The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming

 

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Friday. 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!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported this week: Monday, 2,513; Tuesday, 3,170; Wednesday, 4,081; Thursday, 5,137. Friday, 6,058.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE said he was taken aback by Thursday’s latest report showing that nearly 10 million Americans lost their jobs over two weeks in March because of the idling of the country to combat the coronavirus. 

“I think it’s terrible,” he said. “All of a sudden, they go to having no job in one day. … I know better than anybody, I just, I know what they’re going through, and it’s horrible. But you know what I want to do, I want to be able to get them back fast.”

Wall Street analysts and economists were similarly stunned. Americans filing for unemployment insurance inundated states last week with 6.65 million new claims, the Labor Department reported. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones thought there might be half that number of filings across the country, similar to nearly 3.3 million claims filed in the first wave of trouble in March as the economy lurched to a halt.

Before the coronavirus, the worst week for jobless claims was 695,000 in 1982. The peak during the Great Recession of 2009 was 665,000 (CNBC).

April’s unemployment report could soar well beyond what the country experienced in 2009 and some analysts believe the rate of unemployment could go as high as 15 percent when the assessment of this month is completed, the most dramatic furloughing of workers seen in the post-World War II era. Talk of a short, shallow recovery in a few months ended on Thursday, to be replaced with anxious discussions about a long, painful U.S. recession or even a depression and many months of rudderless, jobless families told to dodge a deadly virus by remaining indoors.   

The Hill: Unemployment claims hit record as COVID-19 grips the U.S. economy. 

The focus in Washington remains twofold: halt the rapid spread of the virus by the summer and rush federal funds enacted last month into the bank accounts of millions of lower- and middle-class individuals and families and lash small businesses to generous bank loans to keep them afloat for a few months.

On Thursday, Trump and his public health advisers confirmed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are debating new guidance that informs some Americans they can wear cloth masks to guard against asymptomatic virus transmission (STAT, The Hill and Yahoo News). Trump said the government’s recommendation would not be mandatory. “They can pretty much decide for themselves, if they want,” he said of personal preferences to wear face coverings.  

Deborah Birx, an immunologist and physician who coordinates policy with the president’s coronavirus task force, said the mask issue was still under debate because infectious disease specialists worry that face coverings can give people a false sense of protection when there is no scientific evidence that makeshift masks alone — without social distancing, hand washing and avoidance of face-touching — effectively prevent transmission (The Hill). 

Confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed the 1 million mark on Thursday, and the United States has reported at least 245,573 infected people. Coronavirus deaths in the country over a 24-hour period exceeded 1,000 for the first time.

Americans who are without work or prospects of future work may have to wait up to 20 weeks for stimulus payouts to arrive by mail, if the IRS cannot reach eligible individuals through direct deposit to bank accounts (The Hill).  

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues On The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Schumer slams Trump's Rose Garden briefing on China as 'pathetic' MORE says the first coronavirus relief payments can be direct-deposited within two weeks in instances where additional paperwork is not required (The Hill).  

The Hill: America’s newly unemployed may not see expanded benefits for weeks.

NBC News: Banks warn of “utter chaos” in the new federal small business lending program.

Federal efforts to help supply states such as New York and New Jersey with needed medical supplies as the death toll rises did little to cheer the president. “It is really a mess,” Trump said while describing the federal challenges of locating, purchasing and shipping critical medical supplies to states’ hospitals, which are buckling under the strains of caring for thousands of critically ill and contagious coronavirus patients. 

The New York Times: Where America didn’t stay home even as the virus spread.

The Washington Post: As virus takes hold, resistance to stay-at-home orders remains widespread, exposing political and social rifts.  

The Hill: The president says he will expand use of the Defense Production Act to build more ventilators.

The Hill: Trump tests negative for COVID-19 after second test on Thursday.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death 5 things to know about US-China tensions over Hong Kong Pelosi calls Trump's decision to withdraw US from WHO 'an act of extraordinary senselessness' MORE (D-Calif.) announced Thursday the creation of a new House select committee that is tasked with overseeing the massive federal response to COVID-19 and how the $2.2 trillion relief package passed last week by Congress is spent. 

The Speaker put House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) in charge of the bipartisan panel, which will be charged with examining “all aspects of the federal response to the coronavirus and ensure the taxpayer's dollars are being wisely and efficiently spent.” 

“The panel will root out waste, fraud and abuse; it will protect against price-gouging, profiteering and political favoritism,” Pelosi told reporters on a press call. “The fact is, we do need transparency and accountability” (The Hill).

The Hill: Top GOP lawmakers push back on need for special oversight committee for coronavirus aid.

The Associated Press: In time of crisis, Trump-Pelosi relationship remains broken.

With the jobless claims report out, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) found himself in a public back-and-forth with the president after he urged the Trump administration to quickly implement bolstered unemployment aid included in the relief package, saying they need to “move heaven and earth” to do so (The Hill). Trump fired back later in the day arguing that if Schumer and Democrats hadn’t been focused on impeachment, “then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy’” (The Hill). The New York Democrat said the letter came after a call between the two. 

"I spoke to the president late this afternoon and explained it and the result is this letter. So I'm just appalled. You know I say to the president just stop the pettiness. People are dying and so, President Trump, we need leadership. We need to get the job done. Stop the pettiness," Schumer told MSNBC on Thursday night (The Hill).

Meanwhile, talks centering around a “phase four” bill received a boost as the president reiterated that he supports a potential infrastructure package that Pelosi has been pushing over the past week.

“We will probably do more,” Trump said during Thursday’s press conference. “I think infrastructure would be a fantastic thing to do.” 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, talks about a second potential trillion dollar package are in their infancy, but that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from floating their proposals for the legislation or various industries pushing for help toward their eventual recovery. Among those ideas, along with infrastructure, would be to aid state and local response to the virus and more cash payments to Americans. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Scale of economic crisis sends shudders through the nation.

Axios: White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump to return to Florida for rescheduled SpaceX launch Pence names new press secretary House leaders take vote-counting operations online MORE, on the job since Tuesday, is considering hiring a new press secretary and has several candidates in mind.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

U.S. POLITICS: The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Thursday that it is delaying its national convention a month from July to August amid increased concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. 

As scooped by The Hill’s Rafael Bernal, Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley, the quadrennial event will now take place over four days starting on Aug. 17 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. It was originally scheduled July 13-16.

A source close to Joe BidenJoe BidenDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points Biden: 'We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us' MORE’s campaign said that the former vice president pushed to have the convention moved — which he indicated on Tuesday night — while keeping the same format. However, the Democratic National Convention Committee says that it is still determining the “most appropriate structure for this historic event,” possibly indicating that changes to limit the number of people in attendance might be in the works. 

“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” said Joe Solmonese, the CEO of the Democratic National Convention. “During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders.” 

As The Hill reported on Wednesday, convention officials are considering limiting the in-person convention to delegates and essential party leaders. There is also chatter about having a single delegate from each state attend the convention in person, with the rest casting their ballots by digital proxy.

The change means that if the conventions go off as currently constructed, there will be a quick turnaround between the two confabs as the Republican National Convention is scheduled to take place Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C. 

While the Democratic convention has been pushed back, Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary is still scheduled despite virus-induced delays of contests in other states. 

In a Thursday ruling, a federal judge extended the Wisconsin deadline to return absentee ballots until April 13, and pushed the deadline to request absentee ballots one day until Friday. However, U.S. District Judge William Conley did not move the primary despite an outcry from elected officials across the state (CNN).  

Conley criticized Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) and the GOP-held legislature in his ruling, saying that it was up to them to postpone the primary and not the court.  

"Without doubt, the April 7 election day will create unprecedented burdens not just for aspiring voters, but also for poll workers, clerks, and indeed the state," Conley said in a 53-page ruling. "As much as the court would prefer that the Wisconsin Legislature and Governor consider the public health ahead of any political considerations, that does not appear in the cards. Nor is it appropriate for a federal district court to act as the state's chief health official by taking that step for them."

Wisconsin is under a “stay-at-home” directive as the virus continues to spread in the state. As of Thursday night, 20 Wisconsinites have died from COVID-19. 

Politico: Wisconsin Democrats apoplectic over governor's handling of Tuesday primary.

Politico: Biden poised for Wisconsin blowout.

The New York Times: President’s campaign calls former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe Department of Justice should step aside in the George Floyd case The Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate MORE “delusional” for tying himself to Trump.

 

***

STATE WATCH: Florida, Michigan, Texas and Louisiana are likely to be the next coronavirus hotspots in the United States if officials can’t get a handle on the surging number of cases (The Hill). 

The Hill: Americans are giving governors high marks for responses to the coronavirus pandemic while reviews of the federal interventions are more mixed.    

> Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee (R) issued a stay-at-home order for Tennessee residents as the federal government attempts to stem the spread of COVID-19. “Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” Lee said in a statement on Thursday. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities” (The Hill). 

> Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp (R), while announcing a statewide stay-at-home order in Georgia, said he only recently became aware that the coronavirus is spread by asymptomatic people (The Hill).

> Florida: The Sunshine State, after urging from Washington, allowed the Zaandam cruise ship and a second vessel, the Rotterdam, to dock on Thursday at a Fort Lauderdale port after a lengthy ordeal at sea. Ambulances were standing by to transport sick passengers (The New York Times). 

***

CORONAVIRUS, SCIENCE & INGENUITY: Scientists around the world are collaborating, not draping themselves in national or institutional flags to tackle COVID-19. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt (The New York Times).  

Vaccines: Dozens of companies are chasing a vaccine, which is considered the only weapon that can ensure the world gets beyond COVID-19. Australian scientists, like many others around the globe, have begun animal tests of two potential coronavirus vaccines. The first results from those animal tests could be revealed in June (BBC). … Scientists with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine on Thursday announced a potential vaccine. Scientists say they’ve tested it in mice and it produced antibodies specific to the novel coronavirus at quantities they believe could be enough to neutralize it (WJAC).  

An effective, safe and widely available vaccine will not be available to the public this year and if perfected by next year may still be in scarce supply, compared with the billions of people who could benefit (The Guardian).

Silent “carriers”: “We know so many people are asymptomatic,” Vice President Pence said on Thursday. Indeed, scientists are intrigued by the high percentage of people infected with COVID-19 who have no symptoms and unknowingly infect others (The New York Times). Researchers believe between 10 percent and 25 percent of new transmissions occur this way. This surprising realization has amended early assumptions about who transmits the virus and when, and it has increased the clamor for mass testing (ABC News). 

Masks: Infectious disease experts are not sold on the idea of the general public wearing masks and respirators during the coronavirus emergency for three reasons: They insist there is no scientific evidence that masks worn by adults and children in public settings are effective in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19; mask-wearers may be tempted to relax social distancing efforts because of a false sense of safety; and they say the supply of medical-grade surgical masks should be preserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOcasio-Cortez rips de Blasio after police cruiser drives into crowd of protestors Cuomo calls Brooklyn clashes 'disturbing,' asks attorney general to review NYPD officer under investigation following video of female protester being shoved MORE (D) on Thursday encouraged the use of cloth face coverings by the public while outside, and in Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) created “L.A. Protects” to harness the garment industry in his city to manufacture 5 million non-medical masks while asking everyone in his city to wear makeshift versions in the belief that all COVID-19 mitigation efforts are worth trying. 

Around the country, thousands of home crafters are sewing masks to donate to hospitals to help employees extend the life of their scarce N95 respirator protection. Instructions to make face gear abound on YouTube and online websites, devised by craft and fabric stores (https://bit.ly/2UzfJcR and https://bit.ly/3bM738U). A surgeon also created a video with sewing instructions to encourage donations of homemade masks to hospitals https://bit.ly/3bKaGMn.

 

 

What did they know? Early on, the World Health Organization relied on China for its available information about a new coronavirus causing pneumonia. “According to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people,” WHO reported on Jan. 9. Even top U.S. experts underestimated the risks. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview published on Jan. 24, “It’s not going to spread all over the world and put everyone at risk. It’s possible it could be in many different countries, but even then it’ll be a limited number of cases” (Mpls St Paul magazine). 

In the beginning, there was a bat. The origin of COVID-19 remains a scientific question mark. But researchers believe the culprit was more likely a bat than a scaly, endangered pangolin. The origin is important to scientists who want to prevent the next global contagion. “We hear that nobody could have predicted a pandemic,” said Kristian Andersen with the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at California’s Scripps Research Institute, “except for everyone who works in infectious diseases.” Andersen wrote about the coronavirus’s possible origins for Nature (The New York Times).

Sleuthing with an app: COVID-19 moves so fast during community spread that the traditional techniques of contact tracing can seem too slow. “A contact-tracing App which builds a memory of proximity contacts and immediately notifies contacts of positive cases can achieve epidemic control if used by enough people. By targeting recommendations to only those at risk, epidemics could be contained without need for mass quarantines (‘lock-downs’) that are harmful to society” (Science and STAT).

DIY & 3D printing: From Ireland to Seattle, makers and engineers are creating open-source versions of much-needed medical equipment (The New York Times). A Maryland couple is among Americans relying on a 3D printer to turn out medical supplies during the pandemic (WTOP).

 

 

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIn a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia Here's why reporters are not asking the White House about 'Obamagate' Postponed Russian World War II victory parade now set for June MORE on Thursday ordered most Russians to stay off work until the end of the month as part of a partial economic shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Speaking in a televised address to the nation, He emphasized that all employees should continue earning their regular salaries during the period. Putin said some essential industries will keep operating, and grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open (The Associated Press).

> United Kingdom: British Health Minister Mark Hancock vowed on Thursday that the number of daily COVID-19 tests performed will increase from 10,000 per day to 100,000 by the end of the month after criticism that the government did not have mass testing earlier in a bid to slow the virus’s spread.

“I am now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month. That is the goal and I am determined that we will get there,” Hancock told reporters.

The appearance by Hancock was his first since testing positive for the virus. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tested positive and remains in self-isolation inside 10 Downing Street. As of Thursday night, there are more than 34,000 confirmed cases in the U.K., and 2,926 deaths (Reuters).

> Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE tested negative for coronavirus on Thursday after receiving a second scare of the week when his health minister tested positive for the virus. 

Netanyahu tested negative initially on Monday, but was re-tested after Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife tested positive. Litzman has appeared alongside Netanyahu to give COVID-19 updates. Out of caution, the prime minister will return to self-isolation for six more days (Reuters).

> Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte issued a stark warning for protestors and violators of the country’s strict lockdown: If you leave your home, you will be shot dead.

“I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there's violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead,” he said in a televised address. “Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose.”

Duterte’s remarks came after protestors hit the streets in Manila to demonstrate their angst about a lack of food since the country’s lockdown began two weeks ago; 20 demonstrators were arrested (CBS News).

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

New York Is the epicenter of the world, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2Jzax2j 

Get rid of the political party conventions, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/39BnkMs

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets for a pro forma session at 10 a.m.

The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Monday at 10 a.m. Votes are not scheduled until April 20.

The president receives his intelligence briefing at 11:30 a.m. He meets at 3 p.m. in the Cabinet Room with CEOs of oil companies and independent oil production companies to discuss declining global petroleum prices and markets.

Pence chairs a coronavirus task force meeting and participates in a daily press briefing at 5 p.m.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will release the employment report for March, which will reflect just a fraction of the millions of Americans who lost their jobs last month. The incomplete snapshot of the damage resulting from coronavirus mitigation efforts could nonetheless mark the first month since 2010 that employers shed more workers than they added, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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.



 

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ELSEWHERE

Petroleum: Trump on Thursday said global oil production could drop by 10 million to 15 million barrels a day as a result of talks between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Trump told CNBC he expects Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin to announce a deal. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, however, denied that Putin spoke with the prince (The Hill). Early on Thursday, the president tweeted, Just spoke to my friend MBS (Crown Prince) of Saudi Arabia, who spoke with President Putin of Russia, & I expect & hope that they will be cutting back approximately 10 Million Barrels, and maybe substantially more which, if it happens, will be GREAT for the oil & gas industry!” … Small U.S. oil producers have been hit hard by falling energy prices resulting from the coronavirus-infected economy, raising questions about their business survival. Analysts believe plummeting prices for oil put thousands of U.S. jobs at risk (The Hill).

 

 

Courts: A Pakistani court reversed the murder convictions for four men involved in the 2002 killing of Daniel Pearl, the late Wall Street Journal reporter. The decision overturned the crimes of Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born militant who had been convicted of murder and was given the death penalty. The reversal only convicted Sheikh of kidnapping and handed him a 7-year prison sentence (The Wall Street Journal). Sheikh was set to go free, along with the other three involved in the murder who were given life sentences, as he has served 18 years in prison already. However, Pakistani authorities detained the four men for the next three months, citing concerns that they may act “against the interest of the country” (Reuters). 

Federal fame is infectious: For a 79-year-old public servant and medical researcher, being enshrined in the Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee is an unusual honor. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries Don't move the COVID-19 goalpost Overnight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, well recognized in his field for more than 30 years, has had a new kind of fame thrust upon him during the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci Bobbleheads go on sale on the website today, with some of the proceeds to be donated to the American Hospital Association in support of the 100 Million Mask Challenge (The Hill). … Not to be outdone, Birx, the TV-wise immunologist in the White House, stirs admirers beyond her scientific smarts with celebrations of her scarf wardrobe. Her chic style and savoir faire inspired Instagram fandom, and the New York Post applauded her as a “maternal fashion icon America needs right now.”

THE CLOSER

And finally The Morning Report quiz this week was a write-in challenge, and plenty of readers recognized the photographs we selected from four iconic cities, offering glimpses of  the pandemic.  

Our visually savvy puzzlers who triumphed today: Daniel Bachhuber, Tim Burrack, Daniel McLellan, Chuck Schoenenberger, Patrick Kavanagh, Craig Comins, Robert Gerstle, Patrick Gilbert, Don Thompson, Tim Aiken, William Ricketts, Hollister Cantus, Richard Davis, SC Jenning, Robert Eastman, Luther Berg and John Donato. 

They recognized these cities in order: 

  1. Rome (Trevi Fountain, pictured below)
  2. San Francisco (Transamerica Pyramid) 
  3. Beijing (Forbidden City)
  4. Paris (Eiffel Tower)