Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Whew, 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 each morning this week: Monday, 22,109; Tuesday, 23,649. Wednesday, 26,057; Thursday, 30,985. Friday, 33,286.
“We’re opening up our country again,” President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE told Americans on Thursday, promising a “bigger, better, stronger” country in which most people will soon see business and everyday activities slowly revive through the spring and summer and beyond.
The president, accompanied by his leading infectious disease experts, described a phased approach for states to make their own decisions. Governors have been doing just that, with regional coordination about an economic restart.
The Hill: Trump’s guidelines on reopening the economy let governors make final decisions.
The Hill: Mixed reviews for White House guidelines.
Reuters: Reacting to U.S. drive to reopen economy, super-charged stocks race toward 11 percent weekly gain this morning, second best week ever.
The White House guidance effectively returns the focus to basic COVID-19 containment, especially in regions where the number of confirmed cases of the virus have been small. Many of the states that have been spared because of what Trump called “location, luck and a lot of talent,” are encouraged by the White House to reopen for business, some immediately if their governors feel they’ve cleared a list of benchmarks.
Vice President Pence reinforced that the White House is giving the 50 states the running room to experiment with economic restarts “at a time and manner of their choosing.”
The guidance includes no dates or deadlines, but Trump said if some governors lift restrictions before the federal May 1 “stop the spread” period, he will view that as success. “Nobody wants to stay shut,” he added. “We’re beating the date.”
Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Webb: Pretzel logic More than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages MORE, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, were candid that the approach to renewed COVID-19 containment while gradually resuming work, school and entertainment requires masses of tests, including testing of people who have no symptoms but may be carriers, a population that some experts believe describes 20 percent of the country.
“By the time we get into the fall, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape,” said Fauci, who has become the much-interviewed federal immunologist most Americans now recognize.
Testing, according to Trump, will be up to the states, with some support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is already a flashpoint for the hardest-hit states on the West and East coasts because governors see high-volume testing for infection and antibodies as a hurdle to manage and to afford under strained state budgets.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE (D-Calif.) criticized the White House approach, which she described as “vague and inconsistent” with no national strategy for mass testing from coast to coast. “Just one percent of Americans have been tested,” she said in a statement.
The Associated Press: Seven Midwestern states announce they will partner on reopening the economy, following the leads of West Coast, East Coast regional alliances of governors.
The president’s public health advisers recommend that states conduct intensive contact tracing when patients test positive, and they recommend weeks of quarantine if patients test positive, just as the country has been doing under lockdown restrictions.
Fauci described the phased approach recommended by the White House as “flexibility,” but to some governors, business leaders and workers, it means a web of experimentation, inevitable new infections and the potential for what Fauci called “some setbacks” that could trigger a return to the crisis level of health care experienced in some hot spots in the last month. Some business executives have told the president they worry about liability and their responsibility to protect employees as well as customers and clients if they resume operations too soon, or before a vaccine might emerge next year.
Much is still unknown about COVID-19, despite all the county-by-county data-gathering and computer models woven into the slides Birx displayed in the White House on Thursday. In phase one, for instance, schools are supposed to remain closed and gatherings larger than 10 people are still frowned upon.
By phase two, if all goes well, states not experiencing outbreaks could consider expanding social groups to 50 people while schools, daycare programs and summer camps could reopen with some precautions. By phase three, people could carefully resume most of their everyday public interactions with some care, such as continued social distancing, hygiene and masks, if needed. The exceptions are senior citizens and nursing home residents, Native American tribal lands and dense urban areas, Birx said.
The president declined to name the states he believes will be first to shed the most restrictive coronavirus restrictions, but he suggested there may be 29 that could satisfy the benchmarks for the first phase of the guidance, and most of them are in the West. New York and New Jersey, Trump added, “are having very tough times. They’ll be later.”
The New York Times: Trump guidance envisions the restoration of American society on a patchwork basis.
The Washington Post: A testing outcry mounts.
Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases have reached 671,425 overnight after rising on Wednesday by the largest increase in five days, according to a Reuters tally. This morning, the number of fatalities climbed to 33,286. However, while some states have been struck particularly hard by the virus, others have not, with 20 states reporting fewer than 100 deaths from the virus. On Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said 19 to 20 states could be ready to open as soon as May 1.
Thus far, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) is the only state leader to issue guidelines for reopening as soon as May 1.
Meanwhile, protests continued on Thursday as individuals continue to grow frustrated by what they consider overreaching lockdown guidelines. Thirty people gathered outside the Virginia state capitol building in Richmond on Thursday, defying the statewide stay-at-home directive issued by Gov. Ralph Northam (D). The order is in effect until June 10 — one of the most extensive handed down across the country. The act of defiance came a day after thousands protested in Lansing, Mich., against a similar directive issued by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), with some chanting, “Lock her up.” Whitmer is a potential vice presidential pick.
The Hill: Whitmer says protesters’ “irresponsible actions” can lead to an extension of Michigan’s stay-at-home orders they oppose.
The Hill: Activists and pastors sue Texas governor over stay-at-home order.
Reuters: As economic pain deepens, protesters push back on U.S. stay-at-home orders.
The New York Times: “Nowhere to hide” as unemployment permeates the economy.
Elsewhere, prior to the president’s Thursday night rollout of the updated guidelines, New York and six neighboring states extended their shutdowns until May 15 in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic (Reuters). Governors of seven Midwestern states (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky) are expected to move with similar caution as they consider how to reopen their economies (Crain’s Chicago).
“We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region,” the governors, comprised of five Democrats and two Republicans, said in a statement announcing the coalition. “Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet.”
NBC New York: Summer in New York City? Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Hochul gets early boost as NY gubernatorial race takes shape Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Boosters take a big step forward MORE says “keep expectations low.”
Bloomberg Businessweek: Carnival cruise executives knew they had a virus problem, but kept the party going.
$100M grant program for small businesses impacted by COVID-19
Know a small business in need of extra support right now?
We are offering $100 million to provide businesses with resources they need during COVID-19.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: “Absolutely no progress” was the phrase Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) used on Thursday to describe the impasse with Democrats over adding another $250 billion to a small business lending program desperately needed by millions of companies under severe distress. The Senate adjourned with no deal (The Hill), but talks continue (The Hill).
The available money enacted late last month as part of a $2.2 trillion relief package is already depleted. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party MORE (D-N.Y.) repeatedly said their Democratic colleagues would not approve a measure without also helping hospitals and state and local governments in the same measure.
The standoff has been publicly described by Republicans as Democratic brinkmanship wielded to the detriment of workers and employers who are unable to hold on without revenues, federal payouts or loans, and in some cases, all three. The public, frustrated and confused by the federal stimulus programs that are slow to gear up, are unleashing their angst on federal and state officials (NBC News).
The Hill: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMajor Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report MORE said Wednesday that more than 80 million Americans have already received their payments via direct deposit. But millions of people who haven't previously given the IRS their bank information, or who may not typically file tax returns, are still waiting.
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans say the next coronavirus response bill, the fourth of the crisis (and still on the far horizon), could absorb the additional $250 billion for the small business program that was included in the CARES Act enacted last month (Reuters).
However, the astonishing number of jobs shed in the last month, estimated by some analysts to be pushing April unemployment north of 15 percent — a situation that would be worse than the Great Depression — means the economic struggles across the country have raced ahead of Congress (The New York Times).
Separately, Trump's threat this week to try to adjourn Congress is fueling a long-simmering fight over nominations. Legal experts say Trump is unlikely to be able to take the step he described because it would require the Senate to vote to adjourn, and senators are scattered across the country until May 4 (The Hill).
Paul Kane: Congress operates like a college, making a return to regular order complicated.
More Congress news: Pelosi says she supports the idea of remote voting for the House but says it’s not simple (The Hill). … House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovernJames (Jim) Patrick McGovernEPA closer to unveiling plan for tackling 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan congressional commission urges IOC to postpone, relocate Beijing Games Journalism watchdog files criminal complaint against Saudi crown prince MORE (D-Mass.) recommends remote voting (Reuters). … Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (R-Utah) is the only GOP senator not on the newest White House task force to advise the president (The Hill). Some Democrats who’ve accepted invitations to join the bipartisan economic restart group: Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Nations plan to pump oil despite net zero promises On The Money — It all comes down to Bernie and Joe MORE (R.I.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthProgressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Building back better by investing in workers and communities MORE (Ill.) and Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaProposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Navy probe reveals disastrous ship fire response MORE (Calif.).
POLITICS: Former President Obama had his day in the sun this week. Soon enough, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaYouTube confirms it picked kids featured in Harris video Photos of the Week: Congressional Baseball Game, ashen trees and a beach horse The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Gears begin to shift in Congress on stalled Biden agenda MORE will too as she readies her endorsement of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE.
According to The Hill’s Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes, Biden’s campaign is planning a rollout for the popular former first lady, though there are questions around just how public a role she will play in the coming months.
“This week was President Obama's moment to enter the campaign. Of course Mrs. Obama supports Joe Biden and we will keep you posted on her plans,” an Obama aide said.
According to sources, the campaign’s early plans include a focus on remote fundraising and voter registration efforts. However, striking a balance for Obama, who penned a New York Times bestseller 18 months ago, is something the campaign must consider as she has never shown much enthusiasm for campaign politics.
“[T]he Biden campaign will take anything they can get” from the former first lady, according to Howard Gutman, a former Obama administration ambassador.
"The question is, as a family matter, what kind of profile does she and her husband and her daughters want her to have?” Gutman said. “It’s a question of how much they want her to be out there in the crossfire.”
Sources indicated that the former first lady is expected to lend her name to an email fundraiser as early as next week, and her image to a direct mail campaign. The campaign also hopes she will appear at occasional virtual fundraisers and work the phones for big dollars.
The Hill: Biden proposes federally funded subsidies to keep workers on payrolls.
> Veep watch: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia Biden, Harris mark 10th anniversary of MLK memorial Watch live: Biden, Harris deliver remarks at MLK Jr. Memorial anniversary MORE (D-Calif.) added her name to the list of those who would welcome being selected as Biden’s running mate as he ramps up his search for a second-in-command for the campaign.
Harris told MSNBC that while her focus these days is on the novel coronavirus, she would be “honored” to join Biden on the ticket if he selected her.
“Obviously I'd be honored to serve with Joe, but I'm just telling you that my focus right now is really on what we're dealing with right now,” Harris told host Craig Melvin.
The comments came a day after Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Ethics office warned officials about unnecessary trades Fed imposes tougher rules on financial trades amid scandal MORE (D-Mass.) indicated that she would accept a similar offer and as Stacey Abrams, the 2018 gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, played up her credentials for the potential post (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Leading in pandemic becomes part of audition for Biden’s VP.
> Fundraising: Appearing at a virtual fundraiser on Thursday, Biden told attendees that his team raised $5.25 million over the last two days.
"We raised, I think it was $2.75 million yesterday. Two and a half million dollars a day before,” Biden said (The New York Times).
The Hill: Biden assembling White House transition team.
CNBC: Biden donors privately float big names, including Elizabeth Warren and Larry Fink, for key roles.
The Hill: Host committee for Milwaukee Democratic National Committee scheduled in August cuts staff by half.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Worldwide deaths from COVID-19 reached 145,705 this morning, compared with at least 2,165,500 confirmed cases to date.
> Japan: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a nationwide state of emergency due to the spread of the virus, an expansion of one previously announced in Tokyo and other major cities across the country.
Abe also rolled out plans to give roughly $930 in stimulus funding to each of 120 million citizens to help with the economic issues presented by the pandemic.
“I decided to put all prefectures under the state of emergency to curb infections in respective areas and especially to keep the movement of people to a minimum heading into the Golden Week holidays,” Abe said at a COVID-19 government task force meeting (NPR).
> South Korea: Can COVID-19 go dormant in some patients who were thought to have recovered from infection? Why are some South Korean patients testing positive again after negative tests? (Reuters).
> Brazil: President Jair Bolsonaro fired Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the nation’s minister of health on Thursday after weeks of clashes over the national response to the novel coronavirus as the president continues to downplay the outbreak and push to reopen the economy.
Bolsonaro, who tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March, has called the virus a “little flu” and critiqued governors across the country for instituting lockdowns, which were backed by Mandetta. The Brazilian president indicated at a press conference Thursday that the outgoing health minister was not as concerned about the economic ramifications.
“We need to return to normal, not as fast as possible, but we need to start having some flexibility,” Bolsonaro said. “Life is priceless, but the economy and employment need to return to normality.”
“It was a consensual divorce because more important than me and more important than him as a minister is the health of the Brazilian people,” he said (The Associated Press).
Brazil has reported 30,425 confirmed cases of the virus, and 1,924 deaths. However, Mandetta has warned that the country has yet to peak from the outbreak.
Politically, the move comes as Brazilians give Bolsonaro low marks for his handling of the pandemic. According to Datafolha, a pollster, 33 percent of respondents rated Bolsonaro’s handling “good” or “great,” while a whopping 76 percent rated the Brazilian Health Ministry similarly (Reuters).
> China: The death count in Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, increased by 50 percent on Friday to 3,869, a revelation that came as many across the U.S., including Trump, continue to cast doubt on the number of confirmed cases and deaths reported across China.
1,290 deaths were added to the total on Friday along with an additional 325 confirmed cases, bringing the number of positive total to 50,333 in the city of 11 million. Across China, the total number of cases grew to 82,367 (The Associated Press).
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian maintained to reporters on Friday that there was not a cover-up of the total of deaths or confirmed cases, saying that the government does not allow for cover-ups. He also argued that the new totals out of Wuhan was the result of a statistical verification to ensure accuracy (Reuters).
The New York Times: China’s official GDP shrinks for the first time since 1976.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Needed: A little give and a lot of integrity, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2K8CDSx
The WHO doesn’t only have a China problem — it has a dictator problem, by Josh Rogin, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/34Ip45v
If you need help, or can offer it.
In response to COVID-19, people around the world are coming together to help one another in a show of solidarity and resilience.
Facebook's Community Help is a place where you can offer or request help from your local community.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will hold a pro forma session at 11 a.m.
The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Monday at 2 p.m.
The president will receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m., and lead a conference call with faith leaders at 4 p.m.
Vice President Pence will convene a meeting of the White House coronavirus task force and participate in an evening news briefing.
➔ Food waste: Fresh produce is increasingly going to waste during the coronavirus shutdown. Perishable crops can only go to retail markets because restaurants, schools, and other venues are closed, so about $5 billion of fresh fruits and vegetables have been scrapped, the Produce Marketing Association estimates (The Hill).
➔ Pricey Air Force One manual: The president’s new red, white and blue, $4 billion airplane from Boeing will need a 100,000-page instruction manual, which will cost taxpayers $84 million (Defense One).
➔ Golf: The PGA Tour is pushing to return in mid-June after announcing a revamped schedule for 2020 after the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the postponement and cancellations of roughly three months worth of events. In a call with reporters, top PGA Tour officials said that they are “very confident” that golf will return on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, with the first four events expected to go on without a gallery (ESPN). The PGA is expected to institute a testing protocol, according to Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour's chief tournament and competitions officer (ESPN). Importantly, this would set up the sport to become the first to return after the virus, allowing golf and sports fans a chance to rejoice (including The Hill’s Editor in Chief and resident golf fanatic Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackNAACP president pushes for more emails from NFL after Gruden resignation Al Eisele, founding editor of The Hill, dies at 85 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict MORE).
And finally … Bravo to readers who aced this week’s tricky Morning Report Quiz about toilet paper, a coveted commodity during the world’s pandemic lockdowns.
Two-thirds of quiz contestants missed at least one answer, but as a consolation prize, we offer this video: https://bit.ly/3acQguf
Here are the champs that had correct answers for all five questions: Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Chuck Schoenenberger, Pete J. Hernandez, John Donato, William Chittam, Mike Roberts, Phil Kirstein, Pam Manges and Joan Domingues.
They knew that toilet paper was invented in the United States in 1857, according to TP historians.
Global shortages of toilet paper during the coronavirus crisis were triggered by a panicky surge in demand and consumer hoarding. Production and supply chain problems followed the herd’s fears about running out, according to analysts.
Scarcity of toilet paper has sparked consumer interest in bidets; phone apps to track toilet paper availability at nearby stores; art, murals and music about toilet paper; cookies, cakes and ice cream in the shape of TP rolls (see picture, below); and clogged pipes, according to recent news accounts. Thus, the correct answer was “all of the above.”
#ShareASquare is a philanthropic COVID-19 relief partnership between the United Way and Cottonelle. The alliance was also intended to deter hoarding.
“The Late Show” host Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertFox's Bret Baier: Jan. 6 was a 'dark day' for US 'similar to what we saw in 1876' Fox's Gutfeld mocks late night hosts for planned 'climate night' Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central unveil two new animated political satires MORE in March delivered his opening monologue — with toilet paper jokes — while dressed in a suit and seated in a sudsy bathtub.