The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Frist says Manhattan Project-like initiative necessary to fight virus; WH to release plan for easing lockdowns

The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Frist says Manhattan Project-like initiative necessary to fight virus; WH to release plan for easing lockdowns




> Sources believe coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan lab

> Senate adjourns without deal on small business loan program 

> Governors under pressure to lift lockdowns amid protests, pushback 

> White House set to release guidelines on relaxing social distancing as Paycheck Protection Program runs out of money

> Without adequate testing, reopening the economy remains dangerous

> 22 million Americans now jobless 

> COVID-19 doesn’t just attack the lungs 

Sources believe coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan lab as part of China's efforts to compete with U.S. There is increasing confidence that the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory, though not as a bioweapon. China was attempting to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China's government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.





Residents, lawmakers rebuke lockdown orders. In Michigan, hundreds of protesters staged a drive-by protest urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to lift her stay-at-home mandate, one of the strictest in the country. In Pennsylvania, the GOP-controlled state Senate passed a measure to override Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) lockdown on most of the state’s business. Texas and Washington are among a bloc of other states planning demonstrations.

The $349 billion lending program for small businesses has run out of funds. The Small Business Administration has run out of money for its Paycheck Protection Program, White House officials said Thursday, leaving millions of businesses unable to apply for emergency loans while Congress struggles to reach a deal to replenish the funds. (New York Times)


Frist Says National Leaders Must Stop Dismissing Science and that We Need a Manhattan Project to Stop Virus Pandemics




Watch the full interview here.


Welcome to The Hill's Coronavirus Report. It's Thursday, April 16.

Editors Note. 


In 2005, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a heart and lung transplant surgeon, gave a speech at the National Press Club outlining the existential threat that viruses spread from animals to humans represented to mankind. He said then that an effort about 20 times the scale of the Manhattan Project would be needed to create more permanent, less incident-reactive protection for people around the world. To read the speech today gives one chills because it feels as if it could have been written a few months ago anticipating all that has happened — including his prediction that whether by accident or design, the bioweapons industry which lurks in many countries could launch a deadly virus the likes of which mankind hasn’t seen. Read Frist’s speech, or watch it here, recently republished at The American Mind by the Claremont Institute. In my interview with Frist today, he also says the leadership in this country, and I assume he means President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE, needs to stop bragging about the testing that’s been done. He says it sends “the wrong signals.” He continued that we need to have a sea change in our capability and approach to testing before the economy can be brought safely back online. He also made a strong statement that we should absolutely be funding the World Health Organization. This is 15 minutes of interview worth your time. 


— Steve Clemons


Your Coronavirus Report team includes Steve Clemons, Editor-at-Large of The Hill, and researcher Andrew Wargofchik. Follow us on Twitter at @SCClemons and @a_wargofchikCLICK HERE to subscribe to The Hill’s Coronavirus Special Report. To stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus, visit TheHill.com and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter for the latest developments from the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings. 

On April 29, our new 3D journalism platform The Hill Virtually Live will host an online event – Supporting Seniors: Healthcare in a Health Crisis. We’ll be looking at how Medicare is stepping up to support seniors, what it will take to protect underserved communities and the role of telemedicine. REGISTER HERE and follow @TheHillEvents for program updates.


There are now 2,090,110 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the globe. U.S. cases are continuing to soar and stand at 640,291. 140,773 are dead and more than 31,000 people in America have died from the coronavirus. 


New York’s 214,832 cases continue to be triple that of the next closest state, New Jersey, with 71,030 cases. 29,918 confirmed cases in Massachusetts. 28,059 in Michigan. 27,098 in California. 16,305 in Texas. 10,032 in Maryland.


Another important number to watching: total tested. The consensus seems to be that the U.S. will need to dramatically ramp up its testing capabilities before reopening the country. As of the time of this newsletter, 3.2 million in America have been tested — a mere 1 percent of the population. Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosAmazon suspends Parler from web hosting service World's richest people added .8T to their combined wealth in 2020 Amazon delivered more than 1.5 billion items over holiday season MORE is among many private sector leaders calling for mass testing to get the economy back up and running. 


52,772 people in America have reported full recoveries from the virus.


Reopening economy emerges as new political battleground. The question of how quickly to reopen the economy has emerged as the latest political battleground dividing the two parties. Behind the scenes, Republicans are warning that a prolonged economic shutdown would do more harm to the nation’s long-term viability than COVID-19. (The Hill






Testing falls woefully short as Trump seeks an end to stay-at-home orders. As President Trump pushes to reopen the economy, most of the country is not conducting nearly enough testing to track the path and penetration of the coronavirus in a way that would allow Americans to safely return to work. (New York Times


White House taps members of Congress to advise on reopening. President Trump is asking a bipartisan group of lawmakers to join a panel tasked with determining how to reopen the U.S. economy. This new task force comes on the heels of the high-powered private sector advisory council the administration convened earlier this week. (The Hill

Trump convenes sports commissioners in hopes of filling stadiums. President Trump spoke with the heads of major sports leagues to gauge the feasibility of holding sporting events in the coming months. Although the White House is eager for a return to normalcy, public health experts warn it could be quite some time before mass gatherings are safe to attend.  (The Hill)



 Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPublic option won't serve the public The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Wash.) 

@RepJayapal 5.2 million people filed for unemployment this week — bringing the total up to 22 million in the last month. Mass unemployment is a policy choice. We need my Paycheck Guarantee Act to ensure all workers get their paycheck during this crisis.




Will other states follow California’s lead? California will create a $125 million assistance fund for illegal immigrants who have lost work due to the coronavirus pandemic but can’t access traditional unemployment insurance, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomPortland mayor pepper sprays man after confrontation at restaurant Overnight Health Care: Biden says anyone who wants vaccine may be able to get it by spring | Moderna says vaccine effective on variants, but tests booster shot | California lifts regional stay-at-home order California lifts regional stay-at-home order MORE (D) said Wednesday. The program, the first of its kind, will consist of $75 million from the state and another $50 million that Newsom said philanthropic partners have committed to raise. (Wall Street Journal


New York taps McKinsey to develop a “Trump-proof” economic reopening plan. New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo says New York can begin to loosen restrictions: 'Don't get cocky with COVID' Disjointed vaccine distribution poses early test for Biden Three National Guardsmen killed after military helicopter crash in New York MORE (D) has hired high-powered consultants to develop a science-based plan for the safe economic reopening of the region. Cuomo seeks a plan that can thwart expected pressure from the White House to move more rapidly to open the economy. (CNBC


How the coronavirus unleashed economic havoc on Michigan. Roughly a quarter of Michigan’s eligible workforce is now trying to obtain unemployment aid, a staggering example of the economic carnage wrought by the coronavirus in a state that’s no stranger to financial struggle. Michigan officials are bracing for yet another economic crisis, this time perhaps on the magnitude of the Great Depression. (Washington Post


Idaho’s Republican governor extends stay-at-home order despite GOP criticism. Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) has extended stay-at-home orders within the state through April 30, despite increased protests popping up around the country against the continuing measures, saying, "I've got to do what I've got to do for the people of Idaho.” (The Hill)


The WHO acted faster and with more foresight than many national governments. With limited, constantly shifting information to go on, the WHO showed an early, consistent determination to treat the new contagion like the threat it would become, and to persuade others to do the same. (New York Times)


 European Commission apologizes to Italy. The president of the European Commission offered an apology to Italy on Thursday, saying the country did not receive adequate help at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, said, “It is right that Europe as a whole offered a heartfelt apology [to Italy].” (NBC News)  


  How Vietnam avoided catastrophe. In Vietnam, which shares a border with China, fewer than 300 COVID-19 cases have been reported and no one has died. Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam. (NPR


Japan extends state of emergency to whole country. Japan will extend its current coronavirus state of emergency, in place in seven regions including Tokyo and Osaka, to cover the rest of the country, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday. (NBC News)


Coronavirus is ravaging more than just our lungs. Doctors are finding that the virus may also be causing heart inflammation, acute kidney disease, neurological malfunction, blood clots, intestinal damage and liver problems. That development has complicated the treatment of the most severe cases of COVID-19 and makes the course of recovery less certain, they said. (Washington Post)

Pollution down 50 percent in some European countries. The Coronavirus lockdowns have played a role in causing pollution levels to drop significantly across Europe over the past month, the European Space Agency said. (CNN)


Unemployment numbers continue to soar. Another 5.2 million people filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 11, according to the Department of Labor. Over the past four weeks, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment, the sharpest and most severe rise in joblessness in the nation’s history. (The Hill

Stocks torn between unemployment spike, Trump’s economic restart. U.S. equity markets are seesawing Thursday, with investors torn between a sizeable jump in first-time unemployment claims and President Trump's efforts to reopen at least part of the U.S. economy. (Fox News)


Coronavirus is spreading fast in small-town America. As COVID-19 began to ravage densely populated metro areas, some hoped the distance inherent to rural communities would act as a shield against the same fate. Now that the pandemic has reached nearly every county and most rural places across the nation, we see how wrong that hope was. (David Lipsetz for The Hill

Who takes control if there is no presidential election this year? There is an obvious gap in our Constitution, because the Framers didn’t contemplate a no election possibility. This prospect undoubtedly is frightening enough to Republicans to assure that they will do everything in their power not to cancel the 2020 election. (Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzDershowitz: Senate should dismiss impeachment article since Trump is private citizen Giuliani won't be part of Trump defense at Senate trial Sunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US MORE for The Hill)


Florida teacher goes above and beyond. First grade teacher Katie Ricca made a socially distant trip to one of her students after she seemed down during a Zoom session. Sitting 6 feet apart, Ricca read books to the student and tried to bring her “a normal little bit of life.” (Fox News

Every dog adopted in Florida shelter. More people have been fostering and adopting pets from animal shelters during the coronavirus pandemic  — a small silver lining as the world battles the outbreak. And in one Florida shelter, every single dog has found a home in what staff are calling an “amazing milestone.” (The Hill)


> Steve interviews former AIDS czar MARK DYBUL

> Steve interviews former GSK Global Vaccines President LUC DEBRUYNE

> Steve interviews former Baltimore Health Commissioner LEANA WEN

> Steve interviews former Trump homeland security adviser TOM BOSSERT

> Steve interviews International Rescue Committee CEO DAVID MILIBAND

> Steve interviews Miami Mayor and coronavirus survivor FRANCIS X. SUAREZ 

> Steve interviews Rep. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-Mich.) 

> Steve interviews APHA Executive Director DR. GEORGES BENJAMIN 

Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.


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CLICK HERE to subscribe to The Hill’s Coronavirus Special Report. To stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus, visit TheHill.com and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter for the latest developments from the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings.