The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Americans with COVID-19 immunity may lead US back to work
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Wednesday. 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 each morning this week: Monday, 9,648; Tuesday, 10,993; Wednesday 12,911.
“When I get to heaven, I'm gonna shake God's hand,
Thank him for more blessings than one man can stand.
Then I'm gonna get a guitar and start a rock-n-roll band,
Check into a swell hotel. Ain't the afterlife grand?”
― John Prine, “When I Get To Heaven”
Seizing on hopes of relief from coronavirus misery in states that took the brunt of the U.S. contagion, President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE, his infectious disease advisers and New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoOvernight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus Cuomo: New York City on track to start reopening week of June 8 MORE (D) on Tuesday said antibody tests will let much of America get back to work, most likely by the fall.
Amid discussions about where COVID-19 infections and fatalities are on the rise, officials said plans have begun to restart the idled economy.
Key to getting New York City, neighboring New Jersey and parts of Connecticut back to work will be antibody tests, Cuomo said, echoing the medical experts and researchers who want to see if COVID-19 survivors have the kind of immunity that could shield them from future outbreaks of the coronavirus and allow them to be on the front lines of the nation’s economic revival.
On Tuesday, the governor took aim at a goal that seems, this month at least, a distant reality: testing every person in the tri-state area to determine if they contracted COVID-19 and developed antibodies or if they dodged the virus and remain at risk of infection. The results of that kind of mass testing, Cuomo said, will be key to developing new guidance for his state.
Trump, who is impatient to shift beyond the worst of the pandemic and eagerly bats away any naysayers, demurred when asked if he’d formed a special economic task force to game out the gradual restart of the U.S. economy. “We want to get it open soon,” he told a reporter.
Appearing on Fox News with Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity scolds Ozarks partygoers: 'Could be a disaster' for vulnerable Americans Trump lashes out at Fox News after poll shows him trailing Biden Trump complains Fox News is 'doing nothing to help' him get reelected MORE hours later, Trump said he wanted to reopen the economy with “a big bang,” if possible. "We're looking at two concepts. We're looking at the concept where you open up sections and we're also looking at the concept where you open up everything" (The Hill).
Vice President Pence said the administration has a “dual track that the president has already initiated” among his economic advisers, businesses and states to be ready to ease stay-at-home advisories as soon as the public health data improves. Returning students and teachers to classrooms “will be part of what we’re looking at,” he added.
Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today will issue new guidance for people who have been in proximity to someone confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 who is asymptomatic. That guidance, which will be useful as people get back to work, the vice president said, will recommend that individuals in that situation wear facial protection in public or around other people and monitor their temperatures regularly.
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 Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when asked about whether parents can plan for the school year this fall, suggested that while summer plans will remain in flux, life for many families will feel different in five months.
“I fully expect that by the time we get to the fall ... this will be under control enough” to plan because the pandemic situation by then “will not be like now,” Fauci said. “There is no absolute prediction, but I think we’re going to be in good shape,” he said (The Hill).
“It’s just the creativity and the ingenuity of the American people to phase back without just saying,’OK, all bets are off. We’re going right back to normal,’ “ Fauci explained during a Wall Street Journal podcast. “There’s an antibody test that will be widely distributed pretty soon, in the next few weeks, that will allow you to know whether or not you have been infected. ...Then you can hug the heck out of your grandmother and not worry about it.”
Deborah Birx, who coordinates health policy for the president’s coronavirus task force and is an immunologist, cautioned Americans not to jump the gun to try to test their own antibody status by searching the internet and buying whatever they can find. “Please wait until we have those tests available and validated,” she said.
The Hill: CDC begins testing blood for antibody coronavirus treatment.
On Tuesday, Cuomo put out an all-call to companies that can manufacture tens of millions of reliable antibody tests for his region, noting that he’s coordinating with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut to plan for the eventual return of millions of workers to the Big Apple.
In Finland, for example, random antibody testing of the working-age populace has already begun, with a strategy in place to expand the testing to everyone else in the country gradually (YLE). Germany announced last month that it will use “immunity certificates” similar to vaccination certificates that will allow citizens who have coronavirus antibodies return to work (The Telegraph).
The U.S. economic fallout, meanwhile, continues to concern the president and members of Congress. Trump on Tuesday embraced the push for additional stimulus spending, including expansive infrastructure spending, which he said could benefit from low or zero interest rates. In theory, there’s momentum in Congress for a fourth phase of relief legislation, but Republicans and Democrats have different ideas about the ingredients, the price tag and the amount of time it would take to work out (The Hill).
One idea gaining traction among Democrats is suspension of mortgage payments, which would spiral into suspension of rent payments. The costs to the Treasury would be gargantuan, however.
Happening much more quickly in Congress, however, will be approval of additional federal appropriations for more small-business lending, with backing from Trump and the Treasury Department. The administration will ask for an additional $250 billion in funding for loans to small businesses to meet their scramble for relief after being hit hard by state and local stay-at-home orders (The Washington Post).
Without addressing the hardships among the nation’s small businesses, which include restaurants, bars, salons and small retail shops, the president pointed to the enormous volume of applications that seek to qualify for loans. “It’s really popular,” Trump said. “It’s hundreds of thousands of applications. They really like it.”
Asked on Tuesday if the administration believes a new infusion of funds will be enough for small business lending, which would bring the federal total to $600 billion, Trump said. “We’re going to find out.”
Separately, lawmakers and the IRS are beginning to focus on the potential for scams as millions of Americans prepare to receive federal stimulus deposits of $1,200 or more beginning this month and continuing into the fall. Lawmakers are encouraging Americans to be vigilant about scammers and fraudsters and urging federal agencies to formulate plans that can stop criminals from preying on vulnerable recipients (The Hill).
The Hill’s Memo: Coronavirus challenges, both political and medical, weigh heavily on Trump’s goal of reopening the American economy as soon as possible.
The Hill: Trump took aim on Tuesday at the World Health Organization (WHO), suggesting along with some GOP senators, that the United States will not appropriate additional cost-sharing without an examination of WHO’s stance toward China. Trump asserts that the global health organization is biased in favor of China and has been “wrong about a lot of things,” including the worldwide threat posed by COVID-19, which originated in China.
The Hill: The president, vice president and Fauci foreshadowed U.S. coronavirus data they said will show a heavy price paid by African Americans as measured by fatalities and serious respiratory distress when hospitalized with COVID-19. “They’re very nasty numbers,” Trump said.
Pence said the government is assembling the information from public health officials now, and Fauci said the results will be made public “as soon as we have enough data.”
African Americans suffer because of their overall health conditions, Fauci said, which often include diabetes, hypertension, asthma and other diseases that lead them to get into “serious trouble and die” at higher rates than other demographics when infected. The coronavirus, he added, “is shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is” that blacks in 2020 continue to experience stark health care disparities.
A Washington Post analysis of available data shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.
Washington, D.C., anticipates the peak of its contagion in May or June, and the normally tourist-focused city already is fighting violations of social distancing orders and seeks to strictly enforce stay-at-home instructions. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced that nearly 1 in 7 Washington residents is likely to be infected with the coronavirus by the end of the year, with a worst-case projection of more than 1,000 deaths based on disease models (The Associated Press).
The Hill: Hospitals are running short of the drugs that help coronavirus patients who must be intubated and connected to ventilators.
The Hill: Meanwhile, states continue to blame global supply chain shortages and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has become a rival with states for supplies, as the hunt continues to purchase sufficient personal protective equipment and ventilators during the pandemic.
To substitute for in-person gatherings this month, millions of people are using online company Zoom for virtual worship, funerals, celebrations, education and meetings (The Hill).
Self-isolation to mitigate the pathogen has rattled houses of worship across the United States. They worry about declining attendance and revenues as one of the busiest religious seasons of the year approaches. Small churches are particularly vulnerable (The Hill).
More administration news:
> West Wing: Trump and his new 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, announced a change-up in White House communications (The Hill). White House press secretary Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamPence names new press secretary McEnany: Prayer 'made a lot of difference' in 2016 election McEnany stamps her brand on White House press operation MORE will become first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump: 'No reason for violence' in George Floyd protests CNN coronavirus town hall to feature science author David Quammen, 'Empire' actress Taraji Henson The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases social media executive order as a 'big day' for 'fairness' MORE’s chief of staff, and Kayleigh McEnany moves over from the president’s campaign to become the fourth Trump press secretary (The Hill).
> Inspector generals: Trump, who has likened executive branch inspectors general to partisan spies, replaced the Pentagon’s watchdog, who as inspector general played an oversight role over the government’s $2.2 trillion in economic relief funding (The Hill). The president, selecting IGs he believes will be loyal to him, said he is nominating to the Senate seven candidates to serve as inspectors general around the agencies and departments.
> U.S. Navy: Acting Navy chief Thomas Modly resigned on Tuesday following nearly a week of controversy about his dismissal of USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier, who is recovering in Guam from infection with COVID-19 along with 172 of the sailors from the nuclear aircraft carrier. Modly publicly called Crozier “stupid” and later apologized under pressure before resigning. Trump said he had no role in Modly’s decision. “I think he did it just to end that problem,” the president said. Crozier, Trump repeated, “made a mistake” when he raised an alarm in writing about his sickened crew in a way that leaked to the news media (The Hill).
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: Wisconsin went ahead and held its primary election on Tuesday despite warnings from health experts and social distancing instructions while the coronavirus sweeps across the nation.
As The Hill’s Campaign Report noted, voters at polling locales across Wisconsin faced long lines at a reduced number of polling outlets, as the state dealt with a massive shortage of polling workers. Adding to the mess, the state elections commission is under pressure to count nearly 900,000 absentee ballots that have been returned so far, more than all the ballots cast during the 2016 election.
The winner of the Democratic primary contest between former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Biden: 'More than one African American woman' being considered for VP Liberal group asks Klobuchar to remove herself from VP consideration because of prosecutorial record MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe battle of two Cubas Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Ro Khanna Democrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA MORE (I-Vt.), plus a hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court race, will not be announced until April 13.
The primary contest took place after weeks of debate, court rulings and partisan squabbling over when and how it would go forward. On Monday, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) rolled out an executive order postponing the election until June. The order was blocked hours later by the state Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled shortly after that absentee ballots postmarked after election day are not to be counted.
Monday’s developments came days after a district judge declined to postpone the election, arguing the court did not have the ability and that it was the responsibility of the governor and the GOP-controlled legislature.
Despite the spread of COVID-19, some lawmakers were insisting that it was safe for voters to go to the polls.
“You are incredibly safe to go out,” Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) told reporters while wearing a full gown, gloves and mask. “Actually, there's less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store, or you went to Walmart, or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin.”
The New York Times: Why Wisconsin Republicans insisted on an election in a pandemic.
Wisconsin reported more than 2,500 confirmed cases of the virus, along with 92 deaths on Tuesday. According to The Associated Press, 49 of the deaths occurred in Milwaukee County, where voting lines were the longest.
Appearing on CNN after the polls closed, Biden criticized the decision to hold the primary.
“Well, my gut is that we shouldn’t have had the election in the first place,” Biden said (NPR).
The comments came just days after the former VP declined to say whether the election should go ahead. He told reporters during a virtual press conference that the decision was up to “the Wisconsin courts and folks to decide” (Daily Beast).
The Hill: Trump defends his mail-in ballot after calling vote-by-mail “corrupt.”
Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: What if the most important election of our lifetimes was the last one?
CNN: Biden describes his phone call with Trump about coronavirus response.
Kimberly Wehle, The Hill: Wisconsinites put their lives on the line after SCOTUS decision.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent his second night in the intensive care unit on Tuesday in “stable” condition as he continues his battle with the coronavirus (Business Insider).
According to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Johnson was breathing without assistance from a ventilator and was receiving oxygen. Raab told reporters on Tuesday night he was confident the prime minister would recover, labeling him a “fighter.”
“I’m confident he’ll pull through because if there’s one thing I know about this prime minister, he’s a fighter, and he’ll be back at the helm leading us through this crisis in short order,” Raab said (BBC).
According to Downing Street this morning, Johnson is being kept at St Thomas' Hospital “for close monitoring,” while Health Minister Edward Argar said that the prime minister is “comfortable, he's stable, he's in good spirits” (BBC).
As of today, there are nearly 56,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the United Kingdom, while the death toll rose to 6,159 — with 786 fatalities on Tuesday, up from 439 on Monday.
Per Johnson’s directive, Raab is deputising for the prime minister “whenever necessary.” That includes leading the daily meetings of the COVID-19 “war cabinet.”
> China: Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, ended it’s lockdown on Tuesday after nearly 11 weeks as Chinese officials have allowed city residents to once again travel in and out of the city.
During the 76-day lockdown, Wuhan residents were allowed to leave their homes only for essential tasks, including to buy food, while some were allowed to leave the city only if they had proper paperwork showing a clean bill of health and a letter explaining where they were going (The Associated Press).
The reopening of Wuhan, home to 11 million, will be watched by countries across the globe as they weigh reopening cities, states and sectors of the economy. The city was responsible for 61 percent of all reported cases in China.
The New York Times: China ends Wuhan lockdown, but normal life is a distant dream.
Reuters: China's Wuhan ends its coronavirus lockdown, but elsewhere one begins.
> Italy: The number of new cases comprised the smallest increase since mid-March and the death count continued to shrink on Tuesday as the nation with the highest death count sees light at the end of the tunnel from the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases rose by 3,039 to 135,586, with the daily increase falling by more than 500 from the day prior as 3,599 new cases were announced on Monday. The increase was the smallest dating back to March 13 — a 25-day period — which was only four days into the national lockdown.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Italy rose by 604 on Tuesday, down from the 636 deaths reported on Monday, and the national count rose to 17,127 (Reuters).
Reuters: Impossible dilemma? World watches Italy as businesses plead to return to work.
> Israel: The Israeli government mandated that those in public must wear masks or facial coverings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The announcement comes as the government also clamped down to prevent large family gatherings for Passover this week by banning nonessential out-of-town travel from 3 p.m. today until 7 a.m. on Thursday. Between those times, Israelis are forbidden from moving more than 100 yards away from home, outside of essential activities such as trips to the grocery stores, pharmacies or for work (Reuters).
> India: Indian officials are looking at the possibility of loosening lockdown restrictions in certain parts of the countries that have not been hit hard by COVID-19 while sealing off hot spots, including in New Delhi, Mumbai and parts of the south. Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi issued a lockdown of the nation’s 1.3 billion on March 24 and is considering lifting it in parts of the nation when the 21-day directive expires on April 14 (Reuters).
World coronavirus count this morning: At least 1,434,426 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 82,220 fatalities (experts believe there are many more since December).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Five ways to conquer your COVID-19 fears, by Amanda Ripley, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Xk883U
Boris Johnson vs. the Coronavirus, by Katie Balls, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2xZFOc8
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will hold a pro forma session on Friday at 9 a.m.
The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Thursday at 10 a.m. Votes are not scheduled until April 20.
The president participates in a phone call with state, local, and tribal leaders about COVID-19 at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office. At 2:30 p.m., he will lead another call on the same subject with “faith leaders.”
Vice President Pence will chair a meeting of the coronavirus task force and participate in a press briefing scheduled at 5 p.m. (the White House briefings do not start on time).
➔ Tech: Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers Twitter adds fact-checking labels to hundreds of tweets despite Trump attacks Pelosi says Zuckerberg comments are a 'disgrace' MORE’s jealousy held back Instagram and drove off its founders (an excerpt from the new book “No Filter,” by Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier). “In late 2018, the Instagram founders abandoned their creation, and the WhatsApp and Oculus founders left the same year. With Facebook in crisis, Zuckerberg had stopped seeing his acquisitions as a portfolio of subsidiaries that could grow into potential second acts. Instead, he would lean on Instagram to strengthen the Facebook app more directly, including by weaving the software together. Today, with his company under investigation for anticompetitive behavior by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and 47 state attorneys general, Zuckerberg is consolidating his products’ data and building one big mega-network that will make Facebook proper look all the bigger. As one former Instagram executive complained: `Facebook was like the big sister that wants to dress you up for the party but does not want you to be prettier than she is’” (Bloomberg Businessweek magazine). … 3D printing is filling gaps in supplies of medical devices and personal protective equipment, but legal and technical hurdles could keep the technology from soaring (The Hill).
➔ EPA mileage regulation: The administration’s rollback of Obama-era mileage standards last week is described as vulnerable to challenge in court. The Trump rule dramatically scales back the year-over-year improvement automakers must make in fuel economy while conceding that easing restrictions may cost the economy $22 billion (The Hill).
➔ In the Know: The Hill’s Judy Kurtz has some advice: Don't get pregnant during a pandemic. She writes that perhaps the most jarring instruction she received from her OB-GYN team before one of her final appointments has been, “Leave your husband at home” (The Hill).
➔ Music: Legendary folk artist John Prine died on Wednesday at the age of 73 after a lengthy bout with COVID-19 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., according to his family. Prine was best known for his humor, wit and songwriting ability and considered one of the preeminent wordsmiths of his generation (Rolling Stone).
➔ Sports: Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, delayed the reopening of stables at the track until at least April 28 due to the virus. According to track president Kevin Flanery, the track and training center will be reopened at the direction of Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and state health officials. Churchill Downs has been closed since Dec. 31 due to renovations, while the 146th Kentucky Derby was postponed until Sept. 5 (The Associated Press).
The business model of many sports is under threat from the coronavirus because money is largely made in three ways: broadcasting deals, sponsorship contracts and “match day” income from tickets, hospitality and spending during events. Those revenue streams are drying up, and many sports executives believe there will be lasting disruption. “[This] is the biggest disaster to hit the sports world in 75 years and the biggest challenge our business has ever faced,” Simon Denyer, chief executive of the television and internet sports streaming group DAZN, recently wrote to his staff (Financial Times).
And finally … World Health Day was Tuesday, and health care workers around the world attracted effusive public praise and commendation for their dedication to helping the sick battle the coronavirus on every continent — at considerable risk to themselves and their families.
In Congress on Tuesday, Democrats championed a new form of bonus pay modeled on the federal compensation given to first responders after the 9/11 attacks. Proposed “heroes pay” for nurses, doctors, medical technicians and other essential employees on the front lines of the pandemic is conceived as hazard compensation of up to $25,000 and will be inserted in recovery legislation lawmakers describe as “phase four” this year (Newsweek).
“Doctors, nurses, and essential workers are putting their lives on the line every single day of this fight. @SenateDems are proposing a bold, new program to boost premium pay for America’s frontline workers. We’re calling it a “Heroes Fund” because that’s who it’s for: Our Heroes,” 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.) tweeted (The Hill).