Drew Brees is hoping to give the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans some much-needed hope during a dark time.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback and his wife, Brittany, announced Thursday that they are donating $5 million to a host of charities that will prepare and deliver 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'd say hang in there and maintain hope,'' Brees told Hoda Kotb on TODAY Friday. "We've been through a lot of tough times together, whether it's hurricanes, oil spills, floods, and this is just another one of those bits of adversity that we're gonna come out better on the other side.
"We gotta stick together right now, and obviously it may get a little worse before it gets better, but at the end of the day we'll become better because of it."
Brees, 41, has become an icon in New Orleans after 14 record-setting seasons with the Saints that include the franchise's only Super Bowl title. He also donated time and money to help the city recover from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and sees the coronavirus as the latest trying time to help people in need.
The number of coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped dramatically to 2,305 on Thursday, with 510 new cases and 83 total deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. New Orleans has been particularly hit hard with 997 cases and 46 deaths, and health officials have pointed to the city's famed Mardi Gras celebrations last month as a crucial factor in the spread of the illness.
The plight of the city has also hit home for Hoda, who worked there as an anchor and reporter from 1992-98. She became overcome with emotion after speaking to Brees.
"So many people have been affected by this around the country, but especially in New Orleans, so when when Brittany and I think about people's greatest needs, that is to make sure they and their family are fed and they can continue to sustain,'' Brees said. "That is where we wanted to start, and obviously there's a lot more work that needs to be done."
His aim is to help to people immediately as Congress works to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package to help the country.
"Even with the stimulus package that will hopefully get passed (on Friday), that's probably gonna take a while before people start to the see the benefits of that, so how do they sustain, how do they survive?" Brees said. "That's why we all have to come together and make sure that we get through this together."
Brees also gave an update on longtime Saints head coach Sean Payton, 56, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this month and was cleared by doctors on Thursday.
"He's maintaining good spirits,'' Brees said. "He has an extremely positive attitude. I think he also recognizes just the danger in this. I know that he's encouraged everyone to follow the orders and the guidelines that have been put in place - don't put yourself and your family in any type of risk, and let's get over the hump with this thing."
Brees and his wife are also at home with their children like millions of other parents across the country during the crisis. While he's struggling to help his fifth grader with his math homework, he also hopes something good can come from families being under quarantine.
"All of a sudden you're just together all the time, and reconnecting, and I hope that this is something when we come out this we can say really brought families together,'' he said.