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The Hill's Morning Report — Coronavirus tests a partisan Washington

The Hill's Morning Report — Coronavirus tests a partisan Washington
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

On Thursday, the coronavirus injected a grim-faced anxiety to daily life in America while undercutting trust that government, the financial system and the medical community will be powerful enough to hold things together for however long it takes. 

By any measure in modern American history, it was a bad day. And experts and analysts predicted things will get worse, perhaps for three or more months.

It began in the morning with the kind of panic the financial markets have not seen in more than a decade. Investors rushed to dump holdings at any price and the uncertainty fed on itself until the trading day ended in exhaustion.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average racked up its worst day since 1987’s Black Monday, plunging 10 percent (The Wall Street Journal). The New York Federal Reserve Bank and the European Central Bank both attempted to calm markets, with little success. Wall Street analysts began to change their tune: A public health crisis was becoming a financial crisis, some warned, and to keep the system from freezing up, the central banks had to open the spigots and offer trillions of dollars in short-term loans to banks (The New York Times).

President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE’s Wednesday night address to the nation earned poor reviews on Wall Street and abroad. In the Oval Office the morning after, Trump defended his decision to ban foreign travelers from Europe for a month. “I don’t want people dying. That’s what I’m all about,” he told reporters. 

His remarks, combined with his opposition to an evolving coronavirus bill backed by House Democrats to be unveiled today, heightened public anxiety that a needed fiscal rescue out of Washington might not be enacted at all. Market analysts practically screeched at politicians during TV and radio interviews to work together to wield “a club, not a scalpel.” 

At the same time, news about the pandemic around the country was not encouraging. Cities and states announced dramatic new mitigation efforts to try to stop the continued spread of COVID-19. Schools and universities closed, Broadway went dark, Disney World and Disneyland both shuttered and sporting events were canceled everywhere. Major companies sent their employees home. Mayors and governors declared emergencies and improvised responses as the virus raced ahead of them.

Canada’s prime minister, professional basketball players, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Jaime Harrison raises million in two weeks for South Carolina Senate bid MORE (R-S.C.) were among the VIPs on Thursday who found themselves waiting for coronavirus test results because of concerns they could be infected, and potentially pose risks to others. 

Trump shrugged off the possibility that he, too, might be in that category after being in close proximity at Mar-a-Lago last weekend with an aide to Brazil’s president who tested positive for the virus (Reuters).

On Capitol Hill, Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top expert on infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Congress that weeks of difficulty distributing enough coronavirus test kits around the country allowed the respiratory virus to defeat the nation’s containment efforts. He called the public’s often futile efforts to get tested a federal “failing.”

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now — what you are asking for,” he told a lawmaker at a hearing on Thursday. “That is a failing. It is a failing. Let's admit it,” he said (The Hill).

 



LEADING THE DAY

> CORONAVIRUS & CONGRESS:  Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday night that House Democrats are on the verge of striking a deal with the Trump administration to provide added benefits for workers who are affected by COVID-19, are quarantined or cannot work or become sick and require testing.

"It's fair to say we're close to an agreement, subject to the exchange of paper, and hope to have an agreement tomorrow," Pelosi told reporters just outside her office in the Capitol (The Hill). 

Assuming the package passes today, the Senate will take up the measure next week, having canceled its planned recess in order to deal with the pandemic.  

The United States has tallied at least 1,701 cases of the infection and recorded 40 deaths from COVID-19, the majority in Washington state. The virus has been detected in every state except Idaho, West Virginia and Alabama, according to state news accounts and tracking maps maintained by The New York Times and Johns Hopkins University.   

Two more lawmakers revealed on Thursday that they are in self-quarantine. Graham and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) both said that they are restricting their movements after being at Mar-a-lago over the weekend and spending time near an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who tested positive for the virus

The New York Times: Pelosi says the House will vote today on one measure to help workers affected by coronavirus while working toward a future measure “that will take further effective action that protects the health, economic security and well-being of the American people.” 

The New York Times: U.S. hospitals prepare for coronavirus, with the worst still to come.

 

 

*** 

 

> AMERICAN LIFE: The lights went out on Broadway Thursday after New York City announced new restrictions on mass gatherings of more than 500 people as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to climb in America’s most populous city.

The ban on Broadway shows began Thursday at 5 p.m. and will last until April 12 at least. Along with Broadway, the new rules also forced many high profile locations to temporarily shut its doors, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall. 

“I’ve said the same thing to you every day for the past three weeks, I think. You are going to see these numbers are going to go up,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said at a press conference.

“What makes you think that the virus in China, the virus in South Korea, the virus in Italy wasn’t going to react any differently than the virus here?” Cuomo asked rhetorically. “You are going to see the same trajectory that you saw in China, South Korea and Italy, and it is going to happen here as the virus spreads because of the way it is actually contagious” (CNBC).

The New York ban, however, does not apply to schools, hospitals, nursing homes and mass transit, with the governor saying it would be “tremendously disruptive” to close schools completely. The  Archdiocese of New York said that it will close elementary schools for a week at minimum starting Monday (The Associated Press). 

CNN: Disney World, Disneyland close because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Atlantic: The Dos and Don’ts of “Social Distancing.”

In Washington, the White House and U.S. Capitol building announced that tours of both grounds will be closed. Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that tours of the White House have been canceled “until further notice.”  

At the Capitol, the only individuals who will be able to access the building are members, staff, credentialed press and those  on official business, according to a statement from the sergeants-at-arms of the Senate and House of Representatives. The ban is scheduled to end the morning of April 1 (Bloomberg News).

The National Archives and Library of Congress also announced Thursday that they will shut their doors for the foreseeable future. The Archives will be closed until May 3, while the Library of Congress will be shuttered until April 1.  

WTOP: Metro considering COVID-19-related service cuts, but no changes yet.

NBC4 Washington: Loudoun County announces extended school closure amid pandemic, first in DC area.

USA Today: Princess Cruises suspends operations for 60 days; Viking Cruises cancels all cruises due to coronavirus.

*** 

> CORONAVIRUS & SPORTS: For a second consecutive day, the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the sports world as the NCAA canceled March Madness, and the MLB, NHL and multiple soccer leagues across the globe suspended their seasons until further notice.  

The NCAA’s decision came a day after it decided to hold the tournament without fans. However, the tide turned on Thursday as leagues across the country cancelled their conference tournaments, with top schools such as Duke University and Kansas University announcing that they would not take part in any further athletic competitions or proceed with any travel. The NCAA shortly after announced the cancellation of the tournament and all other winter or spring sports championships. 

"This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities," the NCAA said in a statement Thursday. 

The New York Times: Twenty-four hours when sports hit the halt button.

Major League Baseball suspended the remainder of spring training and cancelled the first two weeks of the regular season at least. Opening Day was set for March 26. 

"MLB will announce the effects on the schedule at an appropriate time and will remain flexible as events warrant, with the hope of resuming normal operations as soon as possible," the league said in its statement.

 

 

All of the decisions came a day after the NBA suspended its season until further notice after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The NBA was rocked once again on Thursday as Donovan Mitchell, a teammate of Gobert, also tested positive for the virus.  

According to ESPN, players the Jazz have faced in the past 10 days are self-isolating. Those teams are the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors. The Oklahoma City Thunder are as well after almost taking the court versus Utah on Wednesday.  

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday that NBA owners are encouraging commissioner Adam Silver to reevaluate the suspension in 30 days.

One notable NBA fan spoke up in favor of the moves by the various sports leagues: former President Obama, who argued that the decisions were not an “overreaction” in any way.

“If you’re wondering whether it’s an overreaction to cancel large gatherings and public events (and I love basketball), here’s a useful primer as to why these measures can slow the spread of the virus and save lives. We have to look out for each other,” Obama tweeted

The PGA Tour announced late Thursday that the The Players Championship this weekend and all other events through April 5 have been canceled due to the virus. The tournament was expected to continue through Sunday without fans present, but the PGA decided against it. Earlier in the day, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan consulted with Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump's new interest in water resources — why now? Trump campaign says it didn't hire armed guards outside Florida polling place Trump jokes he'll 'find a way' to fire Gov. DeSantis if he loses Florida MORE (R) about how to proceed.  

Notably, the next event on the PGA Tour schedule is The Masters. The famed tournament at Augusta National Golf Club is expected to start on April 9. 

In Europe, different leagues are taking different actions in the coming weeks in response to the virus. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) postponed a pair of Champions League matches set for Tuesday, with a potential cancellation of the remaining Champions League and Europa League slate also being discussed. UEFA is also looking into potentially delaying this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament. 

Real Madrid’s squad is under self-isolation after one of the club’s basketball players tested positive for the virus. La Liga, the top Spanish soccer league, also suspended its season.  

However, the English Premier League (EPL) is moving forward with its slate of matches this weekend, in contrast to most other top leagues. The decision continued to stand on Friday morning despite multiple EPL figures testing positive for the virus, including Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and a member of Everton, putting the entire team in self-isolation. Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy and three Leicester City players are also in self-isolation, with the three Leicester City teammates are all showing symptoms.  

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Why canceling events makes sense in the age of COVID-19. 

***

> CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: France will close all schools and universities in the country in response to the virus, President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronTwo students were paid to identify slain French teacher, authorities say French mosque closed in crackdown after teacher's beheading French high school teacher decapitated in possible terrorist attack MORE announced during a televised address on Thursday.

"It is one of the most serious health crises France has ever faced," he said. "In spite of our efforts to stop it, the virus is still spreading” (The Independent). France has 2,284 confirmed cases and has reported 48 deaths. 

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced similar measures and said teaching will be done online or remotely until March 29 in Ireland (BBC).

In Italy, the coronavirus continued to inflict a heavy toll on a nation of 60 million people living under draconian restrictions to limit all but the most basic elements of daily life. COVID-19 is blamed for the deaths of 827 Italians as of this morning, even as the government maintains its mitigation efforts are working. Italy has reported the largest number of confirmed cases outside of China.

As of this morning, the death toll from COVID-19 worldwide is 4,728, and confirmed cases globally number at least 128,392 in 116 countries, according to the latest information. 

CNN: All Catholic churches across Rome are to completely close because of the coronavirus.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauTrudeau: Canada preparing for potential 'disruptions' after US election Trump's COVID 'October surprise' might make him a better candidate — and person 'Get well' messages pour in from foreign capitals after Trump positive coronavirus test MORE disclosed he is self-quarantining as a precaution. His wife came down with flu-like symptoms after a trip to the United Kingdom and has tested positive for COVID-19 (The New York Times).

The European Central Bank on Thursday left interest rates unchanged but announced a new credit program aimed at the private sector as a modest form of stimulus in response to the coronavirus. ECB President Christine Lagarde suggested the bank may have limited firepower (The Wall Street Journal).

The European Union on Thursday expressed its displeasure with Trump’s partial travel ban for foreigners flying from European countries, which the president announced on Wednesday. European officials complained there was no coordination by the United States in advance of the announcement and no discussion about the rationale. They argued the policy sparked confusion among travelers and pandemonium at major European airports and for international air carriers. 

The Trump policy, which does not impact foreign travelers from the United Kingdom, goes into effect on Friday at midnight (NBC News and BBC). Trump said he announced his decision on Wednesday when the policy was ready and did not have “time” to coordinate with allies.

BBC: Five mistakes in Trump’s speech.

In the United Kingdom, an election panel on Thursday recommended postponing planned May 7 local elections until the fall because of coronavirus risks (The Hill).

The Washington Post: In Iran, the coronavirus burial pits are so large, they’re visible from space.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE rolled out his plan to combat COVID-19 on Thursday, which includes the establishment of an effective national response to the virus through making testing free and widely available, as well as the establishment of 10 mobile sites and drive-thru facilities per state.  

The former vice president rolled out his plan during a speech in Wilmington, Del., less than 24 hours after the president addressed the nation and announced a ban on travel from European nations, sans the United Kingdom.  

As Julia Manchester writes, the former vice president also called for the White House to be more transparent about the number individuals who have been tested. The plan also called for an economic response to the outbreak, including emergency paid leave for all affected by the outbreak and aid for workers’ families and small businesses that are impacted.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Trump's debate performance was too little, too late Final debate: War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit MORE (I-Vt.) also issued a rebuke of the Trump administration’s handling of the situation. In a speech of his own, the Vermont Independent likened the ongoing “meltdown” to the one experienced World War II (Politico).

“The crisis we face from the coronavirus is on a scale of a major war, and we must act accordingly,” he said. “The number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the armed forces experienced in World War II. In other words, we have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly.”

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Virus crisis upends political world.

The Hill: Biden campaign staff to work from home amid coronavirus outbreak.

The Washington Post: Biden appoints Jen O’Malley Dillon as new campaign manager.

 

 

> Debate: The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced that Sunday’s debate between Biden and Sanders will now take place in Washington, D.C., instead of Phoenix in an effort to cut down on travel for the campaigns and combat the virus.  

According to the DNC, the debate will be held without an audience at CNN’s studio near Capitol Hill. The committee also revealed that Univision anchor Jorge Ramos will no longer serve as one of the moderators as he recently had been “in proximity with someone who was in direct contact with a person that tested positive for coronavirus.” He is symptom free. (The Hill). 

CNN: Biden campaign takes first significant step to formally ask for Secret Service protection.

Jonathan Easley, The Hill: GOP views next few weeks as critical for Trump.

> California: Multiple outlets projected that Sanders officially has won the California primary more than a week after the primary took place. According to The New York Times, with 95 percent of delegates allocated, Sanders won 210 delegates, while Biden took home 162.  

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland officials considering preparations for election by mail in response to coronavirus outbreak.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

 

OPINION

White House payroll tax cut would counteract coronavirus downturn, by Alfredo Ortiz, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/38NjMX0  

There are reasons to be optimistic regarding the coronavirus, by Megan McArdle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2TKxmGm

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 9 a.m.  

The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m.

The president meets at 1:30 p.m. with industry executives about COVID-19 responses.  

Economic indicator: The University of Michigan's gauge of consumer confidence will offer an early look at household reactions to the coronavirus. The report on U.S. consumer sentiment this month will be released at 10 a.m.

Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections. 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

ELSEWHERE

Iran-backed militia in Iraq: The U.S. launched airstrikes in Iraq on Thursday against  the Iranian-backed Shiite militia members considered responsible for killing and wounding American and British troops at a base north of Baghdad, according to the Pentagon. The Department of Defense said that multiple strikes by U.S. fighter jets hit five locations, with the Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities serving as the main target (The Associated Press).

Courts: A U.S. judge on Thursday ordered former Army private Chelsea ManningChelsea Elizabeth ManningHistory is on Edward Snowden's side: Now it's time to give him a full pardon Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology Justice Department announces superseding indictment against Wikileaks' Assange MORE released from jail following her Wednesday suicide attempt while in custody. She had been incarcerated for 11 months on civil contempt charges for her refusal to testify in the government’s probe of WikiLeaks. While serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010, Manning shared thousands of classified State and Defense department cables with WikiLeaks. The judge said he ordered Manning freed because the grand jury, in that case, is no longer active (The Washington Post). 

More Congress: Senators say they expect authorization for federal surveillance programs to lapse on Sunday. Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEnd the American military presence in Somalia Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (R-Utah) are playing hardball as they drive a legislative battle in the Senate down to the wire. McConnell took a veiled shot at the two for forcing a temporary gap in U.S. intelligence for what he said are "political reasons" (The Hill). ...Here’s a look at the GOP lawmakers who are vying to replace Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Trump tests negative for COVID-19 on day of debate The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Iran, Russia election bombshell; final Prez debate tonight MORE (R-N.C.) as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee following his decision to become Trump’s next White House chief of staff (The Hill).  

State watch: The bygone era of telegraphs ended in Florida on Thursday with something other than a flicker, perhaps a snicker, The Associated Press reports. Tackling some legislative house cleaning, the Florida Senate sent the governor a bill to remove a dusty chapter from state statutes dealing with telegraphs, including $50 fines for not promptly delivering messages.

THE CLOSER

And finally …   Morning Report readers are on top of the latest news of the day, especially about non-coronavirus topics (admittedly few and far between this week).

Here’s who aced Thursday’s quiz: Luther Berg, Daniel Bachhuber, Candi Cee, Austin Sanders, William Chittam, John Donato and Patrick Kavanagh.

Quizzers knew that Bernie Sanders didn’t win a single county in Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi.

Meadows will become Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff.

Hannah Ann got engaged to Peter Weber on Tuesday’s finale of “The Bachelor” before breaking up with him.

Jack Dorsey will remain as CEO of Twitter after a pair of billion-dollar investment deals were struck.

Finally, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was eliminated from Fox’s “The Masked Singer” on Wednesday night.