Coronavirus Report

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: NATO Deputy Secretary General Geoană says alliance must fight disinformation campaigns from bad actors; Senate to pass relief bill today




> Senate passage of relief bill expected today 

> Trump to sign executive order halting immigration to U.S. 

> Georgia set to reopen Friday; Atlanta mayor ‘perplexed’ by move

> WHO warns against easing lockdown restrictions in all countries 

> Stocks down again as oil continues meltdown


Infection vs. Immigration? President Trump said Monday evening via Twitter that he will sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic, an extraordinary move that prompted immediate questions about its timing, scope and legality. While the specifics of the move remain unclear, more details are expected to come at today’s White House coronavirus task force briefing. The move has already set off a firestorm of criticism – with Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, calling the move “authoritarian-like.” 

Georgia open for business. Brian Kemp, a first-term Republican governor, said he would allow gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, among other businesses, to reopen on Friday, though they would be required to follow social distancing guidelines and screen their employees for signs of fever and respiratory illness. (Washington Post


Atlanta mayor ‘perplexed’ by governor’s move. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) — whose name has been floated as a potential vice presidential pick for Joe Biden — said in response to Kemp’s announcement that she is “perplexed that we have opened up in this way.” Bottoms added that the move doesn’t appear to be “based on anything that is logical.” (The Hill

Other U.S. states and some European countries are also beginning to ease lockdown restrictions and reopen some firms. But, the World Health Organization is warning that cases could sharply increase if measures are rolled back too quickly. “We want to re-emphasize that easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday. (The Hill)


Steve Clemons talks Coronavirus Russia disinformation with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană and then Race for COVID Drugs with Vanda Pharmaceuticals President and CEO Mihael H. Polymeropoulos

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Watch Steve’s interviews with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană here AND Vanda Pharmaceuticals CEO Mihael Polymeropoulous here.



Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Tuesday, April 21.

Editor’s Note. 


When then-Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was trying to protect the Navy’s judicial process in the case of trying, demoting and retiring Eddie Gallagher — and taking from him his Navy SEAL trident -— President Trump tweeted that his rank should be restored. Spencer told a number of journalists, including this one, that while he respected the chain of command and the authority of the president, he was “waiting for an official order from the president” and that he didn’t “view a tweet as an official order.” Spencer later called me and said, “Steve, I guess I was wrong. Apparently a tweet is an official order.” So it’s not surprising that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), reading the president’s tweets and hearing the tenor of his remarks at the daily White House coronavirus briefing, would believe that Trump’s tweets meant governors would be mostly on their own in securing the tests they would need to reopen their economies. That makes sense because the CDC botched the early roll-out of tests with contamination problems in production. It also makes sense because Trump’s former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb has said that the earliest the nation will have the level of tests it needs will be September.  


Hogan subsequently went out on his own and purchased 500,000 tests from South Korea. But in this case, it turns out that the president’s tweets were not official policy. Criticizing Hogan at Monday’s briefing, Trump said, “I don’t think he needed to go to South Korea. I think he needed to get a little knowledge — would have been helpful.” Hogan said this week, “the administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did.”


Two things here. First, the president is at odds with many governors, mayors, CEOs and workers — as spelled out in my interview last week with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) — in his view that we are doing enough testing in the U.S. Nearly everyone, including most of his health advisers, is saying we need a broader, deeper and bigger testing platform. In contrast, the president said, “Not everybody believes we should do so much testing,” Trump told reporters. “You don’t need so much. We’re talking about maximum, maximum.” 


Secondly, governors around the country, not just Democrats but also Republican Mike DeWine of Ohio and Hogan, are reporting that the national labs in their states lack the resources and supplies to manage testing. That’s a fact at the moment. 


The president tweeted that governors were going to have to be responsible for testing — and Hogan took those tweets seriously and got tests for his businesses, schools and residents. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday that his family pressed him on why he didn’t think of Hogan’s idea while also making the case the federal government could have been more helpful in this area.


The bottom line: Hogan did the right thing.


AND ONE OTHER THING. Today is a security and science doubleheader in my interviews with notable leaders in the fight against COVID-19. I’m talking to NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană about the broad national security picture today in the coronavirus era. NATO is America’s most important security alliance and this pandemic is clearly a significant threat to not only America’s national security but to our closest allies. I’m also talking to Mihael Polymeropoulos, the CEO of Vanda Pharmaceuticals, the only mid-cap biopharmaceutical firm that has a phase three trial underway addressing Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which many COVID patients are dying from.  

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 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.


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.


There are now more than 2.5 million global confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The U.S. is home to 788,920 cases and 42,458 people in America have died. Some of the hardest hit European nations are beginning to slowly — and cautiously — reopen their economies as experts believe they have emerged on the other side of the virus’s peak. 204,178 cases in Spain. 181,228 in Italy. 156,495 in France. 147,593 in Germany. 125,856 in England. The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not these numbers are poised to slow down or spike dramatically as Europeans get back to work. Only time will tell. 


There are 253,400 confirmed cases in New York. Comparatively, Hubei province in China — where the virus originated — has only reported 68,128 cases. The Chinese numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, but the enormity of the U.S. caseload and death toll are particularly staggering when compared with COVID-19’s point of origin. 


New coronavirus clusters are continuing to crop up throughout the U.S. 88,806 reported cases in New Jersey. Nearly 40,000 in Massachusetts and just above 34,000 in Pennsylvania. 20,087 cases in Texas. 19,398 in Georgia — which is set to reopen parts of its economy later this week. 14,193 cases in Maryland. 12,486 in Washington. 


4,026,572 tests have been conducted in the U.S. That’s not nearly enough to warrant a return to normalcy any time soon.





Senate expected to pass relief bill today. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said he believed Democrats, Republicans and the White House had a deal to provide $350 billion to a coronavirus relief small-business lending program as well as $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to expand testing. He added that the Senate could vote on the deal this afternoon. The House will likely clear the measure Thursday. (The Hill


White House readies push to slash regulations as major part of its coronavirus economic recovery plan. Senior White House and Trump administration officials are planning to launch a sweeping effort in the coming days to repeal or suspend federal regulations affecting businesses, with the expected executive action seen by advisers as a way to boost an economy facing its worst shock in generations, two people familiar with the internal planning told The Washington Post

Barr: Some governors’ action ‘infringes on a fundamental right’ during coronavirus. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that some state governors’ efforts to fight the coronavirus “infringes on a fundamental right” of American residents. Barr said in an interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” that governments in the U.S. need to “do a better job” of ensuring coronavirus restrictions are “properly targeted” and do not unnecessarily infringe on constitutional rights. (The Hill)


Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) 

@SenJoniErnst When we get through this, it will be because of the nurses, doctors, and health care workers on the front lines of #COVID19. It’s time we give these heroes a tax holiday.


Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) 

@RepLindaSanchez The U.S. has more #COVIDー19 cases than any other country. Instead of working with Congress to help families get back to work or with states to ramp up testing, Trump is halting all legal immigration. Failing to meet this challenge is much more dangerous than any immigrant.


Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) 

@SenBillCassidy We need to start applying science toward our testing. If we know there is a neighborhood at high risk of infection, we need to proactively screen in that area. That’s how we continue to #FlattenTheCurve, decrease transmission and allow more freedom in the economy.


Hundreds of thousands in L.A. County may have been infected, study finds. Hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles County residents may have been infected with the coronavirus by early April, far outpacing the number of officially confirmed cases, according to a report released Monday. (Los Angeles Times


Despite outbreaks, Iowa governor refuses to shut down states’ meat plants. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is refusing to shut down Iowa’s meatpacking plants despite growing concerns over workers’ safety as more coronavirus clusters begin to pop up throughout the plants. Reynolds acknowledged that the plants “will continue to see clusters of positive cases” but insists that “keeping that food supply chain moving” is her top priority. (AP/KCRG


Wisconsin health officials link seven coronavirus cases to in-person voting. Health officials in Wisconsin are reporting that seven people are thought to have contracted COVID-19 while taking part in the state’s controversial April 7 primary election. Six of the positive cases are voters and the other is a poll worker. (The Hill


  Europe thinks it is past the peak of the first wave of the virus. In Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Britain, public health officials — their faces often drained by exhaustion — are now expressing cautious optimism that the first wave of Europe’s devastating pandemic is ending. From Ireland to Greece, officials are seeing hopeful signs that coronavirus infections are peaking and have begun to plateau or recede, pointing to a daily reduction in the number of new hospitalizations. (Washington Post)





Coronavirus clusters at Mexico’s hospitals raise alarm, protests. A series of outbreaks at hospitals have rattled Mexicans and raised questions about the Social Security Institute, the country’s biggest public health network. Nurses and doctors have held protests around the country. The governor of Baja California, Jaime Bonilla, lashed out at federal authorities for the lack of protective gear in his border state, saying doctors were “dropping like flies.” (Washington Post)


FDA authorizes first coronavirus test collected at home. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced that it is authorizing the first coronavirus test that allows patients to collect samples at home themselves. (The Hill)


Stocks extend dropoff as oil markets remain negative. Stock markets opened to significant drops on Tuesday, extending their Monday fall, as oil markets remained in disarray and in some cases had negative prices. (The Hill

Delta CFO rescinds retirement as coronavirus roils air travel. Delta Air Lines Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson has rescinded his retirement and now plans to stay with the carrier as it struggles through the devastating impact of the coronavirus on air travel.  (CNBC)


Reopening America’s skies: How to fly safely in the COVID-19 era. To reopen America, the federal government should focus on what it can control. Targeted health screening procedures at our nation’s airports, informed by the evolving nature of this virus, will build needed trust and confidence. (Meryl Justin Chertoff for The Hill


How human-centered tech can beat COVID-19 through contact tracing. Ultimately, the best technological interventions to fight COVID-19 will be the ones designed in collaboration with contact tracers to enable them to do their best work and integrated into the planning processes of these programs. (Margaret Bourdeaux, Mary L. Gray and Barbara Grosz for The Hill


Virginia-based bridal shop is giving away 75 wedding dresses to health care workers. As many wedding plans have shifted due to the global coronavirus crisis, one bridal shop is doing something to help ease the minds of brides-to-be working on the front lines. On Instagram, Ava Clara Couture Bridal announced a wedding gown giveaway event for hospital nurses located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. (Good Morning America)


> 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 

> Steve interviews Rep. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-Ohio) 

Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.


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 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 and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter for the latest developments from the daily White House coronavirus task force briefings.


Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill Cassidy Brad Wenstrup Brian Kemp Chuck Schumer Debbie Dingell Donald Trump Joaquin Castro Joe Biden Joni Ernst Larry Hogan Mircea Geoana Richard Spencer Steve Clemons William Barr

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