Hoda, who has deep roots in New Orleans, was finishing an interview with Brees about his decision to donate $5 million to help feed Louisiana residents in need during the pandemic when she started to break down in tears.
"I'm sorry," she said, taking a moment to gather herself.
"Hoda, I know it's a lot," Savannah Guthrie said on the air. "Hoda, I'm so sorry, hon. Take a moment. It's a lot. I know where your heart is, my dear, I do."
The emotional moment touched TODAY fans across the country who related to the strain and anxiety they are feeling from the coronavirus pandemic.
"It’s comforting to see others feeling just how I’m feeling,'' one TODAY viewer tweeted. "Random tears at random moments. Thank you for being real, @hodakotb! I know @SavannahGuthrie just wanted to give you a hug and so did I!"
"I love that Hoda showed her emotions!" another person wrote. "There is only so much people can take reporting this day after day. She cried for all of us."
Jenna Bush Hager, Hoda's co-host on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, was also touched by the moment as she watched from home.
By the end of the next segment, Hoda was back to her smiling self, giving a shoutout to her 3-year-old daughter Haley's teacher.
But it's clear that hearing about the troubles in New Orleans caused by COVID-19 struck a deep chord.
By Thursday afternoon, the Louisiana Department of Health reported more than 2,300 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Statewide, 83 people have died, putting Louisiana's death toll among the highest in the country
Hoda worked as an anchor and reporter for a CBS affiliate in New Orleans from 1992-98 and has maintained close ties to the city, serving as grand marshal at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in 2016 and passionately rooting for Brees and the Saints each NFL season.
Hoda, who has been working alone in Studio 1A at Rockefeller Center during the coronavirus crisis, later reflected on her emotional moment with Savannah during the fourth hour of TODAY.
"I think the other thing, too, is you sort of look around for someone to hug, just because, and you realize OK, that's also part of it," Hoda said. "The new normal, we get used to it."
"It's not forever,'' Savannah said. "I'm gonna be awkwardly hugging you (when this is over) ... I'm not gonna stop hugging you."