The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Wenstrup rips China and WHO; Congress seeks to pass new aid bill this week

The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Wenstrup rips China and WHO; Congress seeks to pass new aid bill this week




> Congress inches closer to deal on small-business aid 

> Governors under fire to reopen as testing capacity remains slim

> White House extends travel restrictions to Canada, Mexico  

> Ex-FDA chief says U.S. won’t have mass-scale testing until September

> Impact of crisis on economy collapses oil futures into negative prices for first time in history  





The weekend that was. From Colorado to Maryland, state capitals across the country were flooded with demonstrators this past weekend who are protesting their respective states’ lockdown measures. Many fear these gatherings could be counterintuitive and that congregating in protest will spread the virus and force stay-at-home measures to be extended. After all, there is a clear oxymoron among protesters carrying signs warning that the coronavirus is a “hoax” as they take to the streets in masks to protect against a virus they argue is not deadly enough to warrant economic ruin. As President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE takes to Twitter in apparent support of the protests, governors across the country are under new political pressure. The nation’s governors — and the president — now find themselves grappling with a choice that pits two calamities against one another: the death of the economy or the death of Americans. 


Senate sets up Tuesday session to try to pass coronavirus relief deal. The Senate will try to pass a forthcoming agreement on coronavirus aid as soon as Tuesday if negotiators are able to reach a deal. The Tuesday meeting will give the chamber another chance to pass a deal on an "interim" coronavirus relief bill, and keep the House on track with House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Race debate grips Congress MORE's timeline of voting as soon as Wednesday. (The Hill)

Ex-FDA Chief says U.S. not likely to have mass testing until September. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told NBC News’s “Today” that he thinks some lesser-impacted states are ready to start reopening, but when asked about the status of U.S. testing capability said, “We won’t have the testing we want until September, I think, in the kind of broad coverage.” (NBC News)


Wenstrup blasts China and World Health Organization for deceit; says America needs to rethink its supply chains




Watch the full interview here


Welcome to The Hill's Coronavirus Report. It's Monday, April 20

Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Monday, April 20.

Editor's Note. 


The footprint of COVID-19 in the United States is staggering compared with any other nation. There are now more than 760,000 confirmed cases, more than 40,000 dead, and 7,800 in critical condition in America today. We hear from numerous experts that the curve is flattening. But this level of infection raises the legitimate question of how workers will trust the health standards of their workplaces, their colleagues, and those of shops they frequent while encountering people they don’t know on buses and subways. 


I should begin by noting that as a journalist, it’s highly unusual for me to pretend to be someone I am not. But, we find ourselves in times that are just that: unusual and confusing. So, in an effort to bring you, our readers, a glimpse into the difficulty of finding a COVID-19 test – I made a few calls this morning to try to track one down. 


I tried in Washington, D.C., which is still under strong shutdown measures ordered by Mayor Muriel Bowser, but I told several doctor’s offices that I was an essential worker and needed to get tested to be allowed into my workplace. I got nowhere as I reported I’m showing no symptoms and had had no contact with anyone I believed had COVID-19, but I said “everyone knows the dangers of this are from asymptomatic people — not infected people.” It didn’t help. 


I did the same calling Detroit. I pretended that I wanted to open my small business. Nothing. I just got off the phone from a testing center in Cleveland. I called Tallahassee, Fla., to see how I could get guidance, as a small-business owner, on following the president’s lead and trying to get tests to reopen my business. I got no help and heard a lot of frustration on the other end of the line. My last call was to Minneapolis where the person I spoke to said they would try hard to get me access to tests for my employees, but I could tell this person was trying to make me feel good about the process and probably couldn’t deliver.


There may be places out there better organized and prepared to give guidance to the firms the president wants to reopen. But I couldn’t find them. I tried hard. While many are probably right that we need orders of magnitude more tests, almost omnipresent in our lives, daily or weekly tests to establish high-trust contacts and high-trust environments, the other missing parts of this equation are not swabs and reagents but simple messaging guidance to those out there in communities across America who are going to be looked to for guidance as millions of businesses try to come back online in a responsible way. That guidance is missing. What I did feel was overwhelming the system was frustration and chaos.


– 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_wargofchik. 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.


On April 29, our new 3D journalism platform The Hill Virtually Live will host an online event – Safeguarding 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. Watch this space as we announce registration details and program speakers. Follow @TheHillEvents for updates.


The U.S. has surpassed 760,000 COVID-19 cases and the virus has killed more than 40,000 in the country. While many urban centers are now reporting that they feel they’re on the back end of the curve, meaning that the number of new infections is slowing and thus the future death rate will come down as well, that doesn’t appear to be the case for many Midwest states and rural areas where numbers are now surging. Even Wyoming, which had among the lowest number of cases in the nation, is now posting official infections at 426 (including confirmed and probable cases), up 113 in a day.  West Virginia is at 890 confirmed cases and 20 deaths. Texas at 19,411 cases and 500 deaths. Pennsylvania at 32,991 cases and 1,276 deaths. Kansas has 1,949 cases. Iowa is now at 2,902 cases. Indiana at 11,211. Idaho at 1,672. Colorado has 9,730 cases. New York continues to lead with the huge incidence numbers of 248,431 confirmed cases and 18,298 deaths. And next door New Jersey is at 85,301 cases and 4,362 dead. Massachusetts is now at 38,077 cases and 1,706 dead. 

Given these numbers and the pain and stress behind the spread of this disease, it is surprising to hear some leaders such as Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro say that COVID-19 is not serious enough to disrupt the functioning of their economy.  Brazil’s cases are surging and are now at 39,548. As we think about developing resilience and hopefully “herd immunity” to this disease, it’s also important to remember that COVID-19 started with one “patient zero” in Wuhan, China. And many others have been their own version of “patient zero” in cities, towns and villages across the world. If nations fail to stop the spread and contain the disease, they remain dangerous to the rest of the world until vaccines and treatments are developed. Cameroon has 1,017 confirmed cases. Belgium is at 39,983 cases. Austria at 14,795. Bahrain at 1,895. Ecuador at 10,128. Kuwait at 1,995. Malaysia at 5,425. Pakistan at 8,418. Israel at 13,654. 


House prepares to vote on coronavirus aid package as soon as Wednesday. The House is preparing to vote as soon as Wednesday on a new coronavirus aid package as the White House and congressional negotiators near an agreement. "Members are further advised that at this time, a recorded vote on the interim legislation is likely in the House this week. Members will be given sufficient notice about the exact timing of any votes and when they will need to return to Washington, DC," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wrote in a notice to members. (The Hill


Ocasio-Cortez comes out against interim coronavirus relief bill. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezA proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Biden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Omar: 'Shameful' Biden reneging on refugee promise MORE (D-N.Y.) said Monday that she opposes an interim coronavirus relief package as it has been publicly reported. "It is insulting to think we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene and pass such a small amount of money, pat ourselves on the back and then leave town again," she added. (The Hill)


White House announces extended travel restrictions with Mexico, Canada. The United States, Canada and Mexico will extend restrictions barring nonessential travel across their respective shared borders for another 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration announced Monday. (The Hill

Fauci says protests are “hurting”; economic recovery is “not going to happen” until the virus is under control. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health: NIH reverses Trump's ban on fetal tissue research | Biden investing .7B to fight virus variants | CDC panel to meet again Friday on J&J Fox News's Bret Baier posts vaccination selfie The Hill's 12:30 Report: Nearly half of U.S. adults partially or fully vaccinated MORE said Monday morning, “The message is that clearly this is something that is hurting, from the standpoint of economics and the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus,” Fauci told “Good Morning America.” 


Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse passes bill to combat gender pay gap Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating Ambitious House lawmakers look for promotions MORE (R-N.Y.)

@RepStefanik Thank you to the McGuire brothers from Sackets Harbor for their hard work in 3-D printing ear savers for healthcare workers to wear with their masks!


Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxHouse passes bill to prevent violence in health care workplaces House passes bill to combat gender pay gap Republicans argue school accountability waivers overstep Education secretary authority MORE (R-N.C.)

@virginiafoxx From the volunteer pilots shuttling patients to hospitals to those sewing and producing masks, those assisting Meals on Wheels to health professionals volunteering at local clinics, thank you for all that you do! We will win this fight together. #NationalVolunteerRecognitionDay


Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsProgressives put Democrats on defense Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-Del.) 

@ChrisCoons Among the many stories of Delawareans helping one another, I want to highlight the team at @NERDiTNOW in Newport. Their team has provided IT support to local nonprofits and students as they transition to work or study remotely due to #COVID19. Thank you for all your work!



Mile-high clash! Health care workers block protesters challenging stay-at-home order in Denver. Health care workers blocked protesters challenging stay-at-home orders in Denver on Sunday, according to video and photos shared on social media. Workers in scrubs and masks were seen standing with arms crossed in the street, blocking the protesters in a powerful counterdemonstration. (The Hill


Facebook reveals county-level COVID-19 symptom map. The social media behemoth with more than 2 billion global users partnered with the Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Center to conduct a survey that has collected responses from more than 1 million people in the past two weeks. The map is intended to help policymakers and researchers predict outbreaks and will be updated daily. (Washington Post)


Nations credited with fast response to coronavirus moving to gradually reopen businesses. Germany and South Korea — both role models in handling the outbreak in their respective regions — are slowly reversing some of the restrictions put in place weeks ago. (Washington Post


Singapore seemed to have the virus under control, until cases doubled. Singapore did almost everything right. After recording its first coronavirus case on Jan. 23, the prosperous city-state meticulously traced the close contacts of every infected patient, while keeping a sense of normalcy on its streets. (New York Times


Saudi Arabia donates $500 million to WHO. The World Health Organization thanked Saudi Arabia's King Salman for donating $500 million to support the international efforts in preventing the coronavirus’s spread. (Arab News)


Chile to issue coronavirus “immunity cards” to those who recover. Chile is set to become the first country to issue “immunity cards” to those who have recovered from the coronavirus, allowing holders to return to work, despite questions about whether those who have recovered are in fact immune, how long any immunity might last, and the accuracy of antibody tests. (New York Times


FDA allows Novartis to test hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration and Novartis have reached an agreement to allow the Swiss pharmaceutical company to proceed with a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. Phase III of the clinical trial is set to begin in the new few weeks. (The Hill

Available antibody tests lack scrutiny and are unreliable. The Food and Drug Administration has allowed about 90 companies, many based in China, to sell tests without undergoing the usual government vetting. The early reviews have not been favorable. (NY Times)


U.S. oil prices settle in negative territory for first time in epic rout. West Texas Intermediate futures for May delivery, which expire Tuesday, plunged more than 100% to -$37.63 a barrel. That means sellers have to pay someone to take the oil off their hands. Brent crude oil prices fell 9% to $25.58 per barrel. (Investor’s Business Daily)


Casino exec calls for Las Vegas Strip to reopen by the end of May. The CEO of Wynn Resorts is calling for the Las Vegas Strip to slowly begin reopening in May with restrictions in place. Matt Maddox released a 23-page plan along with an op-ed published in The Nevada Independent urging officials to consider reopening certain Las Vegas businesses now closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (The Hill

Shake Shack giving funds back. Shake Shack executives announced in a statement on LinkedIn that they will be returning the $10 million loan received through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Founder Danny Meyer and CEO Randy Garutti wrote that the program “came with no user manual and was extremely confusing.” (The Hill)


Government should be limited – even during a pandemic. In this metaphorical war against the novel coronavirus — as with literal wars against America’s military enemies — we have been willing to sacrifice aspects of our individual liberty for the collective goal of defeating the immediate threat. Yet all restrictions on liberty, even ones motivated by a desire to save lives, can be taken too far. (Charlie Grow and Michael Dimino for The Hill


Coronavirus presents challenges to international order and global trust. We need to look at the world as it is, recognizing that the United States is a vital part of the international order, not separate or alone. If we abdicate American leadership, abandon our alliances, and betray the trust and admiration many once held for our country, what replaces it will almost certainly be worse, not just for our country, but the world as a whole. (Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Biden defense budget criticized by Republicans, progressives alike Biden's prediction on Afghanistan withdrawal spurs doubts MORE and Glenn Nye for The Hill


“One World: Together at Home.” The world’s biggest stars took over the major networks Saturday evening for a Global Citizen event celebrating essential workers and supporting the World Health Organization. The virtual concert sought to strike a balance between the vast magnitude of the pandemic and glimmers of hope. It couldn’t make any promises. (New York Times)


> 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 

> Steve interviews former Senate Majority Leader BILL FRIST 

> Steve interviews Pennsylvania acting Secretary of Banking and Securities RICHARD VAGUE 

Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.




Hope on the horizon. Ken Garrison from Virginia shared his view of the weekend sunset from a drive along the state’s Blue Ridge Parkway. With Americans holed up at home, even a quick road trip and a picturesque sunset can be a glimmer of hope for better days that lie ahead. 

SEND US YOUR OWN PICS – from your own walks or adventures – during this time of physical distancing but social connection. And send us your stories of how teleworking is going, what you have learned from homeschooling, new ways to exercise, and special moments or standout heroism you want to share. What’s working for you? What’s comic in these dark days? 


Send to YourStories@TheHill.com. Our thoughts are with you, our readers, and we hope and trust that no matter the weight of burdens on you now — and it’s not a good story for everyone we know — that we all stand together, resilient and confident, on the other side of this. There will be another side.

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.