation. I know that Tedros, the director general, has had direct discussions with the president of the U.S. And he really does trust when -- trust him when he hears from the president that respect for the WHO. And we hope that will go on. It's too important to have anything that disturbs the functioning of the international system at this time.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay. Dr. David Nabarro, a special envoy for the WHO on this coronavirus, thank you for coming on --

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Thank you for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

-- and sharing the WHO's perspective. Much appreciated.

DR. DAVID NABARRO:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, we can't open the country back up until we can do testing on a massive scale. Why aren't we even close? That's next. And as we go to break this morning, we want to show you some uplifting moments, beginning with David Williams, who had been on a ventilator, being cheered by health care workers as he was discharged from a VA Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. Joining me now -- President Trump has made it clear, with the economy in freefall and nearly 17 million Americans filing new unemployment claims in the last three weeks that he wants to start opening up the United States to business again as early as May 1st. Well, former FDA commissioners Mark McClellan and Scott Gottlieb are proposing a plan to reopen the economy, but they say first the country needs wide-scale testing to identify who has COVID-19, quarantine them, and trace their contacts. We have been dancing around with technical issues this morning. But right now, we have former FDA head Dr. Mark McClellan and also joining us now is Dr. Vin Gupta from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. And as folks know, as we are using a lot of different technologies, we have some issues back and forth. But let's get right to it. Mr. McClellan, I want to start with you. You and Mr. Gottlieb have put out this plan. So let me ask about your plan this way. If the president said to you, "Oh, I want to open by May 1st," what is everything that would have to happen in the next three weeks for us to reopen America in some form on May 1st?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN:

Chuck, it's about making sure that when we reopen, we don't go back to the beginning. We should be moving into the next phase of managing this pandemic. And to do that, several things need to be in place. Number one, we need to make sure we have adequate hospital and healthcare capacity to deal with any complications from an increase in cases if that happens again. Number two, we need to make sure, as you said, that we've got testing capacity out locally so that we can take more of an offensive approach to this pandemic, not just waiting for a large number of cases to emerge, but finding and preventing small outbreaks before they become more substantial. Those are the most important things to get going as soon as possible with the overall economy.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, but Mark McClellan, right now, is that at all realistic for a May 1st opening right now?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN:

Well, I think it depends on what we do over the next few weeks. We've seen a big surge capacity take place in ventilators and in the response to the more serious cases that are coming with this first wave. We're seeing a flattening of the curve. The same thing needs to happen for testing. The number of tests available is up. The FDA has approved a number of new platforms. There are some more innovative ones coming that can be potentially administered by people themselves, maybe even done at home. So the capacity is getting there. The hard parts are also making sure that we can get that capacity locally where it's needed. So state and local governments are going to have to take steps, like they've done, to try to beef up their hospital capacity. And the federal government needs to support them by making sure there's situational awareness of all of these tests so they can be connected locally. And also to make sure that we have enough of the supplies that go along with the tests so that there aren't delays, because swabs aren't available or personal protective equipment isn't available.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, actually Mark McClellan, the other guest that I have on with you, Dr. Vin Gupta, he's been harping on that issue all week. It's like the testing capacity has been held back by the issue of swabs. But Dr. Gupta, let me ask you this. In Washington State, you're one of the first places to deal with this, one of the first places to flatten their curve, one of the first places to get control of this. How would Washington State open up on May 1st?

DR. VIN GUPTA:

Thanks Chuck, and just amplifying everything that Dr. McClellan just mentioned. You know, I think here's the issue. The science is clear on what we need. You and I have talked about this repeatedly. We need more of the PCR testing to see if the virus exists in the nostrils. What's not clear and what we could use FDA's additional guidance on is how do we implement and scale effectively and safely. And so one of the problems, and Dr. McClellan just mentioned this is we really need to emphasize at-home options, self-collect options at home. One approach that's gaining some favor is saliva testing. Can we actually have people spit in a cup at home or in a tube, mail it back to a lab, and is that safe and valid? We think it might be because there's a lot of virus in our saliva. But we need validation studies, we need to make sure that this is safe, that we're actually not missing positive cases. But less of a focus now on let's get more technologies, more emergency-use authorizations on board. FDA's doing an amazing job on that. Credit to Dr. Hahn. We need now more guidance. How do we scale effectively at home, specifically? And I think that's, that’s how we get Washington State back to work hopefully at some point in May, maybe towards the end of May and the country. That's the type of focus.

CHUCK TODD:

Mark McClellan, look, there's a lot of after-action reporting that's going on right now. In your best assessment, how did we blow this testing issue?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN:

Well, there are so many things that have to come together at scale in a very diverse country. So I don't think there's any one factor to point to. I would've liked to see more of these private labs and more of these innovative tests available sooner. I think the good news is that there is a lot more test capacity available and I think we need to learn from what's happened in the critical steps in this first wave, when we've had trouble with access to ventilators, trouble with access to protective equipment, to make sure we don't do that again. We know what's going to be needed for this large-scale testing to work. It's going to take getting these tests out locally, hopefully at home as well. There are big roles that state and local governments need to play in that, just as Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles has set up a cares core to get people to help do these tests and make them available locally with other partners in the community. We need that here too. And the federal government needs to support that by anticipating the much larger needs that we're going to have, not only for the tests themselves, but for all this other equipment. So that's a situational awareness, a ramp up in practical, applicable capacity locally that needs to take place over the next few weeks.

CHUCK TODD:

Dr. Gupta, is it realistic for us to be ever back at full capacity on anything without a vaccine?

DR. VIN GUPTA:

I think it's realistic, Chuck. But we need a parallel approach though. We need multiple work streams active, in parallel. And, you know, one thing that Dr. Navarro said was we need contact tracing. We need specificity on what that means. That's the important piece here. What does that mean? And I think that's where we need to have the humility as a country to look at great examples of private-sector innovation, like what Singapore is doing. They're actually using GPS modeling and an app-based technology to facilitate contact tracing. We need to give our public-health departments a lift. We need an all-hands approach. So we need specificity here. We know what the problem is, we've diagnosed it, we need contact tracing, we need testing at scale. But let's get specific on what the approaches will be now so that we can, we can have an incremental return-to-work strategy. But it's going to be incremental.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Dr. Mark McClellan, former FDA administrator, Dr. Vin Gupta, an NBC News medical contributor from the University of Washington, thank you both for sharing your expertise this morning. Testing, testing, testing. It is pretty clear what we need to get ourselves back to work. When we come back, could President Trump's daily news conferences actually be hurting him politically? Panel is next to chew on that. And as we go to break, current and former Broadway cast members of Hamilton singing The Zoom Where it Happened, in honor of the popular social-distancing tool of this pandemic.

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back, the panel is with us from their remote locations. NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, historian Jon Meacham, author of The Hope of Glory: Reflections on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Welcome all. I want to start with Kristen Welker. The president's reaction to some criticism, light criticism he's getting from fellow Republicans about these news -- the daily coronavirus news conferences and his participation in them. Here's a couple of Republican critiques of them.

[BEGIN TAPE]

SEN. JOHN BARASSO: Well, I think the president should open and then turn to the medical experts. I don't know that all the questioning back and forth adds as much as the opening statement.

NIKKI HALEY: I don't think they need to be too long. I don't think he needs to feel like he has to answer everything.

[END TAPE]

CHUCK TODD: And yet on Friday after all that criticism went public, the president said, "Oh yeah? Watch me." And I believe it was the longest coronavirus briefing yet.

KRISTEN WELKER: Well, that's right, Chuck. The president's been defiant on this point despite the fact that he has been getting, frankly, criticism from aides and allies for weeks now, that these briefings tend to go off-topic. At times he mixes it up with reporters. And they have been stressing, "Look, if you are going to come to the briefing room on a daily basis, you need to first have a large announcement every single day. And you need to stay on topic. And when you can, turn it over the experts for answers when you don't have the answers." But look, this comes against the backdrop of an election year. So typically, we would see President Trump out on the campaign trail right now. He doesn't have that possibility. So these briefings in some way take the place of that. But look at his ratings, Chuck. And you pointed this out earlier in the show. We've seen, initially, very high response to these briefings. But now his ratings are starting to drop a bit. Still, I don't get any indication that he's going to change course. Will he try to stay on topic more? That's what we'll be looking for.

CHUCK TODD: Look, while I go to you, Lanhee Chen, I'm going to put up our graphic here, our friends at Real Clear. You can see, the crisis begins, there's an uptick in approval as the president becomes more of a public focus. He's starting to see a different type of curve flattening, reverting to the mean. Lanhee, I don't know if public advice to the president ever works. And in some ways it can backfire. You know, there is a -- I don't know what you could do to advise the president to tone it down.

LANHEE CHEN: Well, this is the president kind of following his own best advice, right? He thinks he is the best cheerleader. He thinks he is the one who is best able to articulate the message that he wants to be out there articulating. I think the data you're showing in terms of his approval rating has a lot to do with people seeing the economic news. Which is why I think he's becoming a lot more sensitive to this question of when the economy opens. But Chuck, as you've discussed many times before, when the economy opens is not up to the president. It's up to private businesses, it's up to governors, it's up to local health authorities. The ones who are actually setting policy at a level that impacts people's lives. So I think some of this discussion is going to be very challenging for the president because he's operating in an environment where, frankly at the end of the day, he's not going to have a whole lot of control.

CHUCK TODD: Yamiche, it does seem to me if you want to read between the lines with Dr. Hahn, with me, with other comments that are out there over the last two days, it feels like the task force is trying to rein the president in from his May 1st promise.

YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, the president has continuously had to be signaled to be reined in by his health officials. From the very beginning of this he got early warning signs that this was going to be really bad and that he needed to prepare the American people for large disruptions in their daily lives. And he didn't want to do that. And in fact, he, of course, was downplaying the virus for a long time. So I think when we look at this May 1st date, he has not wanted to say at those briefings, "I want to open up the government by May 1st." And that's because he wanted to have the government opened today on Easter Sunday. He wanted church packed today. And instead, he was giving messages that he now wants pastors not to do that. So I think what the president's up against is the fact that he's really eager to try to start getting the economy back because he sees it's so tied to his reelection campaign. But I think it's one of those things where you can see the president saying, "I'm going to go with my instincts and the health experts." While Dr. Fauci's saying, "We're going to make a collective decision." And President Trump saying, "Actually no, this is the biggest decision of my life and I'm going to make it."

CHUCK TODD: Jon Meacham, the president personalizing that. I thought that was interesting. Look, he's not wrong. This decision, if he makes it too soon, it would be, probably, the most consequential of his presidency. And it perhaps could go consequential in a really bad way if he's wrong.

JON MEACHAM: Absolutely. And it's in keeping with his monarchical tendencies here. I think these briefings are really infomercials more than briefings. He is constantly selling his own reaction to the crisis in the face of facts. And I think that ultimately what you're seeing with the numbers is Americans at some intuitive level understanding that the president is selling them, he's not protecting them. And I think that one of the things he's got to figure out politically here is this is a virus. The virus can't be bullied. It can't be dismissed. And, you know, 75 years ago today, Franklin Roosevelt died. And one of his watch words in the second world war was: “The American people can handle bad news, but you have to give it to them straight from the shoulder”. And the news is going to get worse and worse before it gets better and better. But if you level with people, they will respond.

CHUCK TODD: Kristen Welker, very quickly.

KRISTEN WELKER: Very quickly, Chuck, worth pointing out, Commissioner Hahn said to you, "We are looking at reopening the economy on May 1st." A senior administration official said to me, "We are planning to open the economy on May 1st." I think that President Trump, unlike his aspirational goal of Easter, is very serious about this. He is appointing another task force. He's going to announce the specific details this coming week. The question is will he listen to the experts if they say he can't do it. One official telling me, "Look, they are going to do this in tranches." This is not going to be like flipping a switch on a light bulb. It's going to be like turning up a dimmer, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD: Yes. I just wonder do we avoid a red-blue response by governors if we go in that direction, which I think is the fear a lot of the scientists have in all of this. All right, guys, I'm going to pause here. Our tech challenges continuing, but we're dealing with them. When we come back, African Americans are being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus and there are many reasons why. We're going to go through some of them next. But first, the night shift nurses at Norton Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky singing Lean on Me.

CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Data Download time. This week, we saw a sobering pattern emerge among COVID-19 cases and deaths: a disproportionately high number among African Americans and other minorities. The CDC has found that 33% of hospitalized COVID-19 cases are people who are African American, even though that racial group only makes up 13% of the country's overall population. To be clear, public health experts say there isn't any genetic predisposition among African Americans that make them more at risk to severe cases of the coronavirus. So what's driving those numbers? Some of it is geography. Among the top counties for number of cases are some of the nation's largest cities, places that are more racially and ethnically diverse than the nation overall. And those cities' counties account for 27% of the COVID-19 cases nationwide. There is also a mix of economic and health factors that make the virus particularly dangerous for many minority groups. Among non-elderly Americans, the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 11% of African Americans lack health insurance, 19% of Hispanics are uninsured, and as many as 22% of Native Americans, all higher than the national average. And a lack of health insurance means fewer trips to the doctor and often leads to what? More underlying health conditions. Specifically those that are risk factors for COVID-19 hospitalizations. African Americans and Native Americans have higher rates of asthma than white Americans or Hispanic Americans, higher rates of diabetes, with only white Americans in single digits. And while obesity is a problem for Americans of all racial and ethnic groups, it is much higher among minorities, especially Native Americans. There has always been inequality in this country when it comes to access to health care, and this pandemic is shining a light on that issue like no other time in our country's history. Even after the virus is under control, those issues will remain, unless perhaps this makes lawmakers finally tackle that. When we come back, it's settled: Bernie Sanders is out. What's not settled: Can Joe Biden win over Sanders supporters? Hillary couldn't. Stay with us.

CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. There was some political developments this week. We had Bernie Sanders officially dropping out or suspending his campaign. And, Jon Meacham, we had the chaos of the Wisconsin primary. And I say chaos. I'll put up some clips here. The, the decision to hold that primary. They had problems with their absentee ballot situation. There were long waits, middle of a pandemic. Now, the state is going to do contact tracing on new coronavirus cases to see just how much of a debacle that might have been for our health. But what is the more significant development of the week in this campaign: Wisconsin showing how hard it is to hold an actual election during a pandemic or Sanders finally bowing out?

JON MEACHAM:

I think that the Wisconsin drama is the iceberg warning for, for the election in November, and we have to focus very strongly on this. It's a fundamental voting rights question. Vote by mail, which the president has attacked, has been proven to be quite successful and secure. And I think that all of us have to be vigilant, Republican, Democrat, red, blue, liberal, conservative. The suffrage, the right to vote, people have died to secure that for us, and we can't let it slip away in the midst of this both health crisis and the ensuing economic chaos.

CHUCK TODD:

Kristen Welker, where has the president gotten it in his head that vote by mail is a bad thing for the Republicans? I mean, I know, we know of reports in, in Florida. Florida Republicans are panicked by the president's trashing of vote by mail because it's an important part of their get-out-the-vote strategy.

KRISTEN WELKER:

Right, and a lot of swing states have vote by mail, Chuck. It's also to some extent hypocritical because he has voted by mail in Florida. And so he was at the podium though lashing out and trying to make the case that, "Look, if we consider this seriously for a general election, that ultimately you would have cases of voter fraud." But this is not unlike what we heard from him in the wake of 2016. So he's almost girding his supporters and his base for what could become a key talking point if this is something that moves forward seriously, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yamiche Alcindor, on the issue of Sanders dropping out, I want to put up a little chart we've noted of all the ways that Joe Biden has shifted to the left, both in trying to appease Elizabeth Warren and trying to appease Bernie Sanders. He's done so. Lowering Medicare eligibility age to 60, he's now in favor of that. A Sanders proposal, forgiving some tuition-related student debt. Increasing bankruptcy protections. Yamiche, is this it for Biden's courtship of the progressive movement? Or should we expect him to continue moving left, which is a bit unusual once you've won a nomination? Usually, on either party, you usually move to the center. But Trump four years ago went right, and it looks like Biden, is he going to keep going left?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

It seems like Biden is not -- is going to at least be pressured to keep going left because you have Bernie Sanders and the movement that he's made. He's really had that impact on the Democratic Party, so people expect, people expect Joe Biden to carry some of that progressive flag so that he can attract supporters of Bernie Sanders. And Bernie Sanders, when he was dropping out this week, was already calling out in a way that he didn't in 2016 immediately after he dropped out to tell his supporters, "Look, we need to get behind Joe Biden. We need to get behind him fast." So Joe Biden in order to do that is likely going to have to maybe pick up some more policies from Bernie Sanders. And quickly on Data Download, I just think when we think about Bernie Sanders' campaign, one of the main reasons why he lost this time was the same reason why he lost in 2016, and that was his inability to get support from African Americans. When we look at the disparities when it comes to the virus, that's about systemic racism, food deserts, and the conditions that African Americans have had to live in this country that is largely still segregated.

CHUCK TODD:

And something you wonder if the timing of Sanders -- as somebody said, if this pandemic happened a year ago, Bernie Sanders might be the Democratic nominee today. Lanhee Chen, the president has offered mixed messages when it comes to Bernie Sanders. On one hand, he wants the Sanders supporters to vote for him. On the other hand, other members of the, of the Republican Party want to run against Biden as a Sanders socialist wannabe. Is the president hurting the ability of the party to, to go after Biden from the, from the center?

LANHEE CHEN:

I don't know that he is. I mean, look, I think the president's always set this up as this sort of capitalism versus socialism kind of contest. So he's going to fit Joe Biden into that box regardless of what the policy is. You know, this is why this, this notion that, you know, Biden is going to try and move even farther to the left, I just don't see why he would want to do that. Because at the end of the day, the key animating factor for Democrats, whether they're progressives to the far left or in the center, is a desire to beat Donald Trump. So going even farther to the left to me doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense. In terms of -- for the Republicans, you know, I think that the toughest thing is going to be if Biden continues to hew to a relatively more centrist agenda, it is going to be difficult to put him into the socialist box obviously in the same way it would have been to put Bernie Sanders there. So the, the president is going to keep trying to run this frame. I think as long as Joe Biden remains not too far to the left, as long as he doesn't go too far to the left, I think that's going to be a little more challenging as we look toward the fall.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. I'm going to have to leave the panel there. I hope all of you have a happy Easter. Those of you celebrating Passover as well, have a happy Passover. I know it's tough to do this from a distance, but that's what we all are living with this challenge right now. That's all we have for today. Thank you for watching. Again, stay safe out there. We'll be back next week. Because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.