Coronavirus Report

The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus


> WHO walks back controversial claim that asymptomatic spread of the virus is ‘very rare’; now says comments were ‘misunderstanding’ 

> Inside the race to map the spread of COVID-19 

> 14 states and Puerto Rico hit highest seven-day average of new coronavirus infection 

> Arizona state health director tells hospitals to ‘fully activate’ emergency plans, deepening fears that new hot spots are set to emerge in US 

> ‘What do you want me to do?’ Brazil’s Bolsonaro under intense scrutiny for covering up critical virus data 

> Global airline industry expected to lose $84 billion in 2020  

> Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; calls for a ‘just in case’ supply chain for key health goods





A fickle World Health Organization is once again walking back controversial claims surrounding the coronavirus. A top WHO official, Maria Van Kerkhove, is walking back her earlier claims that the possibility of an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 transmitting the virus was ‘very rare’. Van Kerkhove on Tuesday walked back her Monday claims — which were met with stern skepticism from health officials throughout the world — saying that her original comment was based on just two or three studies and that it was a ‘misunderstanding’ to say asymptomatic transmission is rare globally. “I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that,” she said.


While this might seem just a subtle misstep to some, Van Kerkhove’s comments are the latest in a series of confusing policy implications coming from the WHO, which has previously flip-flopped on the effectiveness of healthy people wearing face coverings. And, by now, most all are in agreement that the organization did not do enough to push Beijing to alert the world of the seriousness of the novel coronavirus. For the millions of Americans who have not been able to hug their parents or grandparents for months, who are out of work and struggling to put food on the table or who may be hesitant to join a protest for fear of being infected, Van Kerkhove’s Monday comments and subsequent walkback are rightfully infuriating. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, has continuously highlighted the conundrum of asymptomatic carriers and, supposedly, asymptomatic spread was (at least part of the) basis for shutting down the economy and instituting social distancing requirements. 


Where on earth is the leadership? With the WHO continuously contradicting itself on disseminating critical information on the virus to the international community, with disinformation spreading perhaps just as fast as COVID-19 on the internet and with the White House coronavirus task force all but eliminated from public view, where are we to turn for information we can trust? Will it be organizations like the WHO, the White House, governors and mayors across the country? Or should we trust our own instincts and take it upon ourselves to protect our families and friends? The staggering lack of global leadership could very well have a more disastrous impact on the future of international cooperation and the global order than the virus we are all fighting. 

It has been six months since the U.S. reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19. With a wrecked economy and a nation in turmoil, we are far worse off than we were at the start of the decade. And, unfortunately, until our elected officials and the multilateral institutions we have grown to trust get their act together, the country will continue to pinball its way through a crisis that is deepening by the day.


Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore

Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; calls for a ‘just in case’ supply chain for key health goods. 





Watch the full interview here.


Welcome to The Hill’s Coronavirus Report. It’s Tuesday, June 9.

Editor’s Note.


One of the issues I’ve been watching is the debate about global supply chains and how they are the trade and economic pathways that most matter as states and regions compete with one another. China has its Belt and Road Initiative that manifests for both itself and its partners a commitment to long term investment in the kinds of economic-enhancing infrastructure that will create recurring returns for China over generations, if not centuries. I believe that America’s Belt and Road Initiative equivalent used to be things like the institution of the World Trade Organization and trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and the recent U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement. America used to be mostly in charge, and these institutions were manifestations of U.S. power and brought staggering economic returns to the country.


But there is also just the apolitical, national supply chain tapestry, and this is what I discussed with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan today. He made a point that global supply chains that moved products around the world were humming along nicely in a “just in time” mode — akin to just in time production that we all know from manufacturing excellence certification seminars. But he said we need something different, we need a “just in case” supply chain — so that vital supplies like ventilators and respirators are on hand and stockpiled in a way that a “just in time” system doesn’t prepare for.


Teva Pharmaceuticals USA CEO Brendan O’Grady has also said that America needs to look at some of its key medical supplies and top medicines along the lines of a Strategic Petroleum Reserve and commit to producing and storing them. Strategic alliances can help assure production and supply, but some of the production could be moved back to America if the right regulatory incentives were put in place to do so.  


I’m writing another piece this week on supply chains, industrial policy and national security that I will soon share, but the purpose in sharing some of these threads is that a “just in case” system of redundancy or stockpiling of materials requires a plan. Shifting manufacturing of a commodity or product from one nation or region to the U.S. is going to require something more than bluster.  We have to consider how to do smart industrial policy in these areas where national security concerns are deemed high. And that’s a whole new discussion we have yet to fully embark on in the era of COVID-19.


– 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

Sponsored Content

Presented by Nokia


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 7,172,874 reported cases of COVID-109 throughout the world and 408,244 have lost their lives to the coronavirus as of the time of this newsletter. 


The U.S. is reporting 1,968,221 cases and 111,375 deaths. Brazil 704,412. Russia 484,630. U.K. 290,575. India 274,085. Spain 241,966. Italy 235,561. Peru 199,696. France 191,313. Germany 186,309. Iran 175,927. Turkey 172,114. Chile 142,759. Mexico 120,102. Saudi Arabia 108,571. Pakistan 108,317. Canada 97,962. China 84,195. 


Some great insight on the state of the pandemic here at home from The Hill’s Reid Wilson: 


After landing in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, COVID-19 is becoming a big Sun Belt problem. Sun Belt states have seen some of the biggest week-over-week increases — such as California (+18,883), Texas (+10,974) and Florida (+7,775). Arizona and North Carolina are emerging hot spots, while the number of new cases in the Northeast ebbs.


Watch Washington State as an example of how the second wave spreads. King County, home of Seattle and one of the first COVID-19 epicenters in the country, hasn’t reported more than 100 new cases in a day since May 1. Meanwhile, Yakima County — an agriculture hub east of the Cascade curtain — has reported more than 100 cases on 10 of the past 14 days.


Arizona is scary stuff. The state added nearly 7,000 new cases last week, and models maintained by the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia show cases exploding in Maricopa County over the next few weeks. 


> States where week-over-week cases have declined 2+ weeks in a row: CO, DE, IL, IN, IA, KS, ME, MD, MN, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, WV, as well as DC


Arizona had its worst day of the outbreak on Thursday, and another bad day Saturday. It added more than 1,000 cases in three of the past four days. Their week-over-week case count nearly doubled from last week.


Hawaii has gone 51 days without a double-digit increase in cases. Its week-over-week count doubled, but only to 21. 


Illinois‘s week-over-week counts have halved in two weeks. Still high, at +7,482, but trending the right way. Daily case growth has been under 1 percent for six straight days.


Massachusetts‘s week-over-week cases jumped big time, up about 50 percent over the past week. But that’s largely because the state retroactively classified a bunch of new cases as COVID-19 early this week, adding 3,800 to their count in one day. Without those classifications, Massachusetts would have seen continued progress.


Michigan had the same thing. It added 4,500 cases on a single day, likely due to retroactive classification. It is also on the right path, barring that day.


Missouri had its worst day on Sunday since early April. Is this the beginning of the Memorial Day surge?


New York added fewer than 800 cases Sunday and Monday, their lowest daily totals since mid-March.


South Carolina had its worst day yet on Monday, adding 514 new cases. Up to 14,800 cases and 557 deaths.

Texas had its worst day yet on Friday, adding 1,994 new cases for a total of 77,326. It added more than 1,000 new cases on 13 of the past 14 days.


Senators seek probe into Trump administration’s “Project Airbridge” medical supply deliveries. Three Democratic senators are calling for an investigation into “Project Airbridge,” the Trump administration’s public-private arrangement with six of the country’s largest medical supply companies to deliver personal protective equipment from overseas to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the initiative has lacked critical oversight and has misspent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. (The Hill


Fauci gives a coronavirus update for D.C. area. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, lives here in D.C. While he focuses on the national response to the coronavirus pandemic, he’s also watching what happens in our region. In an interview Monday, he told News4 what we should know as restrictions are slowly lifted in our region and gave a progress report on the local response to the pandemic. “We’ve gotten hit, I would say pretty badly in a sense. But I think our city has done well. I think the mayor has done a good job,” he said. (NBC 4)


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) 

@SenSherrodBrown I asked Housing Secretary Ben Carson, our top housing official in the Trump Administration, a simple question: How many people does HUD expect will lose their homes as a result of this crisis? He didn’t answer. 


Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) 

@CongressmanHice China lied. People died. US economy fried. Media cried. WHO let is slide. 


Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) 

@CongressmanRaja Here are some great tips on how to stay safe from coronavirus while participating in peaceful protests.


Arizona state health director tells hospitals to “fully activate” emergency plans. As COVID-19 numbers in Arizona climbed last week, the state health director sent a letter to hospitals urging them to “fully activate” emergency plans. Hospitals are also being asked to prepare for crisis care, and to suspend elective surgeries if they are experiencing a shortage of staff or bed capacity, Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, says in the June 6 letter. (AZCentral


Texas reports record number of coronavirus hospitalizations weeks after reopening. Weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) began easing social distancing restrictions, Texas on Monday reported a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations across the state. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 1,935 COVID-19 patients currently admitted to state hospitals. That figure tops the previous record for coronavirus hospitalizations that had peaked at 1,888 patients on May 5, according to CNBC. (The Hill)


Furious backlash in Brazil after ministry withholds coronavirus data. As the coronavirus tore through Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro came under blistering criticism for sabotaging the isolation measures imposed by states, encouraging mass rallies by his supporters and lashing out on the soaring death toll, saying, “What do you want me to do?” Now that the outbreak in Brazil has gotten even worse — with more infections than any country but the United States — Bolsonaro’s government has come up with a unique response to the growing alarm: It decided to stop reporting the cumulative toll of the virus altogether. (New York Times)


On Twitter, Beijing tries to shape the global narrative about the virus and more. The United States and China are battling to dominate the global narrative. China was criticized for its early mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, but it has regained confidence as other countries have made their own stumbles. With the United States in turmoil, upended first by the epidemic and now by protests, Beijing sees a chance to define itself as a global leader, one unafraid to press its interests in Hong Kong and the region. (New York Times


  Half of Singapore’s new COVID-19 cases are symptomless, taskforce head says. At least half of Singapore’s newly discovered coronavirus cases show no symptoms, the co-head of the government’s virus taskforce told Reuters on Monday, reinforcing the city-state’s decision to ease lockdown restrictions very gradually. (Reuters)


Inside the race to map the coronavirus. Public health and academic laboratories across the country are mapping tens of thousands of genetic sequences of the coronavirus in a first-of-its-kind effort to track the way the virus is spreading and mutating. The unprecedented pace of genetic sequencing, called Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance — or SPHERES — is organized and overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The Hill)

Sponsored Content

Presented by Nokia


Retail store closures could accelerate to as many as 25,000 in 2020. There could be as many as 25,000 store closures announced by retail companies this year, according to one firm. U.S. retailers could announce between 20,000 and 25,000 closures in 2020, according to tracking by Coresight Research, with 55 percent to 60 percent of those situated in America’s malls. That would also mark a new record — which was previously more than 9,300 locations in 2019. (CNBC


Engagement ring sales dropped off steeply during pandemic, Tiffany & Co says. Tiffany & Co. saw a sharp drop off in sales — especially for engagement rings. The luxury jewelry company said same-store sales were down by about 44 percent during its fiscal first quarter, as most of its 324 stores temporarily closed. Its biggest decline was in engagement jewelry, which plummeted by nearly 50 percent. (CNBC


COVID-19 could lead to new wars in authoritarian countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered widespread concern about democracy, with pundits like Larry Diamond claiming that democracy is now under imminent threat as authoritarian tendencies take over. The ability of authoritarian governments to control their populations and prevent the spread of the disease may appear like an upside for dictatorial regimes. (Adam Day and Dirk Druet for The Hill)  


The unexpected gift of stay-at-home orders: Time for kids to sleep and think and just be. What would it take, when the pandemic restrictions ease, to be able to hold on to the precious extra hours that have expanded our days — and my children’s perspectives — like air in a sail? The time that has allowed them to wander freely and, yes, sometimes aimlessly? (Washington Post)


Nothing about this below is ”generous.” But we would be remiss to not pay tribute to George Floyd, whose death has dropped a match on the gasoline that is nationwide calls for racial justice. 

A final farewell to George Floyd, whose death touched off national protests. The casket carrying George Floyd arrived at a Houston church on Tuesday, ahead of a funeral that will cap a three-state tribute to the man whose death touched off protests across the U.S. and around the world against racism and police brutality. His final resting place will be next to his mother, whom Floyd cried out for two weeks ago as he lay pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. (NBC News)


> 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.)  

> Steve interviews BIO President and CEO MICHELLE MCMURRY-HEATH 

> Steve interviews Association of American Railroads President and CEO IAN JEFFERIES 

> Steve interviews New American CEO ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER 

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 Anthony Fauci Ben Carson Charles Schumer Coronavirus Coronavirus Report Elizabeth Warren Jody Hice John Delaney Maria Van Kerkhove Raja Krishnamoorthi Sherrod Brown Steven Mnuchin Val Demings

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video