The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Sen. Coons says US needs to invest in vaccine manufacturing now; uncertainty looms over states reopening

The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Sen. Coons says US needs to invest in vaccine manufacturing now; uncertainty looms over states reopening



> Several states begin to reopen, but conflicting messages are stoking confusion 

> Birx says social distancing could last through summer 

> White House reportedly weighing Azar ousting; Trump says fake news 

> New Zealand declares victory in fight against coronavirus 

> Tyson Foods execs: “The food supply chain is breaking”



The weekend that was. We’re all anxious to get back to normal, but when we do so and what our new normal will look like are still questions without definitive answers. As several states push forward with plans to restart their economies, the nation’s leading public health officials are still insisting that it is simply too soon. Deborah Birx said this weekend that social distancing, in some form, is likely to be a part of our lives through the summer. With warmer weather inbound, many Americans are emerging from quarantine to enjoy simple luxuries like sunbathing. Thousands defied stay-at-home orders over the weekend to visit Southern California beaches and New York’s Central Park was full of picnickers, although the NYPD is still stressing the importance of physical distancing. Months ago, when this all began, college spring breakers were widely ridiculed for ignoring the seriousness of the pandemic and going forth with their spring break plans. Are the thousands who are risking infection to catch a few rays just as “foolish” as those spring breakers — or do they deserve a break from the walls of their homes? After all, humans are intrinsically social beings and it is impossible to imagine a scenario in which we stay at home forever. 

Another one bites the dust? Reports of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE weighing the possibility of replacing Alex Azar, his secretary of Health and Human Services, flooded the airwaves this weekend. The Washington Post, along with other news outlets, reported early Sunday that White House officials are discussing possible replacements for Azar as frustrations have grown over his handling of the coronavirus crisis earlier this year. As to be expected, Trump took to Twitter to disavow the reports, calling them “Fake News.” In tweets that followed, the president ripped the media’s coverage of his administration’s handling of the pandemic. This comes as the White House first canceled, then rescheduled today’s coronavirus briefing. 


Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Del.) says COVID-19 is foreshock of much deadlier pandemic in years ahead; we need to invest in vaccine manufacturing infrastructure now.




Watch the full interview here.


Welcome to The Hill's Coronavirus Report. It's Monday, April 27.

Editor’s Note. 


What will come after SARS Cov-2, the virus that creates the disease COVID-19. Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) offered a grim observation that this coronavirus is just one of many out there, and that we have not yet developed a vaccine for any coronavirus at all. He said the lethality of this virus, while higher than the typical flu, is much less than what is likely in store for mankind in the years ahead. Coons said we have to prepare for a mass-killing virus that spreads as easily as the cold, but has a rate of lethality far higher than what we are experiencing today.  


He noted that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and others have been worried for years about deficits in our national and global public health and scientific infrastructure, as well as in our drug manufacturing infrastructure, to prepare for this future pandemic. Coons, who has visited African nations hit by Ebola, realized there that the manufacturing and distribution challenges of vaccines have to be considered as the drugs are being developed. He shared with me the vital work of the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), a private-public partnership that is part of the broader Manufacturing USA network. This interview is well worth watching to get a deeper dive into the production and scaling challenges of drug production after a vaccine is identified.  


I also asked Coons whether President Trump’s disinfectant comments provided an opportunity to give scientists a boost in the national conversation about the virus, and Coons said that good leaders know when to step away and get out of a lane better managed by others. Yep.


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. 





This Wednesday, our new 3D journalism platform The Hill Virtually Live will host an online event — Safeguarding Seniors: Healthcare in a Health Crisis. House Energy and Commerce Committee members Reps. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonProgressives soaring after big primary night Michigan Rep. Fred Upton wins GOP primary The Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks MORE (R-Mich.), Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups Democrats introduce legislation to ensure internet access for college students MORE (D-Calif.) and Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonPG&E pleads guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2018 Camp Fire The Hill's Campaign Report: Republicans go on the hunt for new convention site Police unions coalition director: Biden 'off the deep end' in calls for reform MORE (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 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.


Just in from our colleague Reid Wilson (@PoliticsReid) who authored the prescient “Epidemic: Ebola and the Global Scramble to Prevent the Next Killer Outbreak”:

THE U.S. IS NEARLY AT AN OFFICIAL SARS COV-2 INFECTION LEVEL OF 1 MILLION CASES at now 972,969 cases. Alaska has now gone 14 days without a double-digit increase in case numbers. They reported no new cases Friday and Saturday. Colorado had its worst day Friday, adding 993 new cases and 115 deaths. Up to 12,255 cases, 672 deaths. Delaware had its worst day Sunday, adding 458 new cases, up to 4,034. Hawaii has gone eight straight days with fewer than 10 new cases. Illinois had its worst day Friday, adding 2,723 new cases, up to 43,903 by Sunday.  Iowa had its worst day on Friday, with 520 new cases, and then again on Saturday, adding 650 new cases, up to 5,491 total. Probably tied to those meat plants. Massachusetts’s worst day ever was on Friday, adding 4,946 new cases, up to 54,938 total. Minnesota’s worst day yet was Saturday,  with 261 new cases, up to 3,602. Montana has gone a week with fewer than 10 new cases a day. They've gone four days without a death, too. Nebraska had its worst day yet on Saturday,  adding 427, now a total of 3,126 cases (I think that's a meat plant issue, too). North Carolina’s worst day yet was Saturday, with 571 new cases, for a total of 8,830. Virginia’s worst day ever was Saturday,  adding 770 cases, up to 12,970. Wisconsin’s worst day yet was Saturday, with 331 new cases, 5,911 total.


Health experts call for $46.5 billion to expand contact tracing, isolation. A group of leading health experts on Monday sent a letter to Congress calling for $46.5 billion to expand contact tracing and isolation of infected people in order to safely reopen the economy. The group of 16 health experts includes former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt. (The Hill)


Angst over that Trump signature. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) is reportedly planning to introduce a provision that would prevent President Trump from placing his name on any additional coronavirus stimulus checks. (The Hill)


Birx says social distancing will likely last through summer. As a number of states begin to slowly reopen, Deborah Birx is holding firm that some form of social distancing will likely remain in place through the summer. “Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases [of reopening the economy],” Birx told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” (Washington Post


Pelosi: Minimum guaranteed income may now be ‘worthy of attention.’ Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday expressed openness to a minimum guaranteed income to help keep people hit by the coronavirus shutdowns financially afloat. Pelosi said during an interview on MSNBC that she thinks the financial aid established by the coronavirus relief package enacted into law last month should be extended in some form. (The Hill


House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire MORE (D-Md.) 

@LeaderHoyer I’m deeply alarmed that Prince George’s Co continues to be one of the hardest hit counties in MD. COVID-19 shines a bright light on existing racial and social disparities in our communities, which is why I sent a letter to @GovLarryHogan last week requesting additional resources.


Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: iBIO Chairman and CEO Thomas Isett says developing a safe vaccine is paramount; US surpasses 150,000 coronavirus deaths with roughy one death per minute McConnell tees up showdown on unemployment benefits Senate panel scraps confirmation hearing for controversial Pentagon nominee at last minute MORE (R-N.D.) 

@SenKevinCramer Grateful @CDCgov struck the right balance. When stringent regulations were issued for the Smithfield plant, my colleagues & I reached out to @SecretarySonny to ensure the Administration knows most plants do not require that same heavy hand. Clearly our concerns were heard.


Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyLawmakers weigh in on role of private equity firms in economic recovery The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Coronavirus relief negotiations underway with lawmakers back in Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Divided GOP to unveil COVID-19 bill MORE (D-Fla.) 

@RepStephMurphy NEWS: My office has released the results of our unemployment survey. This report shows the alarming condition of FL’s unemployment insurance system. Nearly 93% of the over 8,200 respondents said they had a “negative experience.”


Tyson Foods: “The food supply chain is breaking.” In a full-page ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Tyson Foods executives wrote that “the food supply chain is breaking,” saying farmers will not be able to sell livestock and "millions of animals — chickens, pigs and cattle — will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities.” (The Hill)

Thousands visit Southern California beaches amid coronavirus outbreak. Thousands of people poured onto beaches in Orange County over the weekend as Southern California experienced its first major heat wave of the year, even as officials continue to urge visitors to avoid mass gatherings and practice social distancing due to the coronavirus outbreak. (The Hill


Oklahoma City mayor: Not comfortable reopening “until there is a vaccine or a proven treatment.” Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt (R) on Monday said that he won’t be comfortable reopening the economy until a coronavirus vaccine or treatment is available, adding that he would have pushed the opening date allowed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) to a little later than this week. (The Hill)


New Zealand declares victory. The New Zealand government proclaimed on Monday that the country has reached its goal of eliminating the coronavirus after reporting just four new "probable cases" of COVID-19 and one death over the weekend. "There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. "We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way.” (The Hill)


Boris Johnson back to work, says it's too soon to ease lockdown. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the highest-ranking worldwide political figure to have had a confirmed case of the virus, said Britain is at “the moment of maximum risk" and lifting restrictions before May 7, when they are slated for review, would run the risk of a second peak of the virus. (The Hill)


Italy to ease West’s longest lockdown. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his nation would ease the West’s longest lockdown and gradually reopen the economy starting next week. (Washington Post

Wuhan hospitals empty of coronavirus patients. The last COVID-19 patients were released Sunday from a hospital in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus is believed to have originated, Chinese officials said. (The Hill)


Stroke phenomenon? Young and middle-aged people, barely sick with COVID-19, are dying of strokes. Doctors are sounding an alarm about patients in their 30s and 40s left debilitated or dead because of the coronavirus. Three large U.S. medical centers are preparing to publish data on the stroke phenomenon. (Washington Post)


Wise or unwise? States stockpiling hydroxychloroquine. State and local governments are stockpiling the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, according to an Associated Press report, which President Trump has touted as a “game changer” for COVID-19 patients. States and localities have obtained about 20 million doses of the drug, according to data compiled by the AP from state and federal officials. (The Hill)


Heartburn drug being studied as COVID-19 treatment. A heartburn drug is being studied as a possible treatment for COVID-19 patients in New York hospitals, officials confirmed Monday. The clinical trial regarding famotidine, the active ingredient in Pepcid, is being conducted by The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the research arm of Northwell Health. (The Hill)


US economy could contract 30 percent in second quarter warns Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett. The U.S. economy could contract at its worst rate since the Great Depression later this year due to the coronavirus crisis, warned Kevin Hassett, who recently rejoined the Trump administration as a senior economic adviser. (CNBC

Nursing home industry pushes for legal immunity. The nursing home industry is pushing states to provide immunity from lawsuits to the owners and employees of the nation's 15,600 nursing homes. So far, at least six states have provided explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits for nursing homes, and six more have granted some form of immunity to health care providers, which legal experts say could likely be interpreted to include nursing homes. (NBC News)


Avoiding another Great Depression through a developmentally layered reopening of the economy. Time is short. The pearls of our economy are irretrievably cracked. We must avoid another Great Depression — or global economic collapse — by recapitulating essential developmental layers quickly based on the best expert knowledge available. (Sean M. O’Connor for The Hill


Supporting front-line women amid COVID-19. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one in three jobs held by women have been deemed “essential.” In fact, 72 percent of grocery store cashiers, 89 percent of home care workers and 91 percent of nurses are women. Our women working on the front lines are risking their lives to keep the rest of us safe and healthy. The least we can do is show these brave people our gratitude in a way that actually counts: by preserving — and advancing — their basic right to a healthy and prosperous life. (Dana Singiser for The Hill





Weeks after Fauci joked that Brad Pitt should play him on SNL, Pitt delivered. Weeks ago, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day Fauci: It's 'entirely conceivable' we could be 'way down' on level of cases by November MORE said he would want “Brad Pitt, of course” to play him on Saturday Night Live. During the show’s second socially distanced episode, Fauci had his wish come true as Pitt played the man who has become one of America’s most beloved doctors. (TIME


Mission to collect iPads for hospital patients in isolation goes national. Doctors in at least 19 states are collecting iPads and other smart devices for patients to use to video chat with their families. With stringent visitation rules barring families from seeing their sick loved ones, the group hopes to keep patients connected at a time of nearly complete isolation. (Fox News)


> 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

> Steve interviews Pfizer’s chief scientist MIKAEL DOLSTEN 

> Steve interviews UAE Ambassador to U.S. YOUSEF AL OTAIBA 

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.