Coronavirus Report

The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Pfizer's Mikael Dolsten says vaccine development timeline being cut in half; House poised to pass $484 billion relief package




> House expected to pass $484 billion relief package and measure establishing new committee on virus oversight 

> In reversal, Trump now says he "disagrees strongly" with Georgia governor 

> President says CDC director misquoted, CDC director says not so 

> House members, wearing masks, debate and vote on aid bill today 

> Another 4.4 million Americans joined jobless rolls last week


Trump vs. scientists. President Trump began his news conference Wednesday evening by asking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to explain how he was "misquoted" in coverage of a Washington Post interview in which he said that the second wave of COVID-19 will be "more difficult." Redfield said he was accurately quoted and tried to explain the nuanced differences between "worse" and "more difficult." This is not the first time the White House has pushed back on the nation's top scientists. Rick Bright, the doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 said Wednesday that he was removed from his post after pushing for more vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug Trump and his allies have repeatedly pushed, despite a lack of evidence it treats the coronavirus. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was nearly fired for publicly warning in February of a mass-scale pandemic hitting the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal. She has since taken a far less public role in the government's response to the virus.






So, who do we believe? As the country anxiously awaits a return to normalcy, the contrasting messages from the White House and the nation's leading public health experts are at best, disconcerting. Should we put our trust in the Faucis and Birxs of the world, or should we trust our elected leaders who, with no experience in public health, are pushing to reopen the economy in lieu of COVID-19 concerns? After all, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) was perplexed to learn - long after it was initially reported - that the virus could be spread by asymptomatic carriers. He is now pushing for his state to reopen Friday. The decision of whose advice we heed could mean life or death for many.


Mikael Dolsten hopeful non-traditional collaborations and FDA dialogue will cut in half vaccine and antiviral development timeline




Watch the full interview here.


Welcome to The Hill's Coronavirus Report. It's Thursday, April 23.

Editor's note. 


I have been doing a daily commute between Chestertown, Md,. and Washington, D.C., to produce my daily Coronavirus Report interviews. Traffic, as one might expect, is negligible but there are still many making a 5 a.m. trek to jobs and obligations that are necessary to keep the nation's capital functioning at some basic level. What impresses me both about the scene in D.C. and Chestertown, a small rural Colonial-era town, is how everyone I pass on the street or see from the car is practicing social distancing and standing in lines more than 6 feet apart outside the 17th Street coffee shop Three Fifty. When I walk on the street, people say hello, nod their heads forward in greeting, masks on. In Chestertown, where there are a number of restaurants that allow curbside or at-door pickup, people are wearing masks, and everyone seems to be their most generous self. This is not the D.C. I have known. Those small-town affectations of saying hello to those one doesn't know have always been part of Chestertown. But for the district, it's new - and I hope that that is one of the upticks in character that survives this COVID-19 debacle.


In my recent interviews with mayors and lawmakers, including Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, I was struck how they each highlighted the importance of all of us being good to one another. They highlighted acts of kindness like restaurants in some areas of Seattle finding ways to feed those who have very little, donating blood plasma to very ill COVID-19 patients, helping depressed people and intervening in domestic violence situations. There are now more than 26 million newly unemployed people and even more than that if you count partially employed. This is a staggering number of people whose lives have been upended. We need to be aware of this hardship that so many in our community are experiencing and not lose track of them as economic stimulus packages and reopening society are debated.


Today my interview is with Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's president of worldwide research, development and medical and chief scientist. He is one of 20 scientists and pharmaceutical representatives who met President Trump in early March to discuss what needs to be done to have a vaccine, or multiple vaccines and anti-virals, in a breathtaking period of time and at a global scale. The seriousness Dolsten brings to this challenge is obvious in our conversation. But what he shared about how firms are sharing data and findings with each other in ways they have not done in this modern era makes one hopeful that the traditional multiyear calendar of discovering drugs, testing them scientifically and bringing them responsibly to market is being collapsed into a much shorter timeline. I asked Dolsten how the price of these drugs and their accessibility is going to be managed - and he said this is a historic, once a century pandemic and that we are going to have to get these therapies to everyone in need and who is ill. There's a lot of criticism of pharmaceutical firms, but at a time like this, it's also clear how absolutely essential these reservoirs of talent and engines of scientific research are. It's a very interesting discussion, and I hope you watch.


- 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: Health care in a Health Crisis. House Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) will be joining us to talk about supporting seniors, tackling disparities and the role of innovation in the age of COVID-19. They will be followed by a panel conversation featuring Dr. Patrice Harris of the American Medical Association, AARP's Nancy LeaMond, Karen Freeman-Wilson of the Chicago Urban League and Alliance for Aging Research's Sue Peschin

REGISTER HERE and follow @TheHillEvents for additional program updates. Join the conversation using #TheHillVirtuallyLive.


There are 2,665,122 global confirmed cases of coronavirus. 186,131 have lost their lives to COVID-19. There are 845,959 cases reported in the U.S. and 46,972 people in America have died from the virus. 213,024 cases in Spain. 189,973 in Italy. 151,195 in Germany. 139,243 in the U.K. 62,773 cases have been reported in Russia, but most agree that, like China, this number should be far higher. 46,701 cases in Brazil, the hardest hit Latin American country. 42,797 in Belgium. 14,592 in Israel. 10,825 in Pakistan. 


263,754 cases have been reported in New York and 15,074 deaths have been reported in New York City, now the global epicenter of the crisis. 95,914 cases in New Jersey. 42,944 in Massachusetts, a state that is seeing its numbers continue to climb dramatically. 36,212 in Pennsylvania. 5,154 in Mississippi. 3,926 cases in Iowa. 3,445 in Utah. 335 cases in Alaska. 54 cases in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 


4,493,106 coronavirus tests have been conducted in the U.S. 77,436 patients in America have reported a full recovery from COVID-19.




Wearing masks, House members debate and vote on $484 billion relief package. Members of the House donned face masks Thursday as they took to the floor to debate a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that is expected to pass later in the day. In what appeared to be a first, the House chaplain, reading clerk and other staff members also wore masks while they were on the House floor. (Washington Post


Cuomo slams McConnell: States declaring bankruptcy is 'one of the really dumb ideas of all time.' New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday for saying he supports allowing states to declare bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. "This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time," Cuomo said during his daily press briefing. "Not to fund state and local governments is incredibly short-sighted," he added.  (The Hill)


The president reverses on Georgia. President Trump said Wednesday that he disagrees "strongly" with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's (R) decision to allow bowling alleys, hair salons and other businesses to reopen Friday. The comments at Wednesday's coronavirus task force briefing come on the heels of reports that Trump called Kemp on Tuesday night to express his support and praise for the governor's decision to reopen. (CNN

Trump signs executive order suspending immigration to U.S. for 60 days. President Trump on Wednesday announced he had signed an executive order that temporarily suspends the issuance of new green cards, a limit on immigration he says will protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. (The Hill)


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) 

@GOPLeader 4.4 million. That's how many Americans lost their jobs in the last week-the exact time span that Democrats let the Paycheck Protection Program run out of money. It didn't have to be this way. These are Pelosi Layoffs.

Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.)

@RepLoriTrahan This is shameful. Children and families should NEVER have to worry about getting the food they need to survive. This shouldn't be a partisan issue. #HandsOffSnap


Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) 

@RepGregSteube On my way back to DC this morning to vote on legislation to empower Florida's families, small businesses and farmers. Though the airport is empty, the TSA and airline employees are still working hard to keep everyone safe. Thank you to them and all those on the front lines.


Las Vegas Mayor under fire for pushing casino reopening. When Carolyn Goodman began her week, the independent mayor of Las Vegas probably did not anticipate that in a matter of days she would become one of the most talked about public officials in the nation - and for all the wrong reasons. During a head-scratching CNN interview, Goodman doubled down on her plan to open the city's casinos with no knowledge of safety protocols that would be put in place. (Washington Post)


Georgia state Democrats urge Kemp not to reopen businesses yet. Dozens of Democratic lawmakers in Georgia on Thursday urged Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to reconsider plans to begin gradually lifting coronavirus-related restrictions in the state, asking him to wait until testing capacity has improved throughout the state. (The Hill


Majority of coronavirus patients on ventilators in N.Y. died. More than 85 percent of those placed on ventilators in New York's largest hospital system due to coronavirus symptoms later died from the disease, a study has found. Among those who had to be placed on ventilators,12 percent of the overall population of COVID-19 patients, the death rate jumped to 88 percent, from roughly 20 percent overall. (The Hill


China pledges additional $30 million funding for WHO. China has committed $30 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) one week after President Trump halted U.S. funding to the United Nations agency. In announcing the donation Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang defended the WHO and said the agency under the leadership of Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been "actively fulfilling its duties and upholding an objective, scientific and impartial stance." (Washington Post)


As many as half of European coronavirus deaths came from nursing homes. As many as half of the people who died in Europe from COVID-19 may have lived in nursing homes or long-term assisted living facilities, the top World Health Organization (WHO) official on the continent said Thursday. The Associated Press reported that Hans Kluge, WHO's Europe director, told reporters in a statement that a "deeply concerning" pattern was emerging in homes for the elderly as officials gain a handle over the full extent of the virus's spread. (The Hill

U.K's Zoom Parliament launches with few glitches but shows virtual democracy may work for a while. Britain's extraordinary first "Parliament via Zoom" proceeded Wednesday in rather ordinary fashion, with the usual barbed questions and artful evasion by politicians, plus the addition of awkward views of oversize chins and bookshelves staged as backdrops. Everything was the same, and everything was a little odd. (Washington Post)


Infectious disease expert says we won't have a vaccine by next winter. Gregory Poland, who studies the immunogenetics of vaccine response in adults and children at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and an expert with the Infectious Diseases Society of America says that "we will not have a vaccine by next winter" and warned that "the four seasonal coronaviruses do not seem to induce long-term immunity." (MarketWatch)


4.4 million more Americans joined jobless rolls last week. More than 4.4 million Americans filed their first claims for unemployment insurance last week as the U.S. economy bleeds jobs under a lockdown imposed to slow the coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department reported Thursday morning. (The Hill

Treasury issues new guidance for small-business loans to make it harder for public companies to get funds.The Small Business Administration issued new guidance on Thursday that makes it "unlikely" that big, publicly traded companies can access the next round of funding for the U.S. government's small-business relief program. The update comes after a public furor that large companies tapped the Paycheck Protection Program, for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans while thousands of small businesses have yet to receive funding. (CNBC)


Could the coronavirus create a new civic spirit in America? While the coronavirus does unutterable harm to Americans, it also presents us with a great opportunity to think and act once again more as citizens rather than as consumers, techno-internet citizens or hyphenated Americans, as many of us have become during the past few decades. (Fred Zilian for The Hill)


Mike Bloomberg commits $10M to International Rescue Committee. Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced a $10 million contribution to support the International Rescue Committee's efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on vulnerable populations across the globe, and for additional work that will be needed to protect these peoples. 

To watch Steve's interview with IRC President and CEO David Miliband, click here.


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

> Steve interviews former Senate Majority Leader BILL FRIST 

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

> Steve interviews NATO Deputy Secretary General MIRCEA GENONA 

> Steve interviews Vanda Pharmaceuticals President and CEO MIHAEL POLYMEROPOULOS

> Steve interviews Seattle Mayor JENNY DURKAN

Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.



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CLICK HERE to subscribe to The Hill's Coronavirus 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.