The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
> Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Fed Chair Powell testify before Senate Banking Committee on pandemic response programs
> President Trump says he has been taking hydroxychloroquine despite risks
> In scathing letter, Trump threatens to leave WHO if changes aren’t made within 30 days
> Children’s hospitals are experiencing ‘catastrophic losses’
> Greenhouse gas emissions have plunged an unprecedented 17 percent
> CDC Director Redfield says CDC agency took first action on COVID-19 in late December and notified White House Jan. 1
These days, it may take a lot for news from Washington to shock anyone. In just the past 3½ years, the American public has witnessed one of the nastiest presidential campaigns in history, a sexual assault allegation against a Supreme Court justice nominee and now a Democratic presidential nominee, the impeachment of President Trump and — to top it all off — a once in a generation global pandemic that has locked down the world and pushed economies to the brink of collapse.
Nevertheless, at an informal press event at the White House, President Trump shocked reporters when he said he’s been dosing up on hydroxychloroquine for more than a week in hopes it will prevent him from contracting the coronavirus. Let’s keep in mind that the drug is highly controversial and there is no body of empirical evidence to suggest the drug wards off the virus or is even safe to take at all. In April, the Food and Drug Administration issued a safety warning on the anti-malaria drug. But the president said he did consult with the White House physician about taking the drug and — to quell concerns that the president was either lying or feeding the press a distraction — the White House released a memo last night detailing the commander in chief’s decision to preventively take hydroxychloroquine. It is rather ironic that Trump has continued to downplay the severity of COVID-19 and relentlessly push for the country to reopen, but he seems concerned enough to take his own preventive measures against the virus.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper “I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, morbidly obese, they say. So, I think that it’s not a good idea.” (The Hill)
Trump has not yet responded to Pelosi, but a fiery response is likely.
Today, more than 90,000 are dead in America. More than 36 million are unemployed since the virus took hold. The daily lives of us all have been turned on their heads. And the leader of the free world is taking a risky drug with no proof of effectiveness. And the most powerful woman in American politics responds by calling him fat. Welcome to 2020.
Robert Redfield, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Director Robert Redfield says agency has been underinvested for decades and must up public health infrastructure before Covid/flu combo hits in the fall, says CDC took first action on COVID-19 in late December and notified White House Jan. 1, and adds he doesn’t know why Trump administration official Peter Navarro said what he did when the facts are otherwise.
* Interview transcript and full footage will be available shortly. Watch this space for updates.
THE HILL’S CORONAVIRUS REPORT
Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Tuesday, May 19.
One of the TV shows I used to watch when no one was looking was “The Weakest Link.” It was a BBC production that celebrated sharp-edged wit and general knowledge, praising those who knew all the answers, and publicly, somewhat viciously shaming those who didn’t succeed and couldn’t keep up. It was a terrible show, but it portrayed what many think is possible — that the strong or like-minded or most intellectual can become a tribe by casting out inferiors, or those who are different, or bring a different set of talents to the scene that don’t quite align with others.
Amid the global devastation of this virus, we can’t look at lesser developed nations as
“weak links” that can be expelled or walled off. In a global pandemic with a virus that doesn’t pay attention to borders and nationalism, the weak links — whether inside our own society or abroad — must be cared for and made strong and resilient. Today, in my discussion with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, he said that we may need to greatly widen our contact tracing in America, and we need to find ways to care for and quarantine people who have no homes and are infected. He also said, very slowly and forcefully, that the CDC had global assets to work with and that America needed to invest much more in global health infrastructure, not walk away from it.
From the sheer number of cases and deaths, COVID-19 is hitting America harder than any other nation in the world. But it is virtually everywhere in the world. Not containing it abroad increases the chances that this virus becomes not just a one wave or two waves crisis, but the kind of threat to mankind that continues to work around the world in a wave, always coming back to harm and kill inside the United States as well. And that’s a challenge even if a virus is discovered. Redfield said that even with a virulent flu — about which Americans are educated and know can be lethal — the vaccination rate is only 15 percent. He said we need more Americans to lean in on flu vaccinations so that society is less vulnerable to so-called weak links.
– 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 Report. To stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus, visit TheHill.com and SUBSCRIBE to our Overnight Healthcare newsletter.
THE HILL ‘VIRTUALLY’ LIVE
Thursday, 11 a.m. EDT | Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to join The Hill’s Editor in Chief Bob Cusack
On Thursday, The Hill will host “A National Virtual Summit on Advancing America’s Economy,” a forum to discuss a responsible reopening of the U.S. economy. The summit will feature three one-hour segments, beginning at 11 a.m. EDT.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joins The Hill’s Editor in Chief Bob Cusack for a keynote interview followed by an afternoon of discussion with leading CEOs and national health experts including:
> U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams
> Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)
> Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
> Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)
> Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
> Mayor Michelle De La Isla, city of Topeka
> Teva North America President and CEO Brendan O’Grady
> Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker
> GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani
> Citizen Founder and CEO Andrew Frame
> Independent Restaurant Coalition Founder chef Tom Colicchio
> AOL Founder and Revolution Chairman Steve Case
> Chester River and Cheese Co. co-proprietor Jennifer Laucik Baker
> Siemens USA President & CEO Barbara Humpton
> Wells Fargo CEO and President Charles W. Scharf
*Additional speakers to be announced
REGISTER HERE! And join the conversation using #TheHillVirtuallyLive.
Wednesday at 1 p.m. EDT, The Hill will host “The Vir [tech] tual World Ahead,” a virtual program focusing on our dramatic shift to a digital ecosystem at a time when digital literacy continues to be uneven, much as basic access to the internet can be.
Steve Clemons, The Hill’s editor-at-large, will be speaking with:
> FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly
> Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)
> Superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District Michael Hinojosa
> Next Century Cities Executive Director Francella Ochillo
> Information Technology Industry Council President and CEO Jason Oxman
REGISTER HERE! And join the conversation using #TheHillVirtuallyLive.
CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
There are 4,867,515 reported cases of COVID-19 throughout the world and 321,459 deaths as of the time of this newsletter.
The U.S. is reporting 1,519,986 cases of coronavirus and 91,179 deaths. Russia is reporting 299,941 cases. Brazil’s 262,545 cases are now third most in the world. The U.K. is reporting 250,121 cases. 232,037 in Spain. 226,699 in Italy. 180,933 in France. 177,574 in Germany. 151,615 in Turkey. Iran 124,603. India 106,453. Peru 94,933. Saudi Arabia is reporting 59,854 cases. 51,633 in Mexico. 30,799 in Sweden. 28,794 in Singapore. 18,876 in Ukraine. 18,496 in Indonesia. South Africa 16,433. Egypt 13,484. South Korea 11,078. Cameroon 3,529.
New York is reporting 352,845 cases. New Jersey 149,356. Illinois 96,485. Massachusetts 87,052. California is reporting 81,904 cases. 67,311 in Pennsylvania. 51,915 in Michigan. 49,308 in Texas – where cases are increasing as the state begins to reopen. 46,944 in Florida. 38,116 in Connecticut. 28,956 in Ohio. 28,704 in Indiana. 19,239 in North Carolina. Iowa 15,296. Arizona 14,576. Rhode Island 12,951. 10,625 in Nebraska. 8,942 in South Carolina. 4,085 in South Dakota. 3,687 in Oregon. 640 in Hawaii.
11,834,508 COVID-19 test results have been recorded in the U.S. and 283,178 have reported full recoveries from the virus.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testify before the Senate Banking Committee. During the hearing, Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Mnuchin had a tense exchange when the top Democrat on the committee asked whether people were being pushed to go back to work amid a pandemic to boost stock markets. Brown argued that people were being pushed “back into the workplace” with “no national program to provide worker safety.” (The Hill)
Trump threatens to permanently cut WHO funding, leave body if changes aren’t made. President Trump threatened Monday to permanently halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization and “reconsider” the country’s membership in the United Nations body if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days. In a letter to the WHO posted in a late-night tweet, Trump said the global health agency floundered in its early responses to the coronavirus outbreak. (Washington Post)
Read the president’s “self explanatory” letter here.
White House, CDC rift spills into the open. The rift between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has spilled out into the open as one of the nation’s top public health agencies finds itself on the margins of the response to a once-in-a-generation pandemic. “To allude that we’re sort of taking a backseat to this response just because we haven’t had such a forward-facing presence with the news media really does disservice to what we have actually done as far as leading the public health response to this,” a CDC spokesperson said. (The Hill)
Congress eyes changes to small-business pandemic aid. Lawmakers are pushing for changes to a key program that provides aid to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Talks about “fixes”— from tweaks to an overhaul of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to changes to other programs — come as Congress remains divided over a so-called Phase Four relief bill, which would actually be the fifth agreement reached on the coronavirus response since early March. (The Hill)
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.)
@SenJackyRosen .@SenCortezMasto and I are calling for ramping up #COVID19 testing.
Our public health, government, and business leaders need information about who has COVID-19, who needs to be isolated or quarantined, and who may have already had the virus.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
@SenJoniErnst In the bipartisan #COVID19 relief packages, we worked to ensure states like Iowa received funding to increase testing capabilities. Last week,
@CDCgov announced that Iowa will receive over $114 million to enhance testing in our communities.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.)
@RepDMP The GOP Senate has to get to work to help those hurting in this crisis instead of appointing right wing conservative judges. They need to work for the people and bring the #HeroesAct to the floor. Americans are hurting. They need this assistance and there’s no time to waste.
ACROSS THE NATION
Texas, North Carolina, Alabama see rising cases as they reopen. North Carolina and Arizona are among the states seeing rising numbers of coronavirus cases, intensifying concerns as they seek to reopen shuttered economies. Texas saw its largest one-day increase in cases on Saturday, with 1,801 new cases. North Carolina also saw its largest single-day jump on Saturday with 853 new cases. And Arizona reported 462 new cases that day, close to a record high. (The Hill)
Chicago blocks church parking lots to enforce stay-at-home order. The city of Chicago blocked parking at some churches’ lots Sunday in order to enforce Illinois’s stay-at-home order. (The Hill)
Coronavirus having “catastrophic” impact on children’s hospitals. Children’s hospitals across the country are experiencing “catastrophic losses” after stepping up to help in the COVID-19 fight, Fox News has learned, and they are calling on the Department of Health and Human Services for urgent help. In a letter Tuesday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the leaders of some 76 children’s hospitals across the country are suggesting that “failure to provide immediate relief to children’s hospitals will weaken our infrastructure and risk our current capability to care for all the nation’s children.” (Fox News)
China hits back, in words and aid pledges, as America goes at it alone. The World Health Organization’s annual meeting entered a second day on Tuesday, after an opening dominated by feuding as the United States escalated threats of isolationism and China bit back against criticism. “The United States has made a miscalculation and found the wrong target when it picks on China, shirks its responsibilities and bargains on how to fulfill its international obligations to the World Health Organization,” Zhao Lijian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters. (New York Times)
️ A super cyclone racing toward India and Bangladesh threatens coronavirus response. A crushing cyclone barreled up the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, heading for a swampy stretch along the border of India and Bangladesh and threatening to unleash 165-mile-an-hour winds and massive floods when it makes landfall Wednesday. The power of the storm is not the only threat, as the cyclone, Amphan, nears coastal areas. It also poses a risk to the coronavirus response as hundreds of thousands of people begin moving toward emergency shelters. (New York Times)
Trump administration picks U.S. firm to manufacture COVID-19 drugs now made overseas. The Trump administration is awarding a $354 million, four-year contract to a Virginia-based company to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients needed to treat COVID-19, federal officials and the company announced Tuesday. Phlow Corp. said in a release it was awarded the federal contract to create “essential medicines at risk of shortage,” including medicines for the COVID-19 pandemic response. (The Hill)
Global emissions plunged unprecedented 17 percent during coronavirus pandemic. The wave of lockdowns and shuttered economies caused by the coronavirus pandemic fueled a momentous decline in global greenhouse gas emissions, although one unlikely to last, a group of scientists reported Tuesday. (Washington Post)
Top execs for Netflix, Disney, Salesforce and others call on Congress to provide $1T in coronavirus relief to local governments. Top business leaders in California are urging Congress to approve an additional $1 trillion in spending to head off massive budget cuts facing state and local governments due to COVID-19. In a letter to Congress, members of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s task force on business and jobs recovery wrote, “the worst of the economic impact [is] likely still to come.” The letter, sent Friday, was signed by nearly 100 business leaders. (CNBC)
“Way too late”: Inside Amazon’s biggest outbreak. An Amazon warehouse in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania has become Amazon’s biggest COVID-19 hot spot. (New York Times)
ISSUES, CAUSES, PASSIONS
House Democrats’ HEROES Act is a giant political scam. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that the current coronavirus crisis “is really quite an exciting time for us,” she meant it. On Friday, House Democrats passed a gargantuan $3 trillion COVID-19 bill — the HEROES Act — that will serve as a starting point for negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House over the next round of coronavirus “relief” legislation. In addition to bailing out numerous irresponsible state and local governments and the Postal Service, the legislation is chock full of radical, wildly irresponsible provisions that clearly show that congressional Democrats are more concerned with expanding their power and pleasing their allies than they are fixing our broken economy. (Justin Haskins for The Hill)
Fighting vulnerable workers instead of the virus. Everyone wants to get tough on the coronavirus, but so far that has proven difficult. Unfortunately, rather than redoubling efforts in that fight, some are seeking an easier target: vulnerable low-wage workers.Cynical politicians are threatening the workers most at risk of infection, many of whom face heightened risks of serious illness or death. Some of these threats are fraudulent, ugly bluffs. The very fact that they are being made, however, tells us something ugly about how we are responding to this crisis. (David Super for The Hill)
Magic Johnson pledges $100M to help minority businesses. The NBA Hall of Famer joined “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to discuss the new program he’s creating to provide loans to mostly minority and women-owned businesses struggling to get PPP assistance.
ICYMI: STEVE’S INTERVIEWS, 15 MINUTES EACH
Watch all Coronavirus Report interviews here.
YOUR WORLD, YOUR STORIES
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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.