The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – States seek plans for economic revival; feds talk ‘hope’
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 22,109.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
— from “On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou
Americans this week will continue to hope that the coronavirus crisis is easing in some parts of the country as the death toll rises, accompanied by fear that economic ruin threatens nearly every state.
As people stuck close to home and many Christians celebrated an Easter like no other, isolated from relatives and houses of worship, governors and public health experts began to advocate for a test-trace-quarantine coronavirus plan that might lift the nation gradually out of lockdown and keep smaller outbreaks of the disease from becoming runaway contagions.
But such a plan is not being directed out of the federal government, and there are disagreements in some quarters about pursuing mass COVID-19 infection testing and related antibody testing, about effective contact tracing and doubts that the U.S. economy can spring back if states roll through different phases of stay-at-home orders and back-to-work-and-school preparations (The Washington Post). Experts believe May 1 may be too ambitious for a U.S. return to offices and commerce.
The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that public health experts fear that any mid-April optimism could be disconnected from grim realities ahead.
President Trump initially recommended Easter as a tentative date to reopen the economy before he agreed to keep federal stay-at-home guidance in place through April 30. Last week, the president focused on May 1 as a new date to rally around. But officials, medical researchers and clinicians cautioned on Sunday that big challenges loom (The Hill).
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes parts of the country may be able to lift COVID-19 restrictions beginning next month. But the word he used was “hope.”
“We are hoping at the end of the month we can look around and say, ‘Is there any element here we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on?’ If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” (The Hill).
This morning, the spread of COVID-19 in the United States has outpaced all other countries, including China and Italy. America has tallied 557,590 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 22,109 fatalities.
Observers worry there are more planners in Washington than plans and more opinions, suspicions and gut feelings than facts and established science. The president has formed a federal task force, plus a separate effort headed by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a new council will be unveiled this week to advise him on restarting the economy. The “all-hands-on-deck” federal effort, however, is searching for consensus (The Washington Post).
Ventilation of the lungs in some patients with COVID-19 is seen as high risk, and some doctors are now avoiding intubation and ventilation because oxygen forced into damaged lungs may make recovery less likely. Only a small minority of patients with the coronavirus survive ventilation treatment, according to medical data from New York City and other countries (The Associated Press).
In the United States, 1 in 10 hospitalized patients between 55 and 64 years old with COVID-19 die, according to data. Four in 10 hospitalized patients age 85 or older do not survive. The information comes from Allscripts, through its subsidiary CarePort Health, which collected available data from multiple electronic health record companies across the nation (The Washington Post).
The Hill: Federal infectious disease experts have begun to refer to city and state “positivity rates” drawn from COVID-19 testing as a way to compare infection rates around the country using metrics that can illustrate whether outbreaks are peaking or plateauing. The drawback, however, is that the United States is not conducting mass testing, including asymptomatic people, but instead is testing patients who seek care for symptoms of a respiratory disease.
The Associated Press: Fears of “Wild West” as COVID-19 blood tests hit the market.
The Washington Post: The antiviral drug remdesivir shows some hopeful signs in a small group of 53 coronavirus patients, but without a double-blind scientific study, researchers cannot declare the drug works as a therapy against COVID-19.
The Associated Press: Inside the White House, signs have been missed and steps slowed during Trump’s pandemic response.
The New York Times: Despite timely coronavirus alerts, Trump was slow to act.
Vox: How Trump turned ventilators into a form of patronage and personal beneficence.
The Washington Post: Trump casts himself as pandemic patron, personalizing the government’s spread of cash and supplies.
> State updates: New Yorkers over the weekend said the evident plateauing of new hospitalizations of patients with the virus was a good sign, even as the state’s death toll remained high. Although New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Saturday announced all public schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) quickly interjected that any such decision would be made in Albany in coordination with the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut (The New York Times). The tough-talking Cuomo, whose coronavirus updates draw huge audiences on TV and radio, made the May cover of Rolling Stone with an interview HERE.
California: Los Angeles County announced it will keep its stay-at-home order in place at least until May 15 (Fox LA).
Michigan: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) tightened travel restrictions between residences in her state over the weekend, describing no enforcement mechanism, and she extended a stay-at-home order to May 1. Treated as a potential presidential running mate this year, Whitmer has come under increasing political scrutiny as she governs in a state with a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, particularly in Detroit (Detroit Free Press).
> Oil, investor news: OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing nations on Sunday finalized an unprecedented production cut of nearly 10 million barrels, or a tenth of global supply, in hopes of boosting crashing petroleum prices amid the pandemic and a price war, officials said. The cartel and other nations agreed to allow Mexico to cut only 100,000 barrels a month, a sticking point for an accord initially reached Friday after a marathon video conference between 23 nations (The Associated Press). Trump tweeted the accord will “will save hundreds of thousands of energy jobs in the United States,” adding it will be “great for all.” The president thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during separate phone calls on Sunday, according to the White House. … Dow futures fell on Sunday based on updates about the virus and the historic oil deal, although Wall Street had rallied last week (CNBC).
> More administration developments: The president this week plans to announce the appointees to his new “Opening Our Country Council,” which he said will include business leaders, public health experts, some governors and some members of Congress (The Hill). … The pandemic is pulling back the curtain on environmental and health inequalities that have plagued low-income communities for years, according to activists (The Hill). … Supporters of the Open Skies Treaty, meant to reduce the risk of accidental war, are concerned that Trump could withdraw from the 1992 agreement. The treaty allows 35 signatories, including the United States and Russia, to fly unarmed observation flights over other nations that agreed to the pact (The Hill). … Trump’s ongoing battle with government watchdogs raises key questions about how the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law will be carried out (The Hill). … Do civil servants who have been fired by Trump for alleged political reasons have any legal recourse against the administration? (The Hill).
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LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Lawmakers are stuck for the time being, unwilling or unable to agree on how to help small businesses on a rush basis this week, let alone how to proceed with various ideas for a fourth phase of recovery legislation as grip of the coronavirus overshadows congressional discussions for the foreseeable future.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) won’t negotiate with House Democrats over a $250 billion bill to bolster loans to small business (The Washington Post).
The public pressure on Congress to swiftly pass a longer-range recovery measure has strained Republican unity. While some lawmakers want to hold the Republican line on federal spending, at least for now, as the federal budget deficit soars, other Republicans, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), favor adding trillions more federal dollars to a struggling economy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is the top administration official negotiating with Democrats, but some congressional conservatives privately question whether the secretary shares their views (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic, Congress cedes stage and authority to Trump.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is sensing an opening with a group of voters it believes could prove crucial in the general election: senior citizens.
Four years ago, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 7 points with voters older than 65, according to exit polls. But this year, as Amie Parnes writes, Biden advisers and allies have watched a continued erosion with these voters for Trump in multiple key states with sizable senior citizen populations, including Florida. A recent CNN poll lends credence to the thinking of Biden’s team, as it shows the former VP leading by 13 among voters who are 65 and older.
“I think seniors are now going to be a problem for him,” one Biden aide predicted, referring to the president. “Regardless of which poll you believe, he is doing much better with seniors than [Clinton], which is a big deal and a big part of a winning coalition.”
Voters of all stripes expect to see the two debate one another in the fall, especially after the president indicated he enthusiasm about the prospect. “I look forward to it also!” Trump tweeted at a supporter on Sunday night.
Biden in The New York Times: My plan to safely reopen America.
> Biden sexual assault? The New York Times examined a March 25 allegation by former Senate aide Tara Reade that then-Sen. Biden (D-Del.) sexually assaulted her in 1993. The Biden campaign says the accusation is false, and former Senate aides who were there at the time do not recall any complaint by the accuser about the alleged incident.
> Coronavirus politics: The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to turn the political tide against the president as he faces what he considers the biggest decision of his presidency: when and how to reopen the nation as it struggles economically.
As Niall Stanage writes, recent polls show the public approval of Trump’s handling of the outbreak has fallen, while his overall approval ratings have also trended downward. Adding to the problems, the economic issues are creating more headaches, as roughly 16 million Americans have filed unemployment claims due to the virus, with more to come and untold others who have been furloughed.
On the political side, the Democratic race wrapped up and Biden became the presumptive nominee after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ended his bid for the nomination, allowing Biden and the Democrats to focus on Trump exclusively.
Julie Pace, The Associated Press: Will voters want a president who feels their pain?
The New York Times: Biden and Cuomo: Friends, allies and supporting players no longer.
The Associated Press: Trump’s fundraising slows amid outbreak, still sets records with $212 million raised in first three months.
> Voting: The president has taken a hard stand against calls to expand alternatives to in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushing the claim that mail-in voting risks “tremendous potential for fraud” and hands a structural advantage to Democrats.
As Julia Manchester and Max Greenwood report, voting rights and elections experts say that there may be some truth to Trump’s claim, as mail-in voting is more susceptible to fraud than traditional in-person voting. However, voter fraud in any form is exceedingly rare, the experts say, and there are security measures that can be taken to mitigate those risks. At the same time, they argued that policymakers should be wary of restricting an alternative to in-person voting that has the potential to expand the electorate and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The Hill: Pollsters find unexpected boon: Americans stuck at home willing to talk.
CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Nations around the world have tallied 1,854,464 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease caused by COVID-19, and 114,331 fatalities.
> United Kingdom: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who commended the doctors and nurses at London’s St. Thomas’ Hospital for saving his life after infection with the coronavirus, was released on Sunday and is recovering at Chequers, the prime minister’s country house. He will not be immediately returning to work, based on advice from his physicians. Great Britain became the fourth European country with more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases (The Associated Press).
Johnson spent three nights in the intensive care unit last week. Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s pregnant fiancée, also lauded the medical staff that aided the prime minister’s recovery from the virus, noting that there were “dark times.”
“I cannot thank our magnificent [National Health Service] enough. The staff at St Thomas’ Hospital have been incredible. I will never, ever be able to repay you and I will never stop thanking you,” Symonds tweeted. “There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.”
Reuters: U.K. cancels order for simple ventilators, needs more complex ones: source.
> Spain: Spain is preparing to allow some businesses to reopen as the rate of infection hit the lowest mark since the outbreak took off across the country a month ago (The Guardian).
Confirmed cases increased to 166,019 across the country, a 2.6 percent increase, as the Spanish government and businesses look to emerge from the crisis. The death toll rose by 619 on Sunday — a slight uptick from Saturday’s, which was the lowest single-day total in 19 days (Reuters). However, the single-day total dropped again this morning to 517, with the total number of deaths eclipsing 17,000 (Agence France-Presse).
> The Vatican: During his annual Easter address, Pope Francis discussed the ongoing coronavirus pandemic extensively and spoke of the “contagion of hope.” The pontiff noted that for Catholics across the globe, “this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties.”
“Today my thoughts turn in the first place to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell,” Francis said to an empty St. Peter’s Basilica (NBC News).
Reuters: Banish “self-centredness,” Pope tells the world as it faces coronavirus.
The Associated Press: Amid pandemic, Christians celebrate an Easter like no other.
> Italy: Sunday marked the lowest single-day death total in more than three weeks in Italy as it looks to move past the worst of the outbreak from the virus.
There were 431 more deaths confirmed on Sunday, down from the 619 the Italian Civil Protection Agency reported on Saturday. According to the latest statistics, the death toll sits at 19,899 — the second-highest total behind the U.S. (Reuters).
Reuters: New Zealand, Australia say too soon to ease restrictions despite coronavirus slowdown.
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I used to run the CDC. Here’s what it can do to slow this pandemic, by Tom Frieden, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2K5aRWJ
My dad has COVID-19. All we can do is wait. By Megan McArdle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3efAK41
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will hold a pro forma session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
The Senate will convene in a pro forma session at 10 a.m.
The president has lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. He will brief the news media at 5 p.m. at the White House.
Pence will lead a video teleconference with governors at 11:30 a.m. He will convene a task force meeting to discuss the latest COVID-19 developments at 3 p.m. The vice president and task force members are scheduled to brief the press at 5 p.m. along with the president.
➔ Deluged with food orders: Amazon will begin to put new grocery delivery customers on a waitlist and curtail shopping hours at some Whole Foods stores to prioritize orders from existing customers buying food online during the coronavirus outbreak, the company said on Sunday (Reuters).
➔ As if the virus wasn’t enough: Powerful weather continued swirling up the East Coast with heavy rain and thunderstorms animating the ominous-looking National Weather Service map this morning. Sunday storms swept into the Deep South, killing at least six people in Mississippi and damaging at least 300 homes in Louisiana. A tornado also was spotted in Mississippi near the Alabama line (The Associated Press).
➔ U.S. economic ripples everywhere: Retail giant Macy’s has hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. to explore options for bolstering lost revenue during the pandemic (Reuters). … A six-month pause on certain mortgage payments created by the coronavirus economic rescue law is causing confusion and risks financial peril across the housing industry (The Hill). … Theaters, museums, music venues, comedy clubs and other entertainment venues are facing a longer and more precarious road to recovery than other sectors of the economy affected by the coronavirus (The Hill).
➔ Inspirato: As Morning Report mentioned last week, legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli managed to create an Easter performance, “Music for Hope,” for all to hear at the Duomo cathedral in Milan. He sang fived songs during the half-hour live streamed concert, concluding with a stunning a cappella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which filled the empty Piazza del Duomo (WATCH HERE).
And finally … Sew-lution: Picture a company with thousands of co-workers and a ton of old cotton shirts. What immediately comes to mind? Yep. Making face masks during a pandemic for colleagues. That was the brainchild of Suzanne Peters, the senior manager of premium services at American Airlines, who recently turned a closed-down Admirals Club into an assembly line of eager creators who hauled in sewing machines, irons and ironing boards, and clean but outdated cotton AA uniforms and other cotton remnants. All the mask makers have been volunteers.
“I sat there and thought, ‘I’ve got a team full of doers, we have the clubs empty, and I know how to sew, so I can teach them,’” Peters said.
Within a day, the operation was running from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with about 25 workers per shift. By late last week, they had sewn and delivered 600 masks to co-workers. Their goal is 10,000 — almost enough for each of the 13,000 Miami-based American Airlines workers (Miami Herald).