Coronavirus Report

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: BIO’s Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million


> 1.9 million join jobless rolls, pushing pandemic total to more than 43 million unemployed

> Confirmed cases growing faster than ever around the world as new hotspots emerge 

> Civil unrest causes scores of coronavirus testing sites to close, intensifying fears of new US outbreaks 

> Autopsy shows George Floyd was positive for coronavirus 

>  Hydroxychloroquine ineffective in preventing COVID-19, study concludes 

> More protests? ‘Anti-vaxxers’ are mobilizing even before a vaccine is developed 

> GOP shifting on unemployment benefits as economy continues downturn 

> Israel shuts down parliament after member tested positive for COVID-19 

> BIO’s Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, says racism is a chronic disease that plagues our culture, claims we have fallen short in our investment in science, but over the long term science and innovation will deliver on current challenges






Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President & CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)

Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, says racism is a chronic disease that plagues our culture, claims we have fallen short in our investment in science, but over the long term science and innovation will deliver on current challenges.






Watch the full interview here.


Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Thursday, June 4.

Editor’s Note.


Today I interviewed Michelle McMurry-Heath, the new CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. McMurry-Heath is a scientist. She is African American. And she is BIO’s first female CEO. She is trained both as a physician and a molecular immunologist. In these dark times of science, illiteracy in official quarters and deep gasping spasms over indignities and abuse toward people based on one’s ethnic background and color of skin, McMurry-Heath could turn out to be one of the superheroes we need. She comes pre-packaged with a lot of what is necessary to help America and the world. She can put the resources and frames in place to not only get a COVID-19 vaccine in place, but to continue to fuel biotech innovation in agriculture, make progress on climate change and many other areas. She can also show that excellence in science can be achieved with an open door to talent from every quarter.


While she “has made it” — a term that Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) used in her comments with me Wednesday — BIO’s new CEO has a ton to do. And from my conversation with her, which you can watch in today’s Coronavirus Report, I believe that she understands the scale of the challenge. McMurry-Heath bluntly laid out that we have not investing in science the way we should have been doing previously. She said “it is self evident” that we have not done enough and that “we have fallen short of where we need to be in terms of our long-term investment and commitment to science.” 


I think McMurry-Heath has more confidence than I do that the bench of science literacy in Congress is strong, particularly among legislative staff. But I’m heartened to hear that she thinks the pieces are there in Washington to turn around a long erosion in America’s science ecosystem. Our differences on this may be nuanced, though I think the U.S. needs to recognize that its bungling of its response thus far to COVID-19 and the fact that the race to a vaccine is a global one, and not a national one exclusively, is a kind of Sputnik moment when it comes to shoring up America’s core science assets and human talent. That means, as McMurry-Heath alluded, keeping borders open, as scientific advancement and collaboration need to be global. 


She said the easy science has already been done. Now is the time for big scientific goals — and those are going to require more, not less, international collaboration. She said “science is central to the survival of the world.” I agree with her, but am not sure that enough folks understand the importance of that tenet. Fascinating conversation.


– 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

 Click here to subscribe to our Overnight Healthcare Newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus


ICYMI: Catch up on last month’s programs




On May 21, The Hill hosted “A National Virtual Summit on Advancing America’s Economy,” a forum to discuss a responsible reopening of the U.S. economy anchored by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.   Watch the full program video here


On May 20, The Hill hosted “The Vir[Tech]tual World of Tomorrow.”    Watch the full program video here

We want to hear from you! Follow us @TheHillEvents and keep the conversation going using #TheHillVirtuallyLive


There are 6,570,362 reported cases of coronavirus and 387,634 have lost their lives from the virus as of the time of this newsletter. 


The U.S. is reporting 1,860,890 cases and 107,474 coronavirus-attributed deaths. Brazil, which is battling the most aggressive outbreak of any other country, is reporting 548,016 cases. Russia, 440, 538. U.K., 283,075. Spain, 240,660. Italy, 234,013. 


Some significant developments from elsewhere around the globe: 


> Brazil’s death toll passed 30,000 earlier this week as the country’s president responded that death is “everyone’s destiny.”

> Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has seen a recent uptick in cases with the total number of reported cases rising above 28,0000. 

> South Africa’s 35,000 confirmed cases are the most in Africa. 

> Bangladesh now has over 57,000 known cases after the country’s fight against the virus was hindered last month by Cyclone Amphan.

> Pakistan now has more reported cases than China, although the publicly released Chinese numbers have been met with international skepticism.


New York is reporting 375,133 cases. New Jersey, 162,068. Illinois, 123,830. California, 119,915. Massachusetts,101,592. Pennsylvania, 78,214. Texas saw a new single-day high of new coronavirus cases last Thursday, with 1,855 new cases and 39 associated deaths reported. The state is reporting 68,877 cases in total. Florida, 60,183. Maryland, 55,858. Georgia, 48,894. Connecticut, 43,091. Louisiana, 41,562. Ohio, 36,792. Wisconsin, 19,400. Alabama, 19,072. South Carolina, 12,415. Kentucky, 10,410. Kansas, 10,170. District of Columbia, 9,016. 


The U.S. has now reported 18,214,950 COVID-19 test results and 479,258 full recoveries from the virus.


Trump to UK Global Vaccine summit: Coronavirus “doesn’t discriminate, it’s mean, it’s nasty.” President Trump called the coronavirus “mean” and “nasty” in a pre-recorded statement at the virtual UK-hosted Global Vaccine Summit on Thursday. “It’s great to be partnering with you. We will work hard, we will work strong. Send my regards to Boris and good luck. Let’s get the answer,” he added. (CNN


GOP shifting on unemployment benefits as jobless numbers swell. Faced with staggering unemployment numbers that are likely to remain elevated through the election, Senate Republicans are reversing their positions on ending a federal increase of state unemployment benefits after July. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed in a conference call with House Republicans last month that Senate Republicans would block the $600 weekly boost to state unemployment benefits from the federal government. (The Hill

CDC guidance against mass transit sparks concerns over congestion, carbon emissions surge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new recommendations for returning to work have sparked some backlash and raised concerns over unbearable congestion and a surge in carbon emissions from vehicles once people are back in the office. (CNBC)


Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) 

@SenJohnKennedy As Louisiana flattens the #coronavirus curve, we should continue to support the wellbeing of our communities and neighbors. This $18.3M will provide a diversity of resources to help our state recover.


Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) 

@RepThompson Former Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Atlantic that this is the “first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.” Mattis served in this Administration.


Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.)

@SenToddYoung Hoosier roads and bridges require maintenance, improvements, and expansion to maintain our robust transportation system. I spoke with @BuildINCouncil  to discuss the #coronavirus impact on Indiana construction companies and Hoosier infrastructure projects.


George Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 in autopsy. George Floyd had likely contracted and recovered from the novel coronavirus at the time of his death in Minneapolis police custody last week, according to an autopsy report released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. (The Hill


Civil unrest causes scores of coronavirus testing sites to close, intensifying fears of an outbreak. Vandalism and civil unrest have forced at least 70 coronavirus testing sites across the United States to close, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Most were located in private pharmacies in what are deemed “socially vulnerable” neighborhoods, intensifying health officials’ fears that demonstrations against police violence could become a breeding ground for the coronavirus. (Washington Post


Emergency room visits fall by 42 percent, leading to fears that people are avoiding treatment. Visits to emergency rooms have fallen sharply amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading to fears that people with serious conditions like heart attacks are avoiding treatment, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Washington Post

New rules for visiting a pool this summer with coronavirus in mind. You may have little concern over jumping into a public pool during a normal summer. This summer, however, our minds are on pressing health and wellness concerns, like contracting and spreading the novel coronavirus. But the weather’s getting hotter, and a swim can offer much-needed relief. So can you safely visit a public pool? Read more here.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases is growing faster than ever as new hot spots emerge.The coronavirus pandemic is ebbing in some of the countries that were hit hard early on, but the number of new cases is growing faster than ever worldwide, with more than 100,000 reported each day. (New York Times


UK hosts vaccine summit amid calls for free coronavirus vaccine. The British government is hosting a vaccine summit Thursday, hoping to raise billions of dollars to immunize children in developing countries and to discuss how any potential vaccine against the new coronavirus might be distributed globally — and fairly. (Associated Press

Israel’s parliament is suspended after a lawmaker tested positive. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, was suspended Thursday, and lawmakers and workers were told to stay away after a lawmaker said he had tested positive for the virus. (New York Times)


Hydroxychloroquine failed to prevent healthy people from getting COVID-19 in trial. Hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people exposed to someone with COVID-19 from getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a study being published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Washington Post

Watchdog group wants SEC to investigate coronavirus vaccine company Moderna. An anti-corruption watchdog group is calling on the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) to investigate top executives at the biotech company Moderna for allegedly manipulating the stock market and possible insider trading. In a letter dated June 1 and released Wednesday, the group Accountable.US said the trades, which centered around an announcement about promising vaccine trial results, are suspicious and urged the SEC to investigate. (The Hill)


Initial jobless claims drop to 1.9 million. Initial unemployment claims for the last week of May fell to 1.9 million, extending one of the worst unemployment crises in the nation’s history. The figure, while staggering, represented a continued downward trend in weekly claims from an April peak of 6.9 million, giving some economists hope that the worst part of the coronavirus-sparked crisis is in the rearview mirror. More than 42 million Americans have now filed for unemployment in the last three months. (The Hill


IRS faces obstacles with remaining stimulus checks. The IRS is facing a handful of obstacles in its efforts to deliver the final batch of coronavirus relief checks. While the overwhelming majority of direct payments have been sent to Americans’ bank accounts or mailboxes, there are a few challenges in getting the remaining rebates to eligible households. The agency has not provided an estimate on how many people are waiting for their payment. (The Hill

American Airlines looks to fly 55 percent of scheduled flights in July. American Airlines is set to fly 55 percent of its scheduled domestic flights in July, as it has seen a steady rise in passengers since concerns of contracting or spreading COVID-19 diminished travel. In May, the airline flew 20 percent of its schedule from a year earlier. (CNBC)


The millions of young people forgotten amid pandemic response. Congress has an important opportunity to double down on what works for young adults at a time when millions need it more than ever. By extending proven solutions to help opportunity youth become full participants in the economy and their communities, Congress can help catalyze their recovery and that of many more. In the process, it can unleash the talents of a generation ready to continue their education, find productive work and give back to their communities and country. (Melody Barnes for The Hill


Coronavirus lockdowns threaten an electoral lock up for Trump. Coronavirus lockdowns threaten to lock up the Electoral College for President Trump. For four years, Democrats have prepared for a presidential campaign on national issues of their design. Now to Joe Biden’s detriment, Democrat governors’ imperious coronavirus lockdowns may localize the campaign in key battleground states. (J.T. Young for The Hill

“Anti-vaxxers” are organizing even before a coronavirus vaccine is developed. “Anti-vaxxers,” people who are opposed to vaccines, have joined protests in California and other states calling for stay-at-home orders to be lifted and businesses to reopen. Both groups have questioned recommendations from public health officials and experts and some members go as far as doubting the legitimacy of the coronavirus outbreak and ensuing pandemic. (The Hill)


25 black students surprised with acceptance into elite Harvard program. Twenty-five students received the surprise of a lifetime on their front doorsteps when they learned they had been accepted into a prestigious program at Harvard University. The Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project usually has a grand surprise ceremony to reveal all of the students accepted into the program each year. While they can’t celebrate together this year due to COVID-19, program founder and assistant debate coach Brandon Fleming didn’t let the pandemic ruin the tradition. (Good Morning America


Lego praised after donating $4 million to black youth and pulling ads for police and White House toy sets. Lego has received much praise online after announcing that it will donate $4 million to support black children on Wednesday. “We stand with the black community against racism and inequality,” the Dutch toy production company said. “There is much to do. We will donate $4 million to organizations dedicated to supporting black children and educating all children about racial equality.” (Insider)


> Steve interviews Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Director TOM INGLESBY 

> Steve interviews CDC Director ROBERT REDFIELD 

> Steve interviews US Surgeon General JEROME ADAMS 

> Steve interviews Rep. RO KHANNA (D-Calif.) 

> Steve interviews former Rep. JOHN DELANEY (D-Md.)

> Steve interviews Johns Hopkins Center for Healthy Security’s JENNIFER NUZZO 

> Steve interviews Rep. VAL DEMINGS (D-Fla.)  

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 Report

 Click here to subscribe to our Overnight Healthcare Newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things coronavirus



Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump James Mattis Joe Biden John Delaney John Kennedy Mike Thompson Mitch McConnell Ro Khanna Steven Mnuchin Todd Young Val Demings
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