The Hill's Morning Report - Trump shifts his tone on coronavirus




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The coronavirus is now moving through 49 states and may remain the “invisible enemy” for five or more months, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE conceded on Monday. If the U.S. economy is not already in a recession, that prospect looks more likely, he added during a grim news conference.


Administration officials urged Americans to try to halt the spread of COVID-19 by limiting all group gatherings to 10 or fewer people for the next 15 days as cities, states and counties ordered their own mandatory restrictions to send hundreds of millions of Americans home as a way to halt the nation’s transmissions, especially to the most physically frail.


READ the new federal guidance, which stops short of a national quarantine with mandatory internal travel restrictions, steps that many public health experts have recommended.


The United States counts at least 4,661 confirmed cases of the virus this morning, and 85 deaths.


“It’s bad, it’s bad,” Trump said he explained to his teenage son, Barron.


The New York Times: For every known case of coronavirus, another five to 10 cases are out there undetected, a new study finds.


The New York Times: A British coronavirus study of potential U.S. risks from the coronavirus projects 2.2 million deaths in the absence of long-running restrictions on population mobility and activities. 


“We don’t have a clear exit strategy,” said Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, one of the authors of the British study. “We’re going to have to suppress this virus — frankly, indefinitely — until we have a vaccine.


The president — following weeks of upbeat predictions that the coronavirus would soon be contained in the United States and leave little wreckage in its wake — conceded that the virus may have put the brakes on U.S. economic growth. Kevin Hassett, the former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the “odds of a global recession are close to 100 percent right now.” A million jobs could be lost nationwide this month, he added (CNN).


Working with evident urgency, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNavarro, Mnuchin clashed in front of Trump in Oval Office over TikTok: WaPo Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE on Monday succeeded in untangling details in a House measure in time to see it approved for a second time in four days, clearing the multi-billion-dollar coronavirus response bill for Senate action as early as today (The Hill). 


Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief Postal Service says it lost .2 billion over three-month period MORE (D-N.Y.) (pictured below) urged Congress to move next to adopt a proposed $750 billion stimulus measure, which would resemble in size the rescue package adopted after prolonged partisan bickering on Capitol Hill following the financial crisis of 2008-2009. 


White House national economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE said Trump is open to an $800 billion rescue if it also included a payroll tax holiday.


The president said the federal government is “going to back the airline industry 100 percent” — a statement that set off some political hand-wringing during an election year about potential federal bailouts and government choices of winners and losers using taxpayer funds.


“Investors are looking around hoping, praying, that there will be a big fiscal package yet to come from Washington, but getting nervous that it might not,” David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial in Boston, told Reuters.


The Hill: Mnuchin on Monday pitched Senate GOP on a third coronavirus measure, and after the discussion, Republican Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election US intelligence says Russia seeking to 'denigrate' Biden MORE (Fla.) said the Senate is “going to have to move very quickly” to enact help for small businesses and airlines.


Alarm rose within companies, banks and among investors on Monday as panicked selling on Wall Street continued to signal deep uncertainty about a new American era in which people stop traveling, shopping and socializing outside their homes. Analysts grew more alarmed as the Federal Reserve’s Sunday efforts to keep the financial system operating with infusions of capital proved no match for a public health emergency that remains untamed. Some investors and economists have begun to gauge the chances of a U.S. credit crisis and the risks of a protracted recession morphing into an economic depression (Reuters).


Trump, who told Americans on Sunday “relax, we’re doing great,” vowed during a Monday conference call with governors that the administration will back their needs for more hospital supplies and equipment, but he urged them to tap their own supply chains to get more ventilators for life support and hospital respirators to help sick patients still able to breathe on their own. 


Responding to a plea from New York’s governor, Trump said he was weighing whether the federal government should open field hospitals to absorb some of the patients public health experts, immunologists and virologists believe could soon overwhelm America’s hospitals.


“We’re looking into it very strongly,” he added.


The Hill: Stocks take worst losses since the 1987 crash as the Dow plunges nearly 3,000 points.


The Associated Press: U.S. officials point to foreign disinformation used to stoke fear about the pandemic.


The Washington Post: How did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fall so far behind the world with a critical testing phase of the U.S. COVID-19 response? Poor design, inflexible thinking, manufacturing problems and flawed results appear to be involved.





CORONAVIRUS & STATES: States and cities continued to raise the bar and closed high-occupancy locations on Monday as they worked to combat the spread of COVID-19. 


San Francisco and its surrounding areas took the most notable step on Monday as six Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place directive (San Francisco Chronicle). The order affects nearly 7 million people and allows residents to leave their homes only to get food or medicine or for outings considered necessities. The mandate is in effect for three weeks starting today. 


“We must move aggressively and immediately,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D). “History will not forgive us for waiting an hour more.”


The order affects San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties (The Associated Press). 


“We know these measures will significantly disrupt people’s day to day lives, but they are absolutely necessary,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) said in a statement. “This is going to be a defining moment for our city and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside.”


The Bay Area action came on the heels of orders in states and cities to close businesses in which people congregate. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey announced on Monday that all non essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms, had to close on Monday night. Restaurants and bars are permitted to offer takeout and food delivery. 


The effort in the New York metropolitan area comes as the virus continues to spread throughout the region. In New York City alone, the number of confirmed cases nearly tripled from Sunday to Monday. It also came amid a continued feud between Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), with Cuomo accusing Trump of not doing enough at the federal level to help states. His comments came after Trump tweeted that Cuomo needs to “do more.” 


“It’s chaos. I think it actually feeds the feeling that the country’s out of control,” Cuomo said during a conference call with other governors. “There is no clear direction, there is no clear path.”


Specifically, Cuomo called on Trump to order the Army Corps of Engineers to build field hospitals to handle the expected surge in COVID-19 patients. The president told reporters he’s weighing that recommendation (NBC News). 


In the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) found herself in a public fight with a local restaurant group that signaled it would defy her call to close all restaurants and bars outside of takeout and delivery services. However, the Hill Restaurant Group, which owns and operates seven locations across Capitol Hill, announced that it will comply with the mayor’s order, adding that doing so will likely put most of those locations out of business (The Hill). 


Reid Wilson, The Hill: States lead, unevenly, on coronavirus response. 


The Associated Press: Cinemas across the United States close because of the pandemic.


The Hill: New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Key 48 hours loom as negotiators push for relief deal Overnight Health Care: Fauci says family has faced threats | Moderna to charge to a dose for its vaccine | NYC adding checkpoints to enforce quarantine New York City adding 'key entry point' checkpoints to enforce quarantine MORE (D) defends going to the gym amid the outbreak: “I need exercise to be able to stay healthy and make decisions.”


With more Americans hunkered down, Amazon wants to hire an additional 100,000 workers as it looks to deal with the surge in orders from a rise in online shopping. 


The online behemoth also announced that it will give a temporary $2-per-hour boost to hourly employees through the end of April, including those in its warehouses, delivery centers and Whole Foods grocery stores. All of those individuals already make at least $15 an hour. 


“We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year,” said Dave Clark, who oversees Amazon’s warehouse and delivery network.


The pay raise news comes a week after Amazon altered its time-off policies for hourly workers, headlined by its plans to pay hourly workers for up to two weeks if they had the virus or were forced to be quarantined (The Associated Press).







POLITICS: The Ohio Director of Health ordered late Monday night that the polls close ahead of the state’s primary contests, citing the coronavirus and the CDC’s guidelines recommending that no more than 50 people should be gathered at a single location, effectively postponing the Democratic primary contest. 


The decision, which was announced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), came after 24 hours of back-and-forth over whether the primary would be held or not. Earlier Monday, DeWine called for the primary to be postponed until June 2, with Ohioans being able to submit absentee ballots until then. However, a Franklin County judge ruled that the primary must go on, before Dr. Amy Acton, the health director, deemed the virus a “health emergency” and closed the polls.


"While the polls will be closed tomorrow, Secretary of State Frank LaRose will seek a remedy through the courts to extend voting options so that every voter who wants to vote will be granted that opportunity," DeWine said in a statement.


The news became official early this morning when the Ohio Supreme Court denied a legal challenge opposing the state’s decision to delay the primary (The Columbus Dispatch). 


With Ohio seemingly out of the picture, Florida, Illinois and Arizona will all make their marks tonight on the Democratic primary between former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Trump executive order is 'a reckless war on Social Security' Trump got into testy exchange with top GOP donor Adelson: report Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes The Hill's Campaign Report: US officials say Russia, China are looking to sow discord in election Warren urges investment in child care workers amid pandemic MORE (I-Vt.), with Biden looking to take a commanding lead in the delegate race and effectively end the primary battle.


Between the four states, 577 delegates are up for grabs, the third most to be handed out on a single day of the primary behind only Super Tuesday and April 28, when many mid-Atlantic states will vote, with Biden a double-digit favorite to win all four states and the lion’s share of delegates in the process. 


However, most of the focus remains on the impact of the virus and containing it. As Jonathan Easley writes in his preview of tonight’s contests, state officials say they are taking precautions to make sure that people can vote safely despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning against gatherings of 50 or more people. The CDC guidance also raises questions about the safety of going forward with elections that could leave people standing in line and then casting ballots alongside dozens of other people, both tonight and in the future. 


However, no other states will hold their primaries this month due to the epidemic, with some states set to vote in April looking into holding their contests later in the primary calendar. 


Meanwhile, the president argued Monday that the primaries should not be bumped.


“Well, I'd leave that up to the states. It's a big thing, postponing an election,” Trump said. “I think postponing elections is not a very good thing. I think postponing is unnecessary.”


The Hill: Biden allies see Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports MORE (D-Mass.) as potential running mate.


The Washington Post: Biden’s promise to choose a woman veep reignites hopes of a female president.


NBC News: Joe Biden wins Washington state primary.


The Wall Street Journal: Biden plans show how party’s center has shifted left.





CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: As of this morning, the death toll from COVID-19 worldwide is 7,155, and confirmed cases number at least 182,424 in 155 countries, according to the latest information.


> Italy: As the death toll from the virus surpassed 2,000 people on Monday in Europe’s hardest-hit nation, the Italian government approved $28 billion in spending measures to prop up its increasingly fragile economy. The entire country has been on lockdown since last week in a last-ditch effort to try to mitigate the contagion. In 24 hours, fatalities spiked 19 percent, but the number of new confirmed cases of the virus began to slow for the first time since the outbreak that was first recognized there on Feb. 21 (Reuters). 


> France: French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBeirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally Lebanese police fire tear gas at protesters in wake of explosion France to require coronavirus tests for those entering the country from US MORE on Monday ordered tough restrictions on people’s movement in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, and said the French army would be called upon to help move the sick to hospitals (Reuters). This morning, France has at least 6,655 confirmed cases of the virus and has reported 148 fatalities.


> United Kingdom: Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his countrymen on Monday that “everyone” should stop all non essential air travel and halt all “non essential” contact and exposure among others because of the rise in COVID-19 cases in Great Britain (BBC).  The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.K. stands at 1,553, with 56 reported deaths, according to the latest data.


> Iran: The virus’s rampage soared on Monday with 129 additional deaths, contributing to what for weeks has been the worst outbreak in the Middle East. COVID-19 which has resulted in 853 fatalities in Iran and 14,991 cases, infected members of Iran’s government and shows no signs of slowing there (The Associated Press). … U.S.-Iran tensions are escalating at the same time a major debate grips the U.S. military: Does the coronavirus crisis make Iran more dangerous, or does it render Tehran less likely to lash out? (The Hill).


> Hong Kong: A city that imposed tough social-distancing restrictions and has been rewarded with success in keeping COVID-19 transmission at bay announced it will quarantine for 14 days all people entering the city starting midnight on Thursday as an extra measure of precaution (Reuters).


> Australia: As part of the international race to understand COVID-19 and develop an effective vaccine, Australian researchers report strides in understanding how humans sicken with the virus, which allows them to predict who is likely to recover — and when. The information is being shared around the world to hasten the development of a vaccine (Reuters). 




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Investing in healthy workers can help offset corona crisis setbacks, by Justin B. Hollander, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Is the coronavirus relief deal sufficient to solve the crisis? by Aparna Mathur and Angela Rachidi, opinion contributors, The Hill. 


The House will return next Monday after a week-long recess.  


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate may consider coronavirus economic relief legislation when it is received from the House.


The president leads a conference call with restaurant executives at 9:30 a.m. to discuss the pandemic. Trump will meet at 2 p.m. in the Cabinet Room with tourism industry executives. Ninety minutes later, the president will host a conference call with supply retailers and wholesalers to talk about COVID-19 and responses. Trump will meet in the Oval Office with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBeirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally Advocacy groups come out against Trump pick for ambassador to Germany US pledges million in disaster aid to Lebanon MORE at 4:30 p.m.


Pence will participate in a meeting of the president’s coronavirus task force and join a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. at the White House. 


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 or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


Courts: Justices postponed two weeks of Supreme Court arguments that had been set to start next week, including two cases on Trump’s financial records. No date has been set for their return (NBC News). … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (R-Ky.) and other Republicans have reached out to judges appointed by former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush to tell them if they are thinking about retiring, the next few months are a good time to do it to ensure Republicans fill the vacancies this year (The New York Times).


Gun sales: Around the country during a pandemic, gun sales are surging (Los Angeles Times).  


Sports: The Kentucky Derby is set to announce today that it is postponing the 146th annual “Run for the Roses” from May 2 until September 5 due to the virus. This is the first time the “The Run for the Roses” will be postponed since World War II (The Courier-Journal)The NFL was the only show in town Monday as it made waves on multiple fronts. The league announced that the annual NFL draft will no longer be held in public in Las Vegas but will still go on in another form (ESPN). More importantly for football fans, Monday marked the first day of NFL free agency, leading to a feeding frenzy of trades and signings for teams. Leading the headlines was the Houston Texans’ decision to deal star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in a package of players and draft picks (ESPN).


And finally … During a pandemic that spreads national upheaval and the sort of fear that reminds many of polio or life during World War II, it’s time to help neighbors, health care workers and vulnerable family members.


There will be books written about love and life in the time of COVID-19. But for now, it’s enough to applaud Bob Shellard of Connecticut, who was forced to spend his 67th wedding anniversary apart from his wife, Nancy, who is a patient in a Connecticut nursing home where visitors are temporarily barred because of the risks of transmission. 


"It makes me feel bad because I want her down with me and I know she can't be," said Shellard, who is accustomed to visiting his wife every day. 


On Saturday, he clutched a large sign, a mass of balloons and leaned on his walker outside the nursing home to catch his wife’s eye from her window. "I've loved you 67 years and still do. Happy Anniversary," his message said. 


His wife waved and blew kisses to her husband from her second-floor window, and their situation inspired headlines in at least two states (NBC4 New York).