Unprecedented times call for unprecedented reporting. That’s why NBC is partnering with Facebook for NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic, a live primetime special anchored by Nightly News host Lester Holt. The coverage will air Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET across NBC, MSNBC, the streaming service NBC News NOW and Telemundo Digital.

“Unlike specials I’ve done in my career, this one is still being written, because the story is still being written almost by the hour,” Holt told ESSENCE by phone on Wednesday. “It’s moving so quickly. So it’ll be kind of a real-time reflection of where we are at that moment and trying to address these issues and questions.”

In a press release for the special, the network explained that a team of correspondents will provide crucial real-time information around what viewers need to know about COVID-19. The one-hour broadcast will also include expert analysis and health advice from NBC’s Coronavirus Crisis Team, including NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Dr. John Torres and top virologist and NBC News and MSNBC medical contributor Dr. Joseph Fair.

Holt shared that the project came together organically with experts and correspondents looking at the many angles of the coronavirus story. In preparation for the event, the veteran journalist really honed in on some of the very new and unprecedented ways that the country is attempting to “flatten the curve” of the now-global pandemic. The Dateline NBC host was specifically eager to learn more about sheltering in place, a tactic that was recently implemented by officials in the Bay Area, Boston, and Colorado.

coronavirus testing facility- an nbc special will address questions about the illness
Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (CHI) begins drive through testing for COVID-19 at its Doris Ison Health Center on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in Miami. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“We’re not officially doing that here in New York, but I look outside my window as I talk to you and I can literally count five people in Rockefeller Plaza,” says Holt. “So I think the basic questions are, ‘How do we stop this transmission? Are we doing the right things? Do we need to be doing more?’ We’re all kind of walking around with this sense of, ‘How do we survive this?’ And that’s a pretty basic but really heavy, weighty question. And we’re leaning on folks to give us the best answers they can, knowing that there’s no 100 percent answer in this sort of thing.’”

In recent days, a number of news anchors, TV hosts, and non-essential network employees have relegated to performing their typical day jobs from home. Outside of the potential dangers that commuting can pose to oneself, more companies are assessing the risks that traveling, particularly in large cities, can pose to a large swath of their workforce. Known as the “silent enemy” by some, the coronavirus is infecting people who become asymptomatic carriers of the illness. It’s forced nearly every media company to reassess the way they deliver the news.

“I’ve told my staff… I mean, we’re covering the story of our lifetimes, literally and figuratively,” Holt asserts. “This is a story that impacts virtually every person on the planet. I’d never covered a story that impacts virtually every person on the planet. Even when I say that I get the chills. It’s mind-boggling.”

In working to keep the news accurate at a time like this, Holt says that we should all be aware of misinformation, not just the ones that are deliberately misleading, because as he points out, “rumors get started.” 

“When people are afraid and when they’re concerned and they’re thirsting for information, we grasp onto things, sometimes very quickly,” the NBC news anchor says. “And so I think that’s one of the important parts of being a mainstream news organization, that we can take these things head-on and say, ‘That’s not true. Here’s what we know. This is what’s true. This is what that study said, this is what that study meant.’”

Tonight viewers will have the opportunity to ask their own questions and get expert answers. In collaboration with Facebook, NBC News will take questions on the NBC News and MSNBC Facebook pages and Instagram accounts. The assembled Coronavirus Crisis Team is answering the queries during the special live show.

ESSENCE is committed to bringing our audience the latest facts about COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our content team is closely monitoring the developing details surrounding the virus via official sources and health care experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Please continue to refresh ESSENCE’s informational hub for updates on COVID-19, as well as tips for taking care of yourselves, your families, and your communities.

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