The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Will new therapy drug be a COVID-19 game changer?

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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, 54,877. Tuesday, 56,253. Wednesday, 58,355. Thursday, 60,999.



Some brighter news, for a change! 

 

A promising drug called remdesivir may shorten hospital stays for patients with COVID-19 and perhaps speed their recoveries while diminishing the odds of death, according to Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump breaks with Fauci: US in 'good place' in fight against virus Health care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states Overnight Health Care: Trump says White House will pressure governors to open schools | Administration formally moves to withdraw US from WHO | Fauci warns against 'false complacency' on COVID-19 MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who on Wednesday described federal next steps based on the new, positive study.

 

Fauci, who for weeks has discounted anecdotes about improved results for patients who were so sick they received remdesivir as a last-ditch therapy, said the antiviral drug is now a “new standard of care” for those hospitalized with COVID-19 (CNBC).

 

Remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences, is a therapy, not a vaccine, and needs more review, but Fauci called early results “very optimistic” during an event in the Oval Office with President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE and visiting Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

 

The Food and Drug Administration is in talks with Gilead to make the drug widely available to the patient population that could benefit. The news cheered investors and sent the stock market soaring.

 

Trump hailed Edwards’ decision to begin reopening his state, repeating an economic theme the president struck on Tuesday at the White House alongside a Republican ally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantis43 Florida ICUs at capacity as coronavirus cases surge Miami-Dade mayor reverses order; gyms to remain open Florida officials to review planned installation of statue of Confederate general MORE.

 

Told again and again that only a vaccine can offer significant confidence to employers, workers and schools to resume a full range of activities Americans are used to, Trump has embraced a kind of monetized medical Manhattan Project called “RADx” to hasten the development of a cure. Infectious disease experts say a vaccine could still take years to develop, approve and manufacture for worldwide use (The New York Times).

 

The United States is home to at least a third of the more than 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. Trump has challenged naysayers and encouraged individual states to begin easing back to business with assurances that a smooth system for states to test millions of Americans a day for infections and for COVID-19 antibodies is around the corner.

 

Trump, who predicts the virus will “be eradicated” and that U.S. economic growth will be “incredible” around the time of the November elections, is placing a risky bet that could backfire if COVID-19 outbreaks flare anew in states that begin easing stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions (The Hill). Vice President Pence has said the virus will be “behind us” by summer. Some Trump surrogates and optimistic governors think many Americans may be able to return to their workplaces within weeks and congregate at beach bashes, barbecues and parades by Memorial Day weekend.

 

The Associated Press: White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump sealed his own fate The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks Mueller investigation witness George Nader sentenced to a decade in prison in child sex case MORE predicts that by July, the country will be “really rocking again.” The president said he wants to resume his travel schedule, beginning with a trip to Arizona next week.

  

More COVID-19 developments:

 

> New York: Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York adds three more states' travelers to growing list for quarantine order NY state lawmaker introduces bill to require police officers get personal liability insurance The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return MORE (D) said on Wednesday that the state, which has nearly half of all COVID-19 cases in the country, will proceed with caution toward a May 15 reopening of nonessential businesses in some regions. “We're making progress that's for sure, but we're not out of the woods yet," Cuomo said, pointing to outbreaks in other countries after they eased restrictions.

 

The governor assailed Republicans in Congress who oppose providing federal bailouts for state budgets, saying the friction has turned into a political brawl. Cuomo has noted that New York contributes more to the federal Treasury than it gets back, while some states including Kentucky, home to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill McGrath campaign staffers to join union Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE, receive more federal support than they pay in (WCAX.com). 

 

McConnell said Wednesday he is now “open” to considering additional funds for state and local governments.

 

> Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday ordered universal COVID-19 tests in nursing homes following hundreds of deaths (The Baltimore Sun).

 

> Florida: The Sunshine State has one of the strongest open records laws in the country, but state medical examiners are in a battle with the Florida Department of Health over the department’s desire to hold back public information about the county-by-county tally of COVID-19 deaths, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The medical examiners’ death count was 10 percent higher this month than a figure released by the Department of Health. Department officials said the list needed to be reviewed and possibly redacted. Stephen Nelson, the chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, said state officials told him they plan to remove causes of death and case descriptions. Without that information, the list is meaningless, Nelson said, adding that he believes the death data by law is public information.

 

> Mall shopping: Simon Property Group, the largest operator of malls in the United States, plans to reopen 49 shopping centers across 10 states starting on Friday, with some adjustments for social distancing. The company’s shopping sites are in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas (The New York Times).

 

The Hill: Restless Americans are moving around and violating stay-at-home orders, according to new electronic data. How does COVID-19 spread so easily? The world is a small orb full of mobile humans.

 

The Hill: The history of epidemics and pandemics suggest they change how we live.

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: With the Senate still set to return to Washington on Monday, House Democrats are facing an uphill climb to exert their influence on the next coronavirus related legislation while distanced from the Capitol.

 

While Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data MORE (D-Calif.) has done plenty of news media interviews this month, House Democrats believe their collective power ebbs as they try to push COVID-19 relief remedies while scattered outside the nation’s capital. As Cristina Marcos and Mike Lillis write, the Senate GOP, in contrast, will be able to hold floor votes and hearings while in session in May. 

 

While CARES Act 2 discussions continue, the House’s bipartisan task force studying virtual options for the lower chamber is testing technologies this week to give committees the ability to conduct hearings remotely so they are no longer sidelined.

 

Elsewhere in the House, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are taking leading positions in the Democratic response to COVID-19 as data shows African Americans are dying in disproportionate numbers across the country from the pandemic. 

 

As The Hill’s Scott Wong reports, CBC members have staged a number of conference calls for members and the media in recent weeks to highlight the glaring racial disparity. And they’ve been holding tele-town halls, connecting their constituents with health and government officials who’ve offered advice on how to navigate the crisis. 

 

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a former CBC chairman, was also tasked with leading the House's coronavirus oversight panel, while Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesReparations bill gains steam following death of George Floyd Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report: Supreme Court ruling marks big win for abortion rights groups MORE (N.Y.), the No. 5-ranking House Democrat, has hosted near-daily calls with members on topics ranging from relief checks and housing assistance to the list of funding requests from the Paycheck Protection Program.

 

 

 

 

NBC News: Congress sounds alarm over inaccurate antibody tests.

 

The Hill: Pelosi on Wednesday appointed six additional Democratic members to join Clyburn, the chairman, on a special House committee that will conduct oversight of COVID-19 relief spending. Republicans, who accuse the majority of seeking to use the panel for political purposes, may not name GOP members to the committee.

 

As the Senate readies to reconvene, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is set to move forward with votes on a number of key nominees after spending the past five weeks sidelined due to the novel coronavirus. 

 

The Senate’s first action after it returns will be a vote related to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominee, while several committees are discussing — or have already announced — action on nominations. As Jordain Carney notes, the Senate Banking Committee is the only panel that has announced a schedule. It will consider the nomination of Brian Miller, the White House lawyer tapped to serve as the watchdog for pandemic recovery.

 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham challenger Harrison raises record-shattering .9 million for SC Senate bid Trump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge Bubba Wallace responds to Trump: 'Even when it's HATE from the POTUS.. Love wins' MORE (R-S.C.) is considering booking a May 6 nomination hearing for District Judge Justin Walker to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court, a Senate aide confirmed, sparking objections from committee Democrats who say they want to focus the panel’s efforts on public health (The Hill).

 

McConnell has come under fire for his decision to bring the upper chamber back into session next week after the House decided against doing so, citing the recommendation of the Capitol physician. Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBottom line Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats Senate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections MORE (D-Calif.), 86, the oldest member of the Senate, said in a statement that it is “not worth the risk” as “the disease is not yet in check.” However, McConnell defended the decision on Wednesday, saying that senators are "not going to sit on the sidelines” during the pandemic (The Hill).

 

"Well, one thing we're going to do is, we're going to come back to work next Monday, the House is not," McConnell said. “We feel like if people on the front lines are willing to work during the pandemic, we should be as well. And so the Senate will come back; we'll be in session next week” (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Liability shield for businesses emerges as new fight over reopening.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Top Democrats are coming to the defense of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Joe Biden wins New Jersey primary Biden wins Delaware primary MORE as he faces allegations from Tara Reade, a former aide who says the then-Delaware senator sexually assaulted her in 1993 on Capitol Hill. 

 

The Biden camp has vigorously denied the allegations and has sent talking points to surrogates about how to handle questions in the media. Among those who have offered up a defense of the former VP are Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic lawmakers call for expanding, enshrining LGBTQ rights The Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter The Hill's Morning Report - Officials crack down as COVID-19 cases soar MORE (D-N.Y.) and Stacey Abrams, a potential running mate (The Hill). 

 

As Jonathan Easley notes, the main question is when Biden himself will speak at length about the allegations, outside of his denial, and answer questions about the issue. On Wednesday, The Washington Post’s editorial board called for Biden to address them, saying there are “no clear conclusions” regarding the accusations.

 

“The way to signal he takes Ms. Reade’s case seriously, and the cases of women like her seriously, is to go before the media and the public ready to listen and to reply,” the board wrote (The Hill). 

 

While he didn’t do so on Wednesday, one of his campaign backers asked about military sexual assault during a virtual fundraiser. Biden pointed to his support for the Violence Against Women Act, but made no mention of the most recent allegations.

 

“Look, we have to change the culture of abuse in this country, especially in armed services. And No. 1: I will order the Defense Department to take urgent and aggressive action to make sure survivors are in fact supported and abusers are held accountable for their crimes,” Biden said. “All options are on the table to end the scourge, in my view. … As you know, I wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act, transformed how this country gets justice and support to survivors and led the ‘It's On Us’ campaign to fight sexual assault on campuses. As VP, I fought to provide a special victims counsel for sexual assault cases in the military.”

 

The Associated Press: Biden assault allegation prompts GOP attacks, Dem worries.

 

Daily Beast: Why have women’s groups gone dead silent on Biden sex-assault accusation?

 

Elsewhere on the campaign scene, Biden said on Wednesday that he hopes to have potential running mates vetted by July, a sign that a final selection may not come until later in the summer. 

 

Early this morning, the Biden campaign rolled out its vice presidential selection committee that will begin screening the potential candidates for the post. former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.); Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), and Cynthia C. Hogan, Biden’s former counsel in the White House and Senate, were named co-chairs and will lead the effort (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Clyburn: “Not a must” for Biden to pick a black woman as running mate.

 

The Washington Post: Joe Biden hires Rufus Gifford as new deputy campaign manager.

 

The New York Times: Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Michigan candidate's daughter urges people not to vote for him in viral tweet Can Trump break his 46 percent ceiling? MORE (I-Mich.), third-party spoiler? Michigan experts are skeptical.

 

Responding to multiple reports of clashes with top campaign advisers over internal polls showing him trailing Biden in multiple key battleground states, Trump told Reuters in an interview that he does not believe polls showing him behind the former VP.

 

“I don't believe the polls,” Trump said. “I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don't think that they will put a man in who's incompetent.”

 

Reuters: Trump says China wants him to lose his bid for re-election.



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

China’s coronavirus actions are just one of many threats it poses, by Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyIf the US wants a better WTO, it should lead the way Bolton book shows nastiness rules at Trump White House George Floyd's brother calls on United Nations to study police brutality in US MORE, former ambassador to the United Nations and opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3dbN6Jt 

 

The unintended consequences of a proposed cure for COVID-19, by Samantha McBirney, Sangita Baxi, Krishna B. Kumar and Todd Richmond, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VQLX4a



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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will convene a pro forma session on Friday at noon.

 

The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 1 p.m.

 

The president will meet at 11 a.m. in the Oval Office with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), whose state has been severely affected by COVID-19 infections and fatalities. At 4 p.m., Trump will speak in the East Room about the need to protect seniors, considered an at-risk population, from infection during the COVID-19 crisis. 

 

Jobless claims for the week that ended April 25 will be reported at 8:30 a.m. Since March, more than 26 million people in the United States lost their jobs and filed for unemployment insurance — and today’s new data will only darken that picture.

 

The Washington Post LIVE hosts an online interview event with Hogan, the chairman of the National Governors Association, at 11 a.m. Information is HERE and livestream is HERE.

 

Aspen Ideas: Health 20/20 at 3 p.m. hosts a COVID-19 conversation with Tom Frieden, a physician and the president and CEO of the Vital Strategies’ “Resolve to Save Lives” initiative. He is a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department. Register for the webinar event HERE.

 

The Coronavirus Report, helmed by The Hill’s Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons, has updates and exclusive video interviews with policymakers emailed each day. Sign up HERE!

 

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.



ELSEWHERE

Economy: The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced it will hold rates near zero as the economy reels from the effects of the global pandemic (The Hill). The U.S. economy shrank 4.8 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest decline since the Great Recession, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday (The Hill), confirming what everyone knew before seeing the numbers: The U.S. economy is in recession. Second-quarter growth could plummet as much as 30 percent, and unemployment, which had been just 3.5 percent in February, is expected to catapult to 15 percent and beyond. Consumer spending, according to all the data, has taken a severe nose dive.

 

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that now is “not the time” to let otherwise “serious concerns” about the rising national debt dampen efforts to mitigate some of the economic wreckage with mammoth federal spending. He had a message for squabbling lawmakers who worry about $3 trillion pouring out of the Treasury: Keep the fiscal spigot open, he urged during a press conference.

 

“The time will come again, and reasonably soon, where we can think about a long-term way to get our fiscal house in order, and we absolutely need to do that,” said Powell, who was appointed by Trump and has earned high praise for his central bank leadership since the COVID-19 emergency began. “This is not the time to let that concern … get in the way of us winning this battle” (The Hill).  

 

Sniffing out the plague: A University of Pennsylvania research project is training eight Labrador retrievers to potentially detect the novel coronavirus through smell. If it works, dogs could be used in airports, hospitals and various businesses to detect COVID-19 infections. Using smell, dogs have been trained to detect victims during disasters, hidden explosives, drugs and contraband, as well as malaria and cancer (The Washington Post).

 

College athletic cash: The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced on Wednesday that its board of governors supports permitting athletes to cash in on their names, images and likenesses without involvement from the association, schools or conferences. The NCAA is moving forward with a plan to allow college athletes to earn money for endorsements and a host of other activities involving personal appearances and social media content (The Associated Press). 

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the “Saturday Night Live” depiction of 79-year-old immunologist Fauci by a bespectacled Brad Pitt, we’re eager for some smart guesses about U.S. actors who starred as scientists in movies.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

Who played Dr. Frankenstein and turned two words — “It’s alive!” — into a comic classic?

 

  1. Mel Brooks
  2. Gene Wilder
  3. Woody Allen
  4. Steve Martin

 

Name the Oscar winner who starred in the 1995 film “Outbreak” as the heroic Army virologist Col. Sam Daniels, assigned to stop a lethal virus when it threatens a California town.  

 

  1. Donald Sutherland
  2. Gene Hackman
  3. Dustin Hoffman
  4. Denzel Washington

 

Which Oscar winner starred as real-life mathematician and “human computer” Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, a pathbreaker recruited by NASA during the space race and awarded a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously last year?

 

  1. Octavia Spencer
  2. Halle Berry
  3. Mo’Nique
  4. Jennifer Hudson

 

Who starred as fictional Army virologist Robert Neville in a post-apocalyptic thriller set in New York City in which infected humans are night-crawling zombie-mutants who try to prey on the scientist as he searches for a cure?

 

  1. Kevin Spacey
  2. Jon Hamm
  3. Hugh Jackman
  4. Will Smith