Trump Administration, Week 165: Friday, 13 March – Thursday, 19 March 2020 (Days 1,148-1,154)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

For independent global news, visit Democracy Now!

 

Friday, 13 March 2020, Day 1,148:

 

Donald Trump’s appalling, blame-shifting Rose Garden news conference, CNN Politics, Chris Cilizza, Friday, 13 March 2020: “A pandemic is sweeping the globe. Schools are closing. Major sports leagues are suspended. The stock market has plunged into bear territory. And, Donald Trump? ‘No, I don’t take responsibility at all,’ Trump responded when asked if he took responsibility for the lag in necessary coronavirus testing while speaking to reporters gathered in the Rose Garden to hear his declaration of a national emergency to combat the virus. Which sums up his response to this crisis well. And, in fact, is actually a pretty nice summation of his approach to the presidency.” See also, Trump Declares a National Emergency Over the Coronavirus Pandemic. Here’s What It Can Do. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump on Friday signed an emergency declaration over the coronavirus pandemic, unlocking certain government powers to deal with the public health challenge. Here’s a breakdown of what that means on a legal and practical level.” See also, Transcript: Trump’s Coronavirus News Conference, The New York Times, Friday, 13 March 2020.

Live updates on some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, 13 March 2020: Trump declares coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, The Washington Post, Derek Hawkins, Miriam Berger, Marisa Iati, Meryl Kornfield, and Brittany Shammas, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Acting Brazilian ambassador Nestor Forster, who sat at President Trump’s table Saturday night during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the embassy said late Friday. Forster is the third person who visited the president’s South Florida resort last weekend to test positive for the novel virus. Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic Friday as public life in America continued to grind to a halt. Trump’s announcement sent the Dow soaring nearly 2,000 points. Concerns about the coronavirus rippled across the globe, as schools closed to millions of students; more events were canceled, more landmarks shuttered; and the Group of Seven leaders planned a virtual crisis conference.” This article covers many more significant developments that happened today. See also, Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus, but questions raised about what’s next, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Toluse Olorunnipa, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump declared a national emergency to confront the spread of the coronavirus Friday as his administration reached an agreement with House Democrats on a bipartisan economic relief package for Americans affected by the global pandemic. Trump made the emergency announcement during a news conference in the Rose Garden in which he repeatedly praised his handling of the crisis, denied responsibility for his administration’s missteps and said for the first time that he would likely undergo testing for the coronavirus after coming into contact with an infected man…. Trump [refused] to take ownership of the problems that have led to a lack of available tests and confusion about who is eligible to use the limited supply at hand. ‘I don’t take responsibility at all,’ Trump said, blaming his predecessors and saying he knew nothing about his administration’s 2018 decision to disband a team of experts who had focused on preparing for global pandemics…. Declaring a national emergency can be helpful for marshaling resources, and some experts and groups, including the American Hospital Association, called for it to be done earlier. It’s important to stress that these declarations are administrative and provide flexibility in accessing resources and spending money, experts said. They are not done to signify that the country is in imminent danger.” See also, Trump declares national emergency in latest bid to combat coronavirus, Politico, Anita Kumar, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday to offset lagging coronavirus testing and unlock billions of dollars — accelerating a response plan that has faced weeks of criticism. Trump touted partnerships with private companies that he claimed would allow patients to learn if they need to be tested and locate a testing site, some of which will be drive-thru facilities at big box retailers across the country. ‘To unleash the full power of the federal government under this effort today, I’m officially declaring a national emergency,’ he said at an announcement in the Rose Garden. ‘Two very big words.'” See also, ‘I don’t take responsibility at all’: Trump deflects blame for coronavirus testing debacle, Politico, Caitlin Oprysko, Friday, 13 March 2020. See also, Trump says he takes ‘no responsibility’ for coronavirus failures as he declares national emergency, The Guardian, Mario Koran, Daniel Strauss, Lauren Aratani, and Martin Belam, Friday, 13 March 2020. See also, Trump Declares National Emergency to Confront Coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Restuccia, Jennifer Calfas, Alejandro Lazo, and Sam Schechner, Friday, 13 March 2020. See also, Trump shook hands, patted backs, and touched the microphone 31 times while declaring the coronavirus national emergency, The Washington Post, JM Rieger, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump on Friday touted the work of his administration’s health experts on the novel coronavirus even as he ignored their public health advice. Trump shook hands, patted backs and touched the microphone at the White House lectern at least 31 times Friday, the sort of behaviors health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against to prevent the spread of the virus.” See also, Trump defiant on testing and handshakes even as third Mar-a-Lago case emerges, The Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold, Anne Gearan, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump said Friday that he has not yet been tested for the novel coronavirus, even as three people who were with him at the Mar-a-Lago Club last weekend have now tested positive. Trump said he would be tested ‘fairly soon. We’re working on that. We’re working out a schedule.’ In one televised event, Trump seemed to defy two basic practices that the rest of his government has been urging Americans to follow to prevent the spread of the virus. People who were exposed to an infected person are urged to quarantine themselves and seek testing. And everyone — exposed or not — should stop shaking hands. But at a Friday news conference on efforts to combat the coronavirus, Trump continued to shake hands with other speakers, many of whom are members of the White House Task Force charged with trying to stem the disease. Trump and many of the speakers took part in backslapping and adjusting the shared microphone. Trump also said he will not self-quarantine, as members of Congress and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have chosen to do after known exposures.” See also, Trump’s False Claims About His Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Trump inaccurately described travel restrictions he had announced, falsely blamed his predecessor for testing shortages and misstated the role Google was playing in mitigating the outbreak.” See also, Trump Oversold a Google Site to Fight Coronavirus, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear ad Daisuke Wakabayashi, published on Saturday, 14 March 2020: “After Jared Kushner liked the idea, President Trump inflated the concept. The disconnect is the latest example of the president exaggerating or making wholly inaccurate statements about his administration’s response.” See also, Contrary to Trump’s claim, Google is not building a nationwide coronavirus screening website, The Verge, Dieter Bohn, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Google is not working with the US government in building a nationwide website to help people determine whether and how to get a novel coronavirus test, despite what President Donald Trump said in the course of issuing an emergency declaration for the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a much smaller trial website made by another division of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going up. It will only be able to direct people to testing facilities in the Bay Area.” See also, Contrary to claims made by Trump during a Friday news conference, Google says it is not publishing a national-scale coronavirus site anytime soon, CNN Politics, Brian Fung, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Google will not be publishing a national-scale website for coronavirus testing anytime soon, contrary to claims made by President Donald Trump during a Friday news conference. Instead, a health-focused subsidiary owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, intends to launch a small-scale website next week to begin to triage California-based patients. The website will aim to serve a broader population only ‘over time’ — not ‘very quickly,’ as Trump said.”

House Passes Coronavirus Relief After Democrats Strike Deal With White House, The New York Times, Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday over the coronavirus pandemic and announced steps he said would speed the availability of testing, and early Saturday, the House passed a bill reflecting a deal with his administration to provide billions of dollars to help sick workers and to prop up a slumping economy. Markets rallied on Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration, which he said would free up $50 billion for states and localities to cope with the outbreak — separate from the congressional relief measure — and which would allow the Treasury Department to delay tax filing deadlines for some individuals and businesses. During a news conference in the Rose Garden, the president also said he would indefinitely suspend interest collections on federal student loans, although no bills would go down. And he instructed the Energy Department to buy enough oil to fill the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve ‘to the top.’ The S&P 500 soared during the remarks and closed the day up by more than 9 percent. At the news conference, Mr. Trump followed none of the safety protocols recommended to combat the spread of the virus, shaking hands with multiple administration officials and chief executives and sharing a microphone with them.” See also, House passes coronavirus economic relief package with Trump’s support, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane, and Jeff Stein, published on Saturday, 14 March 2020: “The House overwhelmingly passed an economic relief bill early Saturday for the coronavirus, dedicating tens of billions of dollars for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing and other measures to help Americans impacted by the crisis. The 363-40 vote — gaveled down just before 1 a.m. — capped two days of volatile negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that threatened to fall apart entirely for hours Friday amid GOP misgivings. But even after President Trump criticized House Democrats at an afternoon news conference Pelosi and Mnuchin kept at it, speaking by phone 13 times in the course of the day Friday and finally clinching a deal. Not long thereafter Trump endorsed the legislation over Twitter, ensuring widespread GOP support.” See also, There’s a Giant Hole in Nancy Pelosi’s Coronavirus Bill, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, published on Saturday, 14 March 2020: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi early Saturday celebrated passage of legislation she described as providing paid sick leave to American workers affected by the coronavirus. She neglected to mention the fine print. In fact, the bill guarantees sick leave only to about 20 percent of workers. Big employers like McDonald’s and Amazon are not required to provide any paid sick leave, while companies with fewer than 50 employees can seek hardship exemptions from the Trump administration…. The White House and congressional Republicans, who insisted on the exemptions as the price of bipartisan support for the legislation, bear the primary responsibility for the indefensible decision to prioritize corporate profits in the midst of a public health emergency…. But House Democrats also failed to act in the public interest. Paying sick workers to stay at home is both good policy and good politics. Why not pass a bill that required all employers to provide paid sick leave and then force Republicans to explain their objections to the public?”

In May 2018 the Trump Administration Dismissed the Top ‘Global Health Security’ Specialist on the National Security Council and Disbanded the Pandemic-Preparedness Team He Had Led. In News Conference on Friday, Trump Says He Doesn’t Know Anything About the White House’s Elimination of the Pandemic Response Team.  Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The responsibility for monitoring infectious disease threats was technically given to another group within the NSC, but even at the time, the Washington Post wrote that the reorganization was seen by experts in the field as ‘a downgrading of global health security.’ This decision has been subject to some scrutiny during the last month of disaster un-preparedness and global health insecurity. On Friday PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump about the subject during a White House press conference, and his response was, simply put, bad. Here’s the transcript (‘Tony’ is Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who, to be clear, has nothing to do with the National Security Council): ALCINDOR: You did disband the White House pandemic office, and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibility do you take to that, and—the officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that? TRUMP: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done, and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. [Ed.: The closing of borders to some travelers.] And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people, I could ask perhaps, in my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that, I don’t know anything about it. Disbanding, no, I don’t know anything about it … ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the reorganization that happened at the National Security Council. TRUMP: … It’s the administration, perhaps they do that, let people go, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now, you know, things like that happen.” See also, Video: Trump asked about disbanding pandemic office by Yamiche Alcindor, CNN Politics, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Reporter Yamiche Alcindor presses President Trump about disbanding the pandemic response team on the National Security Council in light of the coronavirus outbreak in the US.” See also, Trump Slams ‘Nasty’ Question as PBS Reporter Yamiche Alcindor Challenges Him on Shutdown of Pandemic Unit, Huff Post, Mary Papenfuss, Friday, 13 March 2020. See also, I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it. The Washington Post, Beth Cameron, Friday, 13 March 2020: “When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19. The U.S. government’s slow and inadequate response to the new coronavirus underscores the need for organized, accountable leadership to prepare for and respond to pandemic threats.”

Continue reading Week 165, Friday, 13 March – Thursday, 19 March 2020 (Days 1,148-1,154)

‘Not good enough’: How Representative Katie Porter’s relentless questioning led Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to commit to free coronavirus testing, The Washington Post, Meagan Flynn, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) did the math. Like a host of ‘The Price Is Right,’ Porter asked a Department of Health and Human Services official to guess what it would cost for an uninsured American to receive a coronavirus test, itemizing everything from the initial flu test to the expensive emergency room visit. She tallied up the total cost on a whiteboard: an estimated $1,331 out of pocket. She turned to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and quickly transformed her demeanor from an amiable game-show host into a formidable principal doling out discipline. ‘Doctor Redfield,’ she asked, ‘do you want to know who has the coronavirus and who doesn’t? Not just rich people, but everybody who might have the virus?’ It was the beginning of a relentless line of questioning from Porter that, in just five minutes, would pry a promise out of Redfield to ensure that coronavirus testing would be free for all Americans. The stunning exchange between the doctor and lawmaker, during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, led many to credit Porter with potentially saving lives amid the federal government’s uneven response to the pandemic, calling her ‘brilliant’ and a ‘hero.'”

Fact Check: Trump’s False Accusations About the Obama Administration and Swine Flu, NPR, Brian Naylor, Friday, 13 March 2020: “President Trump, widely criticized for his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, tried to shift blame Friday to his predecessor’s handling of a health crisis 11 years ago. In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of making unspecified changes that ‘complicated’ the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s testing system. Trump falsely charged the Obama administration’s response to the H1N1 swine flu outbreak was a ‘full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now.’ Trump has, on numerous occasions, accused the Obama administration of implementing a rule change that complicated testing. However, no such rule was ever put in place, according to FactCheck.org.”

Stocks Rally as Trump and Business Leaders Pledge Support, The New York Times, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Stocks rallied Friday, rebounding from their worst day in more than 30 years, after President Trump said leaders of private companies in the United States had agreed to help with efforts to test for the coronavirus, and declared a national emergency that would free billions in funding to fight the epidemic.”

How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts, The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof and Stuart A. Thompson, Friday, 13 March 2020: “What’s at stake in this coronavirus pandemic? How many Americans can become infected? How many might die? The answers depend on the actions we take — and, crucially, on when we take them. Working with infectious disease epidemiologists, we developed this interactive tool that lets you see what may lie ahead in the United States and how much of a difference it could make if officials act quickly. (The figures are for the United States, but the lessons are broadly applicable to any country.)” See also, Worst-Case Estimates for U.S. Coronavirus Deaths, The New York Times, Sheri Fink, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and epidemic experts from universities around the world conferred last month about what might happen if the new coronavirus gained a foothold in the United States. How many people might die? How many would be infected and need hospitalization? One of the agency’s top disease modelers, Matthew Biggerstaff, presented the group on the phone call with four possible scenarios — A, B, C and D — based on characteristics of the virus, including estimates of how transmissible it is and the severity of the illness it can cause. The assumptions, reviewed by The New York Times, were shared with about 50 expert teams to model how the virus could tear through the population — and what might stop it.” See also, The exponential Power of Now, The New York Times, Siobhan Roberts, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The principle is that, with the exponential growth phase of an epidemic, individual and institutional actions such as social distancing taken early on can have a much greater impact than if the same actions are taken even a week later.”

Trump Administration Moves to Speed Coronavirus Testing, The New York Times, Noah Weiland and Katie Thomas, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The Trump administration moved on Friday to drastically speed up coronavirus testing, approving a commercial test that will allow labs around the country to begin processing as many as 4,000 samples a day, and introducing an emergency hotline for laboratories.”

Passengers flying to the U.S. from 26 countries in Europe will face enhanced screening, The Washington Post, Lori Aratani and Nick Miroff, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Starting at midnight Saturday, travelers on flights from 26 countries in Europe will be channeled through one of 13 U.S. airports, where they will undergo enhanced health screening, be given information about the novel coronavirus and instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. The measures will apply to U.S. citizens, green-card holders, their family members and other authorized travelers who have recently traveled from, or otherwise been present, within ‘a country of the Schengen Area within 14 days of the date of the person’s entry or attempted entry into the United States,’ according to a directive issued by acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf on Friday. Under the new restrictions, most non-U.S. citizens will be blocked from entering the United States from those countries.” See also, Travelers From Coronavirus Hot Spots Say They Faced No Screening, The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Friday, 13 March 2020: “As thousands of Americans flee from Europe and other centers of the coronavirus outbreak, many travelers are reporting no health screenings upon departure and few impediments at U.S. airports beyond a welcome home greeting.”

As coronavirus causes school closures, districts across the country are searching for ways to feed students who rely on school breakfasts and lunches, Business Insider, Sarah Al-Arshani, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Schools across the US are closing as a social distancing measure to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. The closures are an obstacle for millions of students who rely on school meals for nutrition and may not have access to full meals otherwise. School districts across the country are finding their own unique ways to make sure students are fed while schools are closed. The USDA has put waivers in place to allow schools to provide meals in non-group settings.”

In the Eye of the Coronavirus Testing Storm: Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Sheila Kaplan, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in the hot seat — again. It was his third time testifying before a congressional committee in three days, and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz was demanding to know who in the government was responsible for making sure Americans with coronavirus symptoms got tested. Twice, he started an indirect reply, but twice Ms. Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, cut him off. ‘I just need a name,’ she said. ‘Is it you?’ Dr. Redfield looked pleadingly at the slight, older man sitting next to him. ‘I think my colleague is indicating I should respond,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who proceeded to do so in the bluntest of terms. ‘The system is not really geared to what we need right now,’ Dr. Fauci told the lawmakers. ‘That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.'”

Boston and London Marathons Are Postponed Until the Fall, The New York Times, Matthew Futterman and Talya Minsberg, Friday, 13 March 2020: “After resisting calls to cancel the race for weeks, the Boston Athletic Association announced Friday that the Boston Marathon would be postponed until September because of mounting concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after that announcement, another major race, the London Marathon, was postponed. It had been scheduled for April 26, six days after the Boston Marathon. For some British runners the London race would have served as a qualifier for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in late July, another event that could be canceled or postponed because of the pandemic, though organizers have insisted the Olympics will take place as planned.”

Whole Foods Suggests That Workers Share Paid Time Off During Coronavirus Pandemic, Vice, Lauren Kaori Gurley, Friday, 13 March 2020: “On Wednesday, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey sent out an email to grocery store employees with a list of benefits and options for those who fall sick during the coronavirus pandemic. Among his six suggestions was an option for employees to ‘donate’ their paid time off (PTO) to coworkers facing medical emergencies…. As a subsidiary of Amazon, the world’s biggest company, Whole Foods could easily afford to pay its hourly employees for sick days taken during the coronavirus outbreak without breaking the bank. Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they’re not happy about it.”

Full Appeals Court to Decide Whether Congress Can Sue Executive Branch, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The entire federal appeals court in Washington said on Friday that it would take up two cases that raised the question of whether and when Congress may sue to resolve a dispute with the president, setting up a double-barreled test for establishing when the judicial branch can resolve disputes over separation of powers. In a terse order, the full appeals court said it would rehear a case involving a House Judiciary Committee subpoena to Donald F. McGahn II, President Trump’s former White House counsel, vacating a 2-1 panel ruling last month that Congress could not sue to enforce its subpoenas of executive branch officials. The full court also said it would immediately take up a case that House Democrats brought against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin challenging the administration’s use of emergency powers and other extraordinary measures to spend more taxpayer funds on Mr. Trump’s border wall with Mexico than Congress had been willing to appropriate…. The full Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments in both cases on April 28.” See also, Full appeals court to hear McGahn and border wall cases, Politico, Josh Gerstein, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The full bench of the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to weigh in on two legal fights critical to President Donald Trump: whether the House can use the courts to enforce a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, and whether the House can sue to block Trump’s effort to fund border wall construction over Congressional objections. The Friday afternoon announcement wiped out a major victory Trump scored last month when a smaller panel of the same court ruled, 2-1, that the courts should not wade into subpoena fights between Congress and the White House.”

Former Judge James Dannenberg Resigns From the Supreme Court Bar. In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, he detailed why he has lost faith in the Supreme Court. Slate, Dahlia Lithwick, Friday, 13 March 2020: “James Dannenberg is a retired Hawaii state judge. He sat on the District Court of the 1st Circuit of the state judiciary for 27 years. Before that, he served as the deputy attorney general of Hawaii. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law, teaching federal jurisdiction for more than a decade. He has appeared on briefs and petitions as part of the most prestigious association of attorneys in the country: the Supreme Court Bar. The lawyers admitted to practice before the high court enjoy preferred seating at arguments and access to the court library, and are deemed members of the legal elite. Above all, the bar stands as a sprawling national signifier that the work of the court, the legitimacy of the institution, and the business of justice is bolstered by tens of thousands of lawyers across the nation. On Wednesday, Dannenberg tendered a letter of resignation from the Supreme Court Bar to Chief Justice John Roberts. He has been a member of that bar since 1972. In his letter, reprinted in full below, Dannenberg compares the current Supreme Court, with its boundless solicitude for the rights of the wealthy, the privileged, and the comfortable, to the court that ushered in the Lochner era in the early 20th century, a period of profound judicial activism that put a heavy thumb on the scale for big business, banking, and insurance interests, and ruled consistently against child labor, fair wages, and labor regulations…. Excerpt from Judge Dannenberg’s letter: The Court, under your leadership and with your votes, has wantonly flouted established precedent. Your ‘conservative’ majority has cynically undermined basic freedoms by hypocritically weaponizing others. The ideas of free speech and religious liberty have been transmogrified to allow officially sanctioned bigotry and discrimination, as well as to elevate the grossest forms of political bribery beyond the ability of the federal government or states to rationally regulate it. More than a score of decisions during your tenure have overturned established precedents—some more than forty years old– and you voted with the majority in most. There is nothing ‘conservative’ about this trend. This is radical ‘legal activism’ at its worst. Without trying to write a law review article, I believe that the Court majority, under your leadership, has become little more than a result-oriented extension of the right wing of the Republican Party, as vetted by the Federalist Society. Yes, politics has always been a factor in the Court’s history, but not to today’s extent. Even routine rules of statutory construction get subverted or ignored to achieve transparently political goals. The rationales of ‘textualism’ and ‘originalism’ are mere fig leaves masking right wing political goals; sheer casuistry.”

The Trump administration plans to kick 700,000 off food stamps during a pandemic, Vox, Catherine Kim, Friday, 13 March 2020: “The coronavirus outbreak may be an economic and public health crisis, but that isn’t stopping the Trump administration from going through with its plan to kick nearly 700,000 people off food stamps. Starting April 1, the administration will tighten work requirements for those seeking the help of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Able-bodied people between the ages of 18 and 49 who aren’t raising children will have to work at least 20 hours a week to become eligible for SNAP. That’s a requirement that many states have been able to waive until the Trump administration stepped in.” See also, Amid a Pandemic, Trump Moves Forward With Safety Net Cuts. As the coronavirus upends the economy, the Trump administration plans to make changes to the food stamp program that could lead to nearly 700,000 people losing assistance. The New York Times, Lola Fadulu and Abby Goodnough, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Despite the worsening pandemic, the Trump administration is pushing ahead with tougher work requirements for food stamps, and so far has not offered states the opportunity to cover the uninsured on an emergency basis under Medicaid. The coronavirus appears ready to upend the economic landscape, especially for low-wage workers who could face layoffs as restaurants and entertainment venues empty, travelers hunker down, and school systems close. But so far the administration has declined to change course on its efforts to shrink the social safety net.”

Iraqi Officials Say U.S. Airstrikes Kill Iraqi Soldiers and Police, The New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin and Eric Schmitt, Friday, 13 March 2020: “Iraqi military officials strongly condemned the United States military on Friday for airstrikes launched overnight that they said killed three Iraqi soldiers, two police officers and a civilian worker, and damaged an unfinished civilian airport. American officials said Friday that the strikes had hit five sites where rockets and other weapons were stored by an Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah. But according to multiple Iraqi military officials, who until now had been largely supportive of the U.S. role in Iraq, the bombings killed members of the Iraqi military and police.”

 

Saturday, 14 March 2020, Day 1,149:

 

Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve,’ The Washington Post, Harry Stevens, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “After the first case of covid-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, was announced in the United States, reports of further infections trickled in slowly. Two months later, that trickle has turned into a steady current. This so-called exponential curve has experts worried. If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May. That is math, not prophecy. The spread can be slowed, public health professionals say, if people practice ‘social distancing’ by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement. Still, without any measures to slow it down, covid-19 will continue to spread exponentially for months. To understand why, it is instructive to simulate the spread of a fake disease through a population.”

Infighting, missteps, and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Josh Dawsey, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “The economy was grinding to a halt. Stocks were in free fall. Schools were closing. Public events were being canceled. New cases of the novel coronavirus were popping up across the country. And then, on Wednesday, the day the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a pandemic, Jared Kushner joined the tumult. President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction. Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden…. The administration’s struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking. The scramble for solutions is occurring in an overriding atmosphere of trepidation of saying something that Trump might perceive as disloyal and of fear that their fumbles could cost the president his reelection in November…. This portrait of Trump and his administration’s management of a pandemic that in a few short days has completely altered American life is based on interviews with 19 senior administration officials and other people briefed on the internal deliberations, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid assessments.” See also, From complacency to emergency: How Trump changed course on his response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Politico, Gabby Orr and Nancy Cook, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “President Donald Trump assured Americans on Wednesday the deadly coronavirus was on the brink of disappearing. Two days later, he admitted it wasn’t.” See also, Mismanagement, missed opportunities: How the White House bungled the coronavirus response, NBC News, Ken Dilanian, Carol E. Lee, Dan De Luce, Laura Strickler, and Suzy Khimm, Saturday, 14 March 2020.

Here’s What’s in the House’s Emergency Coronavirus Bill, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane and Jim Tankersley, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “The House passed an emergency relief package Saturday to address the sweeping effects of the coronavirus and cushion the economic blow to the most vulnerable Americans. The legislation includes a series of measures intended to bolster the safety net for families and workers whose livelihoods and health are affected by the virus. With President Trump weighing in late to voice his approval, the Senate is expected to take up the package and could pass it as early as next week…. Here’s what’s in the package. There is paid sick leave for some workers, but millions aren’t covered…. It allows for free coronavirus testing for all, including the uninsured…. The package increases funding for food assistance programs…. It strengthens unemployment insurance benefits….”

Tracking Trump’s false or misleading coronavirus claims, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Meg Kelly, and Sarah Cahlan, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus has confronted President Trump with a public health and economic crisis that requires consistent, accurate messaging to guide Americans. But the president often has played down the threats, offering false, misleading or ignorant statements. We have fact-checked many of these claims and recorded them in our database of all of Trump’s claims. But now we are starting a page to list the most notable coronavirus statements in one place, in chronological order. We intend to keep updating this page as the crisis unfolds.”

Trump Tests Negative for the Novel Coronavirus; Long Waits at U.S. Airports for Inbound Passengers, The New York Times, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Travelers were reporting long lines and confusion at U.S. airports on Saturday as the president’s new European travel restrictions went into effect. In addition to barring foreigners from 26 European countries, President Trump’s new restrictions funnel Americans to designated airports in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Virginia, Detroit, Dallas, Newark, Boston and Miami. The travelers were undergoing enhanced health screenings, and the crush of Americans returning from Europe appeared to be making those screenings that much harder. Frustrated travelers shared images of the long lines on social media.”

White House starts temperature checks for people around Trump, Politico, Susannah Luthi and Evan Semones, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “The White House on Saturday began checking the temperatures of anyone in close contact with President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence. White House staff met reporters at the door of the press briefing room with a thermometer, checking the temperatures of everyone coming in for a noon press conference on coronavirus developments.”

Infected people without symptoms might be driving the spread of the novel coronavirus more than we realized, CNN Health, Elizabeth Cohen, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “New studies in several countries and a large coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts bring into question reassuring assertions by US officials about the way the novel virus spreads. These officials have emphasized that the virus is spread mainly by people who are already showing symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing. If that’s true, it’s good news, since people who are obviously ill can be identified and isolated, making it easier to control an outbreak. But it appears that a Massachusetts coronavirus cluster with at least 82 cases was started by people who were not yet showing symptoms, and more than half a dozen studies have shown that people without symptoms are causing substantial amounts of infection.”

Apple Closes All Its Stores Outside China Over the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Dowell and Tripp Mickle, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Apple will close all its retail stores outside Greater China, a dramatic example of how companies are clamping down on business activity to slow the spread of the coronavirus to their employees and customers. Apple said the stores would be closed until March 27 in light of the worsening spread of the virus, which according to figures from Johns Hopkins University has killed 5,429 and infected 145,369. Hourly workers will continue to be paid, and workers across the company will be allowed to work remotely if their jobs permit it, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a note on the company’s website. ‘The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,’ he said.”

Conservative Agenda Unleashed on the Federal Courts. Trump’s imprint on the nation’s appeals courts has been swift and historic. He has named judges with records on a range of issues important to Republicans — and to his re-election. The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Robert Gebeloff, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “President Trump has appointed judges to the federal appeals courts at a record-setting pace. The Trump appointees are far less diverse than Mr. Obama’s, with two-thirds of them white men. The new judges have been selected for their rock-solid conservative credentials, including at least seven that had previous jobs with Mr. Trump’s campaign or his administration. All but eight had ties to the Federalist Society, a legal group with views once considered on ‘the fringe.’ Now, as he seeks a second term, Mr. Trump can boast of having named more than a quarter of all judges on the appeals courts, 51 to date.” See also, These Judges Are Shifting the Appeals Courts to the Right. Five takeaways from an examination by The New York Times reveal how President Trump has reshaped the federal judiciary. The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Robert Gebeloff, Steve Eder, and Ben Protess, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “President Trump made overhauling the federal judiciary one of his top priorities, moving with particular speed to infuse the highly influential appeals courts with reliably conservative judges. Working with his Republican allies in the Senate, he installed 51 judges in just three years — appointing more than a quarter of the appellate bench at a record pace. The New York Times conducted a deep examination of the new judges to obtain a collective portrait of the group. It included interviews with people close to the nomination process, a review of biographical information submitted to the Senate by Mr. Trump’s appointees and those of his last two predecessors, former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and an analysis of published decisions and dissents by the judges. The article on the findings can be found here. These are some of the takeaways about the new judges.” See also, 51 Judges Named by Trump, The New York Times, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “This list … is part of a broad examination in The New York Times of President Trump’s transformation of the federal judiciary.”

Warmest winter on record gives way to extra-early signs of spring, CBS News, Jeff Berardelli, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “If this winter season was not very wintery where you live, you’re certainly not alone — that was the experience for most of the people in the Northern Hemisphere. According to NOAA, the winter of 2019-2020 was the warmest on record across all continents north of the equator. With an average temperature 4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, this winter ranks first among the warmest winters on land in the Northern Hemisphere, beating the very mild winter of 2015-2016.”

Amid outbreak, Democrats refocus on Trump’s health-care record, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Democrats are seizing on the spread of the coronavirus to emphasize what they see as a major vulnerability for President Trump on an issue voters consistently rank as a top concern: health care. Republican efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act, including a current Supreme Court case, were already central to Democratic argument that Trump is sabotaging the health system, and they contend that the spread of a mystifying global pandemic only strengthens that case. ‘How could it be that when we spend so much more than what other countries are spending, we have millions of people who may be dealing with the virus but they cannot go to the doctor because they can’t afford it?’ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Friday. ‘What this crisis is beginning to teach us is that we are only as safe as the least insured person in America.'”

The Companies Putting Profits Ahead of Public Health, The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Most American restaurants do not offer paid sick leave. Workers who fall sick face a simple choice: Work and get paid or stay home and get stiffed. Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that fully 20 percent of food service workers had come to work at least once in the previous year ‘while sick with vomiting or diarrhea.’ As the new coronavirus spreads across the United States, the time has come for restaurants, retailers and other industries that rely on low-wage labor to abandon their parsimonious resistance to paid sick leave. Companies that do not pay sick workers to stay home are endangering their workers, their customers and the health of the broader public. Studies show that paying for sick employees to stay home significantly reduces the spread of the seasonal flu. There’s every reason to think it would help to check the new coronavirus, too.”

Joe Biden, Looking to Attract Progressives, Endorses Elizabeth Warren’s Bankruptcy Plan, The New York Times, Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has battled with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the past over the issue of bankruptcy, now supports a plan by Ms. Warren to make changes to the bankruptcy system, his presidential campaign confirmed on Saturday. Mr. Biden would work toward putting in place her bankruptcy plan as president, and he could address the issue at greater length in Sunday night’s debate, Biden advisers said. It is the latest sign that Mr. Biden, fresh off a string of victories, is looking for ways to engage younger and more liberal voters who have remained skeptical of his candidacy, and it reflects a recognition among his allies that he will need enthusiastic support from progressives in a general election should he become the Democratic nominee.” See also, Biden vs. Sanders, Issue by Issue, The New York Times, Matt Stevens and Maggie Astor, Sunday, 15 March 2020.

Georgia postpones presidential primary due to coronavirus, CNN Politics, Kelly Mena and Dianne Gallagher, Saturday, 14 March 2020: “Georgia elections officials will postpone the March 24 presidential primary to May 19 because of the coronavirus, becoming the second state in the nation to delay a vote in the race for the White House due to the pandemic, according to Walter Jones, a spokesman with the Secretary of State’s office.”

 

Sunday, 15 March 2020, Day 1,150:

 

Abrupt coronavirus checks cause agonizing delays at U.S. airports, The Washington Post, Mark Guarino, Katherine Shaver, Derek Hawkins, and Hannah Knowles, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Airports nationwide were thrown into chaos this weekend as workers scrambled to roll out the Trump administration’s hastily arranged health screenings for travelers returning from Europe. Scores of anxious passengers said they encountered jam-packed terminals, long lines and hours of delays as flights from more than two dozen European countries were routed through 13 of the busiest travel hubs in the United States. Airport workers queried them about their health and instructed them to self-quarantine as part of the “enhanced entry screenings” announced Friday to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As confusion and anxiety spread, the situation threatened to deepen the crisis for the administration, which has struggled to mount a coherent response to the pandemic or convey a consistent message to the public about what the federal government is doing to mitigate the outbreak. Shortly after taking effect, the measures intended to prevent new infections in the United States caused conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus, with throngs of people standing shoulder to shoulder — in some cases for several hours.”

A Complete List of Trump’s Attempts to Play Down the Coronavirus Pandemic. He could have taken action. He didn’t. The New York Times, David Leonhardt, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “President Trump made his first public comments about the coronavirus on Jan. 22, in a television interview from Davos with CNBC’s Joe Kernen. The first American case had been announced the day before, and Kernen asked Trump, ‘Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?’ The president responded: ‘No. Not at all. And we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.’ By this point, the seriousness of the virus was becoming clearer. It had spread from China to four other countries. China was starting to take drastic measures and was on the verge of closing off the city of Wuhan.”

Federal Reserve slashes interest rates to zero as part of wide-ranging emergency intervention, The Washington Post, Heather Long, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “The Federal Reserve announced on Sunday it would drop interest rates to zero and buy at least $700 billion in government and mortgage-related bonds as part of a wide-ranging emergency action to protect the economy from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The moves, the most dramatic by the U.S. central bank since the 2008 financial crisis, are aimed at keeping financial markets stable and making borrowing costs as low as possible as businesses around the country close and the U.S. economy hurtles toward recession. The Fed, led by Chair Jerome H. Powell, effectively cut its benchmark by a full percentage point to zero. The benchmark U.S. interest rate is now in a range of 0 to 0.25 percent, down from a range of 1 to 1.25 percent. In addition to rate cuts, the Fed announced it is restarting the crisis-era program of bond purchases known as “quantitative easing,” in which the central bank buys hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds to further push down rates and keep markets flowing freely. The Fed is also giving more-generous loans to banks around the country so they can turn around and offer loans to small businesses and families in need of a lifeline.” See also, The Federal Reserve Deployed Its 2008 Arsenal All in One Weekend, The New York Times, Neil Irwin, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “If the Federal Reserve’s surprise Sunday evening announcement of sweeping efforts to guard the economy from coronavirus reminded you of the 2008 global financial crisis, you’re not alone. In that episode, policymakers’ tendency to make surprise weekend announcements became a running joke. But the similarities between the Fed then and now go deeper than the timing of news conferences. Think of what the Fed did over the weekend this way: It resurrected most of its aggressive, unconventional and extraordinary policies used to combat the global financial crisis. But this time, instead of doing so over about 16 months, from late 2007 through early 2009, it announced versions of them in a single weekend, before solid evidence of economic damage even materialized.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges halting gatherings of 50 people or more, The Washington Post, Katie Mettler, Kim Bellware, Lateshia Beachum, Hannah Natanson, Hannah Knowles, and Teo Armus, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, citing the risk of the coronavirus. If followed, the guidance — the strongest and most sweeping to date from the agency — will significantly increase the pandemic’s disruption to U.S. public life for the next two months. Governments worldwide are already making tough decisions aimed at keeping their citizens safe.”

The Novel Coronavirus in New York City: Schools, Restaurants, and Bars Are Shut Down, The New York Times, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Facing mounting pressure, New York City officials announced on Sunday a sweeping shutdown of tens of thousands of bars and restaurants, and the closure of the city’s public school system — the largest in the nation — in an effort to suppress the spread of the coronavirus. From California to Washington, D.C., governors and mayors are grappling with how far government should go in constricting people’s daily lives to keep them home. A patchwork of recent measures — mandatory curfews in Puerto Rico and Hoboken, N.J.; the closing of restaurant and bar dining rooms in Ohio and Illinois; and the closure of public schools in several states, including Minnesota, South Carolina and Rhode Island — was a sign that the restrictive interventions could soon become the norm nationwide. New York provided another stark example on Sunday: Shortly before 10 p.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city will close its bars and restaurants, except for delivery and pickup services, leaving waiters, bartenders and baristas uncertain about their next paycheck.”

Bernie Sanders: Coronavirus highlights the flaws in our health care and economic systems, CNN Opinion, Bernie Sanders, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Our country is facing a medical and economic crisis the likes of which we’ve not seen in generations. And our response must meet the enormous scale of the pandemic. It is at this moment that we must remember that we are all in this together. If our neighbor or co-worker gets sick, we have the potential to get sick. If our neighbors lose their jobs, then our local economies suffer, and we may lose our jobs. If doctors and nurses do not have the equipment and staffing capacity they need now, people we know and love may die. Now is the time for solidarity, and robust action.”

Pence Pledges High-Speed Coronavirus Testing From 2,000 Labs This Week, The New York Times, Denise Grady, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Federal officials are moving ahead with plans to address the screaming shortage of testing for the coronavirus by setting up many more drive-through testing centers around the country and speeding the capability of commercial laboratories to process multiple samples at once. Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at a White House briefing with Vice President Mike Pence that starting on Monday, 2,000 commercial labs would begin to perform coronavirus tests using high-speed machines that can process many samples at once. Those labs are expected to add somewhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of tests a week to the nation’s capacity, and 1.9 million tests should be available by the end of the week, Admiral Giroir said. Some experts who have closely followed the government’s testing stumbles were skeptical that the federal government could meet such ambitious goals so quickly.”

The best thing everyday Americans can do to fight coronavirus? #StayHome, save lives, USA Today, by 16 national health care leaders, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “COVID-19 is spreading, and you won’t know you’re infected until you’ve already infected others. Right now, you have no immunity to prevent you from getting the disease. It’s especially lethal for older people or those with underlying conditions. This will come to communities in waves and will be a marathon, not a sprint, so pay attention to local events. And our hospitals won’t have sufficient resources — people, beds, ventilators or protective gear — if cases keep spreading as fast as they are in Italy. But there’s something important you can do: #StayHome STAY AT HOME [emphasis in original] as much as possible. It may be in your community now or it may be soon. Until you hear otherwise from health care officials, even if you have no symptoms. That means avoiding play dates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship. Avoid all crowds.”

German Officials Say U.S. Offered ‘Large Sum’ to German Company for Access to Coronavirus Vaccine Research, The New York Times, Katrin Bennhold and David E. Sanger, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “The Trump administration attempted to persuade a German firm developing a possible vaccine for coronavirus to move its research work to the United States, German officials said, raising fears in Berlin that President Trump was trying to assure that any inoculation would be available first, and perhaps exclusively, in the United States. The offer arose from a March 2 meeting at the White House that included the chief executive of the German firm CureVac, Daniel Menichella. President Trump briefly attended the meeting and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus task force, was also there.” See also, Germany confirms that Trump tried to buy firm working on coronavirus vaccine, Politico, Aitor Hernández-Morales, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “The Donald Trump administration offered “large sums of money” to get exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a German company, Die Welt reported Sunday. According to the article, Trump was trying to get the Tübingen-based CureVac company — which also has sites in Frankfurt and Boston — to move its research wing to the United States and develop the vaccine ‘for the U.S. only.’ A spokesperson for Germany’s Health Ministry quoted in the article appeared to acknowledge the U.S. approach and said that Berlin was ‘very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe.’ On Sunday afternoon, Germany’s Health Ministry told Reuters that its spokesperson had been quoted correctly in the newspaper article, confirming that Washington had attempted to take over the biopharmaceutical company. Government sources indicated that Berlin was now offering CureVac financial incentives to remain in Germany.” See also, German officials to discuss reported U.S. attempt to buy exclusive rights to coronavirus vaccine, The Washington Post, Loveday Morris, Sunday, 15 March 2020.

California Republican Representative Devin Nunes Encourages People to Dine Out as Experts Urge Them to Stay Home. Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt Also Encouraged People to Eat out.  The New York Times, Mariel Padilla and Zach Montague, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, on Sunday encouraged healthy people to dine out at restaurants, contradicting public health advisories that strongly encouraged social distancing and discouraged Americans from attending mass gatherings…. Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, a Republican, also encouraged people to support local businesses. On Twitter on Saturday, he shared a photo of his family at a packed food hall called the Collective OKC in the heart of Oklahoma City. In the Twitter post, which has been since deleted, he wrote: ‘Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans at the @CollectiveOKC. It’s packed tonight! #supportlocal #OklaProud.’ Public health experts, however, are urging just the opposite: Stay home if you can.”

Public attitudes about the coronavirus response are split along partisan lines in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, NBC News, Mark Murray, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “A majority of American voters say they’re worried that someone in their immediate family might catch the coronavirus, and six-in-10 believe the worst is yet to come for the outbreak inside the United States, a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. In addition, more than 40 percent say their day-to-day lives will change as a result of the pandemic. But public attitudes about the coronavirus — including President Donald Trump’s handling of it — are starkly divided along partisan lines, with nearly nine-in-10 Republican voters having confidence in Trump dealing with the outbreak, compared with just a sliver of Democrats who agree…. Sixty-eight percent of Democratic voters are worried that an immediate family member might catch the coronavirus, compared with just 40 percent of Republicans who agree. Fifty-six percent of Democrats believe their day-to-day lives will change in a major way in the future, versus only 26 percent of Republicans who think that. And 79 percent of Democrats say that the worst is yet to come, versus just 40 percent of Republicans who hold the same opinion. That partisan split also carries over to plans and activities. Forty-seven percent of all voters say they’ve stopped or plan to stop attending large public gatherings, which includes 61 percent of Democratic respondents but just 30 percent of Republicans. What’s more, 36 percent say they’ve canceled or plan to cancel travel, which includes 47 percent of Democrats but just 23 percent of Republicans. And 26 percent say they’ve stopped or plan to stop eating out at restaurants, which includes 36 percent of Democrats but only 12 percent of Republicans.”

Trump Says He’s ‘Strongly Considering’ Pardoning Michael Flynn, His Former National Security Adviser, The New York Times, Annie Karni and Adam Goldman, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “As the country reeled from growing health and economic crises brought on by the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump announced on Sunday that he was ‘strongly considering’ a pardon for his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Trump, who appeared to spend the day stewing at the White House, also lashed out at a familiar group of perceived Democratic enemies: Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.” See also, Trump says he’s ‘strongly considering’ pardoning his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “President Trump said Sunday that he is considering pardoning former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. The tweet from Trump came as the country is amid a national emergency as officials work to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, with schools, businesses and other institutions shutting down.”

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Fight Over Policy and Records in Head-to-Head Debate, The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders called for vastly more aggressive government action to battle the coronavirus but split over some of the details along familiar ideological lines on Sunday night, as the two Democrats tangled over the right to lead their party into a campaign overshadowed by the pandemic inflicting havoc on the country’s economy and its social fabric. In their first one-on-one debate of the primary race, Mr. Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont, demanded sweeping economic reform and the creation of a single-payer health care system to address crises like the virus. Mr. Biden said he would call up the military to help and enact a “multi-multi-billion dollar program” of disease containment and economic rescue, and said that there were more issues at hand that could not wait on reinventing the health care system.” See also, Six Takeaways From the March Democratic Debate, The New York Times, Reid J. Epstein, Katie Glueck, and Shane Goldmacher, published on Monday, 16 March 2020: “The coronavirus, “Medicare for all,” old Senate votes, the Iraq War, Social Security, gun control, immigration, visions of leadership: They were all on the table Sunday night in the first one-on-one debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a matchup that comes two days before four delegate-rich states hold primaries.” See also, Fact-Checking the Biden-Sanders Democratic Debate, The New York Times, Sunday, 15 March 2020. See also, Biden pledges he’ll pick a female running mate, and Sanders says he likely will in a debate that took place under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Jenna Johnson, and Michael Scherer, Sunday, 15 March 2020: “Former vice president Joe Biden pledged Sunday to appoint a woman as his running mate if he wins the Democratic nomination and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would probably make the same decision, as they met in an extraordinary two-man debate conducted under circumscribed conditions to guard against the growing coronavirus pandemic…. The pledges came midway through a debate that began with calls for national unity in the face of a historic medical crisis but soon descended into a testy policy-based battle over who had the best credentials and leadership record to lead the Democratic Party.” See also, Fact-checking the 11th Democratic primary debate, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly, published on Monday, 16 March 2020.

 

Monday, 16 March 2020, Day 1,151:

 

White House Takes New Line After Dire Report Compiled by British Researchers on Possible Death Toll, The New York Times, Sheri Fink, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Sweeping new federal recommendations announced on Monday for Americans to sharply limit their activities appeared to draw on a dire scientific report warning that, without action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of coronavirus and suppress new cases, 2.2 million people in the United States could die. To curb the epidemic, there would need to be drastic restrictions on work, school and social gatherings for periods of time until a vaccine was available, which could take 18 months, according to the report, compiled by British researchers. They cautioned that such steps carried enormous costs that could also affect people’s health, but concluded they were ‘the only viable strategy at the current time.’ That is because different steps, intended to drive down transmission by isolating patients, quarantining those in contact with them and keeping the most vulnerable apart from others for three months, could only cut the predicted death toll by half, the new report said.” See also, A chilling scientific paper helped upend U.S. and U.K. coronavirus strategies, The Washington Post,William Booth, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Immediately after Boris Johnson completed his Monday evening news conference, which saw a somber prime minister encourage his fellow citizens to avoid ‘all nonessential contact with others,’ his aides hustled reporters into a second, off-camera briefing. That session presented jaw-dropping numbers from some of Britain’s top modelers of infectious disease, who predicted the deadly course of the coronavirus could quickly kill hundreds of thousands in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as surges of sick and dying patients overwhelmed hospitals and critical care units. The new forecasts, by Neil Ferguson and his colleagues at the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, were quickly endorsed by Johnson’s government to design new and more extreme measures to suppress the spread of the virus. The report is also influencing planning by the Trump administration. Deborah Birx, who serves as the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, cited the British analysis at a news conference Monday, saying her response team was especially focused on the report’s conclusion that an entire household should self-quarantine for 14 days if one of its members is stricken by the virus. The Imperial College London group reported that if nothing was done by governments and individuals and the pandemic remained uncontrolled, 510,000 would die in Britain and 2.2 million in the United States over the course of the outbreak. These kinds of numbers are deeply concerning for countries with top-drawer health-care systems. They are terrifying for less-developed countries, global health experts say.”

Trump Says Gatherings Should Be Limited to 10 People, The New York Times, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The Trump administration released new guidelines on Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10 people, discretionary travel, bars, restaurants and food courts. Mr. Trump, flanked by task force members including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the guidelines would apply for 15 days…. The new measures reflected the increasing gravity of global attempts to contain the virus as governments around the world, from Canada to Hungary, moved to close their borders to foreign travelers. They left unanswered the question of precisely what individuals and local governments should do, or how business owners and workers might survive financially, at a time when vast sections of the economy were ceasing to function.” See also, Trump calls on Americans to avoid gatherings as coronavirus threatens to afflict the country for months, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Seung Min Kim, and Scott Wilson, Monday, 16 March 2020: “President Trump said Monday that Americans should avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, eating in restaurants or taking nonessential trips, his most significant push yet to combat a viral outbreak that has rocked financial markets and disrupted the daily lives of Americans. Taken together, the guidelines were the closest the federal government has come to calling for a nationwide quarantine, with the White House arguing that the United States has just 15 days to halt the spread of the coronavirus. A day after giving a self-congratulatory news conference in which he declared the U.S. government had ‘tremendous control’ over the pandemic, Trump on Monday appeared chastened by the magnitude of the crisis facing the nation and testing his presidency.” See also, Trump Tells Governors They Should Try to Get Ventilators on Their Own and Not Wait for the Federal Government to Help, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin, Monday, 16 March 2020: “President Trump told a group of governors on Monday morning that they should not wait for the federal government to fill the growing demand for respirators needed to treat people with coronavirus. ‘Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,’ Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times…. The suggestion surprised some of the governors, who have been scrambling to contain the outbreak and are increasingly looking to the federal government for help with equipment, personnel and financial aid. Last Wednesday, Mr. Trump directed his labor secretary to increase the availability of respirators, and he has generally played down fears of shortages.”

Live updates on some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, 16 March 2020: U.S. sees largest one-day increase in coronavirus death toll since the outbreak began; San Francisco area is asked to shelter at home, The Washington Post, Derek Hawkins, Kim Bellware, Katie Mettler, Lateshia Beachum, Jennifer Hassan, Reis Thebault, and Teo Armus, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Health departments in the United States on Monday reported the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths on any one day since the onset of the outbreak. As of Monday evening, officials had reported 18 people dead, bringing the nationwide total to 85, according to a Washington Post tally. President Trump in a Monday news conference recommended that states with evidence of community transmission of the virus should close schools, as well as bars, restaurants, gyms and other gathering spots. ‘It isn’t an overreaction,’ Anthony S. Fauci, a leading member of the president’s coronavirus task force, said of the recommendations released Monday. About 4,450 coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States, though experts suspect the true number is much higher.” This article covers many more significant developments occurred today.

Trump issues new guidelines to stem coronavirus spread, Politico, Nolan D. McCaskill, Joanne Kenen, and Adam Cancryn, Monday, 16 March 2020: “President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an increasingly urgent bid to slow the virus in the next two weeks before U.S. hospitals are overwhelmed…. The guidelines — including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home — are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness that Trump has not previously displayed. The president acknowledged that the crisis — which has already killed thousands around the world and set off a plunge of world markets — could last until July or August and even plunge the nation into a recession. No country, including the United States, has it under control, he said, though he also suggested America could limit its death toll ‘if we do a really good job’ responding now.” See also, US Covid-19: millions of Californians told to ‘shelter-in-place,’ The Guardian, Kari Paul, Joan E. Greve, Kenya Evelyn, and Martin Belam, Monday, 16 March 2020. See also, Coronavirus Closes School for Nearly 30 Million Children in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal, Douglas Belkin, Monday, 16 March 2020: “A cascade of announcements by governors across the country to close schools statewide in the last few days means that, as of Monday morning, public and private schools are closed for nearly 30 million children across the U.S.—more than half of the nation’s school enrollment. The historic closings have taken place across 26 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in most of the nation’s largest school districts including Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, according to Education Week, which is keeping a running tally. The country’s largest school district, New York City, which had been the most prominent holdout, decided Sunday afternoon to close through April 20. The shutting of so many schools across the nation has massive economic, academic and social repercussions. It forces millions of parents to stay home from work to look after their children, handcuffing businesses and local economies. And it shuts down the main access point for food and social services for millions of children who don’t otherwise have access to either.” See also, After Days of Anxiety and Confusion, Government Workers Are Told to Work From Home, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson and Katie Benner, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The federal government on Monday began directing its employees to work from home, after a week of confusion as some workers were told to report to the office even as public health officials implored employers to keep people at home. Facing mounting criticism and anxiety from federal employees, the Trump administration on Sunday night issued new guidance that allowed some to voluntarily work from home. That memo replaced an earlier directive that said only people at high risk of health problems could telework, and it came days after waves of schools, libraries, restaurants, churches, arenas and other businesses had shuttered to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.” See also, Ohio primary called off at last minute due to health emergency, NBC News, Allan Smith, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Ohio’s Tuesday primary was called off at the last minute on Monday night due to a health emergency posed by the coronavirus. The election was thrust into chaos on Monday after Gov. Mike DeWine said the state would not open polls because of the coronavirus outbreak. His comments come after a judge declined to postpone the contest until June. ‘During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election tomorrow would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,’ DeWine said in a statement posted to Twitter. DeWine said that state Health Department Director Amy Acton would ‘order the polls closed as a health emergency.’ Acton did just that late Monday night. Primary contests in Illinois, Arizona and Florida were going ahead Tuesday as scheduled. DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose filed a joint lawsuit Monday afternoon in order to get the election postponed. But Judge Richard Frye declined their request later Monday, saying that to postpone the vote would set a ‘terrible precedent,’ the Associated Press reported.” See also, Ohio’s Governor Postpones Primary as Health Emergency Is Declared Over Coronavirus, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Stephanie Saul, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Gov. Mike DeWine ignored a court ruling and said the state’s health director was closing the polls on Tuesday based on worries that the coronavirus placed voters and poll workers in potential danger.” See also, Dow Plummets Nearly 3,000 Points as Virus Fears Spread, The Wall Street Journal, Caitlin McCabe, Anna Hirtenstein, and Chong Koh Ping, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 3,000 points Monday—its steepest decline of the monthlong selloff—reflecting fear the emergency measures taken by the Federal Reserve may not be enough to ward off a coronavirus-induced recession. The decline underscores the level of worry among investors since the coronavirus pandemic escalated and disrupted supply chains, sidelined workers and infected tens of thousands of people. To combat the potential economic fallout, central banks and governments have put in place various stimulus measures.” See also, Grim Economic Outlook Grips Markets as Stocks Plummet, The New York Times, Monday, 16 March 2020. See also, Dow plunges nearly 3,000 points as the Federal Reserve intervention does little to subdue Wall Street’s distress, The Washington Post, David J. Lynch, Monday, 16 March 2020. See also, Airlines Seek $50 Billion Coronavirus Aid Package, The Wall Street Journal, Alison Sider and Ted Mann, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Reeling from the coronavirus crisis, U.S. airlines are seeking over $50 billion in financial assistance from the government, more than three times the size of the industry’s bailout after the Sept. 11 attacks. The exact form of the aid—and the amount—is under discussion with Trump administration officials and congressional leaders. A potential aid package could include government-backed loans, cash grants and other measures including relief from taxes and fees, according to an airline trade group and others familiar with the discussions. ‘We’re going to back the airlines 100%,’ President Trump said at a news conference Monday. ‘We have to back the airlines. It’s not their fault.'” See also, Airline industry seeking more than $50 billion in government aid amid coronavirus crisis, The Washington Post, Lori Aratani, Monday, 16 March 2020. See also, Inside the Coronavirus Response: A Case Study in the White House Under Trump, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Noah Weiland, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Infighting, turf wars and a president more concerned with the stock market and media coverage than policy have defined the Trump White House. They have also defined how it has handled a pandemic.” See also, Nearly eight weeks after the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States, Trump conveyed that he at last recognizes the magnitude of the crisis, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Monday, 16 March 2020: “President Trump for weeks dismissed the danger of the novel coronavirus. He distracted himself by stoking unrelated feuds and nursing grievances. He shared little concrete information about the spreading pandemic, and much of what he did share was false. Governors and mayors, as well as leaders of businesses large and small, stepped into the leadership vacuum to make difficult decisions affecting their constituents, employees or customers. In the absence of unambiguous guidance from the president for the citizens he was elected to lead, the frustration of governors boiled over. And then on Monday, nearly eight weeks after the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States, Trump conveyed that he at last recognizes the magnitude of the crisis that is threatening lives across the nation, disrupting the economy and fundamentally upending the daily rhythms of American life.” See also, On Fox News, suddenly a very different tune about the coronavirus, The Washington Post, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison, Monday, 16 March 2020: “For weeks, some of Fox News’s most popular hosts downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, characterizing it as a conspiracy by media organizations and Democrats to undermine President Trump. Fox News personalities such as Sean Hannity and Laura In­graham accused the news media of whipping up ‘mass hysteria’ and being ‘panic pushers.’ Fox Business host Trish Regan called the alleged media-Democratic alliance ‘yet another attempt to impeach the president.’ But that was then. With Trump’s declaration on Friday that the virus constitutes a national emergency, the tone on Fox News has quickly shifted.” See also, How U.S. coronavirus testing stalled: Flawed tests, red tape, and resistance to using the millions of tests produced by the World Health Organization, The Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey and Neena Satija, Monday, 16 March 2020. See also, Top Cancer Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Faces Mask Shortages as COVID-19 Cases Show Up in Staff and Patients, BuzzFeed News, Rosalind Adams, Monday, 16 March 2020: “One of the nation’s top cancer hospitals has informed its staff it has a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment, even as at least five employees and three patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, has only a week’s supply of masks on hand, according to a transcript of a staff meeting last Friday afternoon. The shortage, Kreg Koford, senior vice president of supply chain and sustaining care, told employees, is due to production and distribution delays in China, where most personal protective equipment, or PPE, is manufactured.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Has a Request for Sitting Republican-Nominated Federal Judges: Please Quit, The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Running out of federal court vacancies to fill, Senate Republicans have been quietly making overtures to sitting Republican-nominated judges who are eligible to retire to urge them to step aside so they can be replaced while the party still holds the Senate and the White House. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who has used his position as majority leader to build a judicial confirmation juggernaut for President Trump over the past three years, has been personally reaching out to judges to sound them out on their plans and assure them that they would have a worthy successor if they gave up their seats soon, according to multiple people with knowledge of his actions.”

Supreme Court Postpones Arguments In Keeping With Public Health Precautions, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would postpone its next argument session ‘in keeping with public health precautions.’ The court was to hear six days of arguments over two weeks starting next Monday, including ones on whether the Manhattan prosecutors and the House of Representatives may obtain President Trump’s financial records.” See also, Supreme Court postpones arguments due to coronavirus, Politico, Josh Gerstein, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The Supreme Court has indefinitely delayed arguments in more than a dozen cases scheduled later this month and early next month — an extraordinary move triggered by concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.” See also, Supreme Court to postpone arguments over coronavirus crisis, a first since 1918, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 16 March 2020.

How to Protect the 2020 Vote from the Coronavirus, Brennan Center for Justice, Wendy R. Weiser and Max Feldman, Monday 16 March 2020: “The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) presents a difficult and novel challenge to the administration of the 2020 general election. Recent election emergencies have largely been caused by catastrophic weather events, and our country has done little election planning for pandemics. Unlike a hurricane, a pandemic does not have a discrete and relatively predictable end point. And avoiding large-scale social contact is a central feature of combating the crisis. These elements create distinct challenges for election officials on top of the significant and ongoing threats to the security of our election infrastructure. Given the scope of the challenge, large-scale preparation, backed by the concerted support of the government and the public, is needed immediately to ensure that the 2020 election is free, fair, accessible, and secure…. The key recommendations fall into five categories: (1) polling place modification and preparation; (2) expanded early voting; (3) a universal vote-by-mail option; (4) voter registration modification and preparation, including expanded online registration; and (5) voter education and manipulation prevention. We recommend that each state government establish an election pandemic task force to determine how best to implement relevant policy recommendations in their state.”

Europe Barricades Borders to Slow Coronavirus, The New York Times, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Richard Pérez-Peña, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The spiraling coronavirus epidemic tore into the fabric of Europe on Tuesday, prompting its leaders to all but wall the continent off from the rest of the world and erect barriers within it, and to throttle back or turn off the engines of ordinary life and livelihoods in hopes of slowing the deadly spread. The European Union banned nonessential travel from outside the bloc into 26 nations stretching from Portugal to Finland, home to more than 400 million people, for 30 days, as Europe’s leaders grudgingly, belatedly accepted that being at the heart of a global pandemic and trying to fight it will mean severe social and economic hardship.” See also, As U.S. Tries to Slow Coronavirus Impact, Europe Hunkers Down, The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Calfas, Jim Carlton, and Sam Schechner, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Cities, states and Washington sought ways to mitigate the blow of the novel coronavirus as businesses closed, the European Union planned to shut its borders, and fears of a pandemic-induced recession kept markets on edge.”

U.S. Lags in Coronavirus Testing After Slow Response to Outbreak, The New York Times, Larry Buchanan, K.K. Rebecca Lai, and Allison McCann, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Coronavirus testing data has been spotty and not easily available, especially in the United States. Based on official government sources, here’s how testing efforts in the United States compare with those in Italy and South Korea.”

What Went Wrong With Coronavirus Testing in the U.S., The New Yorker, Robert P. Baird, Monday, 16 March 2020: “On February 5th, sixteen days after a Seattle resident who had visited relatives in Wuhan, China, was diagnosed as having the first confirmed case of covid-19 in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta, began sending diagnostic tests to a network of about a hundred state, city, and county public-health laboratories⁠. Up to that point, all testing for covid-19 in the U.S. had been done at the C.D.C.; of some five hundred suspected cases⁠ tested at the Centers, twelve had confirmed positive. The new test kits would allow about fifty thousand patients to be tested, and they would also make testing much faster, as patient specimens would no longer have to be sent to Atlanta to be evaluated. The kits were shipped in small white cardboard boxes. Inside each box were four vials, packed in stiff gray foam⁠, which held the necessary materials, known as reagents, to run tests on about three hundred⁠ people. Before a state or local lab could use the C.D.C.-developed tests on actual patients, however, it had to insure that they worked the same way they had in Atlanta, a process known as verification. The first batch of kits, sent to more than fifty state and local public-health labs⁠, arrived on February 7th. Of the labs that received tests, around six to eight were able to verify that they worked as intended. But a larger number, about thirty-six of them, received inconclusive⁠ results from one of the reagents. Another five, including the New York City and New York State labs, had problems with two reagents. On February 8th, several labs reported their problems to the C.D.C. In a briefing a few days later, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that although ‘we hoped that everything would go smoothly as we rushed through this,’ the verification problems were ‘part of the normal procedures⁠.’ In the meantime, she said, until new reagents could be manufactured, all covid-19 testing in the United States would continue to take place exclusively at the C.D.C⁠. The public-health-laboratory network was never intended to provide widespread testing in the event of a pandemic. To offer tests to anyone who wanted them, as President Trump did, on March 6th, was always going to require commercial testing facilities to come on line. Still, the three-week delay caused by the C.D.C.’s failure to get working test kits into the hands of the public-health labs came at a crucial time. In the early stages of an outbreak, contact tracing, isolation, and individual quarantines are regularly deployed to contain the spread of a disease. But these tools are useless if suspected cases of a disease cannot be tested. The void created by the C.D.C.’s faulty tests made it impossible for public-health authorities to get an accurate picture of how far and how fast the disease was spreading. In hotspots like Seattle, and probably elsewhere, covid-19 spread undetected for several weeks, which in turn only multiplied the need for more tests. ‘Once you’re behind the eight ball, it’s very hard to catch up,’ Alberto Gutierrez, the former head of the F.D.A. Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, which regulates tests, told me. ‘The problem was that containment was not done very well. At this point, we’re looking at exponential growth, and we need to figure out how to meet an exponential demand.'”

Hundreds of Scientists Scramble to Find a Coronavirus Treatment, The New York Times, Carl Zimmer, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Working at a breakneck pace, a team of hundreds of scientists has identified 50 drugs that may be effective treatments for people infected with the coronavirus. Many scientists are seeking drugs that attack the virus itself. But the Quantitative Biosciences Institute Coronavirus Research Group, based at the University of California, San Francisco, is testing an unusual new approach. The researchers are looking for drugs that shield proteins in our own cells that the coronavirus depends on to thrive and reproduce. Many of the candidate drugs are already approved to treat diseases, such as cancer, that would seem to have nothing to do with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.”

Are Hospitals Ready for Coronavirus? Here Are Nine Different Scenarios. ProPublica, Annie Waldman, Al Shaw, Ash Ngu, and Sean Campbell, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Though the U.S. health care system is projected to be overwhelmed by an influx of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, the pressure on hospitals will vary dramatically across the country. That’s according to new data released by the Harvard Global Health Institute, which for the first time gives a sense of which regions will be particularly stressed and should be preparing most aggressively right now. The maps we’ve created based on the data shows why public health officials are so intent on ‘flattening the curve,’ or slowing the spread of infections over a longer period of time, like 18 months instead of six.” See also, These Places Could Run Out of Hospital Beds as Coronavirus Spreads, The New York Times, Margot Sanger-Katz, Sarah Kliff, and Alicia Parlapiano, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “A new Harvard analysis shows that many parts of the United States will have far too few hospital beds if the new coronavirus continues to spread widely and if nothing is done to expand capacity. In 40 percent of markets around the country, hospitals would not be able to make enough room for all the patients who became ill with Covid-19, even if they could empty their beds of other patients. That statistic assumes that 40 percent of adults become infected with the virus over 12 months, a scenario described as ‘moderate’ by the team behind the calculations. These numbers are not exact predictions. In many ways, they reflect a worst-case scenario, since they do not take into account the efforts hospitals can make to quickly increase capacity during an emergency. Around the country, hospitals have begun canceling elective operations and speeding home patients with less critical ailments. Those efforts could increase the number of free beds available for coronavirus patients. In a half-dozen interviews, hospital executives estimated that they could increase their capacity between 20 percent and 70 percent. Yet the Harvard estimates suggest that the coronavirus outbreak could require significantly more resources than that.”

To Battle Virus, 7 California Counties Order Everyone to Stay Home for Three Weeks Except to Meet ‘Essential Needs,’ The New York Times, Tim Arango, Thomas Fuller, John Eligon, and Conor Dougherty, Monday, 16 March 2020: “Across California, as the coronavirus marches through communities, life as everyone understands it in the Golden State is changing dramatically, hour by hour, minute by minute. The state has begun enacting extreme measures to halt the coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, seven counties around Silicon Valley, one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation, announced a shelter-at-home order that begins Tuesday, which Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said was the strongest directive yet in the United States. Residents, including those living in San Francisco, were told not to go out for three weeks except to meet ‘essential needs.’ A day earlier, Gov. Gavin Newsom had told all residents older than 65 to stay in their homes. He called for the closure of bars, nightclubs and wineries, and restrictions on restaurants. He banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes unless patients were on the edge of death. He announced plans to buy hotels to house some of the state’s 150,000 homeless people.”

Senate, Bidding for Time, Tries to Temporarily Revive Spy Tools, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Charlie Savage, Monday, 16 March 2020: “The Senate voted on Monday to temporarily reinstate a handful of newly expired F.B.I. tools for investigating terrorism and espionage in an attempt to grant lawmakers time to sort out broader differences over surveillance laws and move to addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Senators unanimously agreed to extend until early June the F.B.I. powers, put into place after the Sept. 11 attacks, without making other changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The House would also have to agree to an extension in order for it to have the force of law. The timing of such a vote was unclear on Monday evening. Senate leaders had tried last week to head off the expiration on Sunday of the tools by fast-tracking a bipartisan bill passed by the House. The bill renewed the F.B.I. authorities and went further, instituting other new privacy and transparency protections for Americans under FISA. But senators demanding a full debate over government spying and civil liberties objected, and lawmakers simply ran out of time.”

 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020, Day 1,152:

 

New York City May ‘Shelter at Home,’ and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T. A.) Seeks $4 Billion Federal Bailout, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New York City residents on Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the possibility of a ‘shelter in place’ order within the next 48 hours…. Not long after the mayor made his comments, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tamped down any suggestion that a shelter-in-place order was imminent. ‘Any blanket quarantine or shelter in place policy would require state action and as the governor has said, there is no consideration of that for any locality at this time,’ Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to Mr. Cuomo, said in a statement.” See also, Crackdown on Southern Border Is Planned; U.S. Records 100th Death, The New York Times, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: Other news in this article: “The virus can possibly survive in the air, a new study suggests. Flights are canceled in Chicago as U.S. travel woes compound. Parts of the U.S. could run out of hospital beds.” See also,‘Go Big’ on Coronavirus Stimulus, Trump Says, Pitching Checks for Americans, The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, and Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The Trump administration called on Tuesday for urgent action to speed $1 trillion into the economy, including sending $250 billion worth of checks to millions of Americans, as the government prepared its most powerful tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic and an almost certain recession. The Federal Reserve took the rare step of unleashing its emergency lending powers and President Trump called on Congress to quickly approve the sweeping economic stimulus package. Mr. Trump dispatched his Treasury secretary to Capitol Hill to begin hammering it out as large sections of the economy shut down and companies began laying off workers.” See also, White House expresses support for immediate cash payments to Americans as part of coronavirus stimulus package, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, and Mike DeBonis, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The Trump administration wants to send direct cash payments to Americans in the coming weeks to help them cope with the economic ravages of the coronavirus, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday, part of a massive economic stimulus package taking shape between the White House and Capitol Hill. The overall price tag of the package could be around $1 trillion, Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill after meeting with GOP senators, making it one of the largest federal emergency fiscal packages ever assembled.” See also, U.S. Seeks to Send Checks to Americans as Part of Stimulus Package, The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Restuccia, Andrew Duehren, and Lindsay Wise, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The Trump administration backed a plan to send checks directly to Americans as part of a $1 trillion stimulus package to help households and businesses, a dramatic step designed to cushion the impact of the sudden economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pitched Senate Republicans on a stimulus package that would include an initial $250 billion for direct payments, according to administration officials and lawmakers, part of a wide-ranging fiscal and monetary effort.”

Live updates on some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, 17 March 2020: Coronavirus confirmed in all 50 states and D.C. after West Virginia reports first case; U.S. death toll passes 100, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, Rick Noack, Alex Horton, Miriam Berger, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield, Derek Hawkins, Michael Brice-Saddler, and Teo Armus, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak continued to upend life around the world Tuesday as more countries tightened quarantine measures. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, after West Virginia announced its first patient Tuesday. At least 100 people infected with the virus have died in the United States, a toll that experts expect to rise quickly. Schools, offices, bars, restaurants and many stores remain closed across major U.S. and European cities, and dozens of countries are shutting their borders or implementing mandatory self-isolation for travelers arriving from abroad.” This article covers many more significant developments that occurred today.

U.S. Virus Plan Anticipates 18-Month Pandemic and Widespread Shortages, The New York Times, Peter Baker and Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “A federal government plan to combat the coronavirus warned policymakers last week that a pandemic ‘will last 18 months or longer’ and could include ‘multiple waves,’ resulting in widespread shortages that would strain consumers and the nation’s health care system. The 100-page plan, dated Friday, the same day President Trump declared a national emergency, laid out a grim prognosis for the spread of the virus and outlined a response that would activate agencies across the government and potentially employ special presidential powers to mobilize the private sector. Among the ‘additional key federal decisions’ listed among the options for Mr. Trump was invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, a Korean War-era law that authorizes a president to take extraordinary action to force American industry to ramp up production of critical equipment and supplies such as ventilators, respirators and protective gear for health care workers. ‘Shortages of products may occur, impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure,’ the plan warned. ‘This includes potentially critical shortages of diagnostics, medical supplies (including PPE and pharmaceuticals), and staffing in some locations.’ P.P.E. refers to personal protective equipment.” See also, Trump Invokes a Cold War Relic, The Defense Production Act, for Coronavirus Shortages, NPR, David Welna, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Bowing to increasing pressure to do so, President Trump announced Wednesday he would use a law dating back to the early years of the Cold War to address serious shortages of supplies needed for responding to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S…. The move was welcomed by one expert on the law. ‘They should have done this days ago,’ says Jeffrey Bialos, who was in charge of the Pentagon’s use of the Defense Production Act during the Clinton administration. ‘Is this Nirvana? No. But I think given where we are, I think this is a useful set of tools that if used in the right hands could be effective.'”

Trump Tries to Rewrite History, Claiming He Always Knew the Coronavirus Would Be a Pandemic. His Own Words Prove Him Wrong. The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “For weeks, President Trump has minimized the coronavirus, mocked concern about it and treated the risk from it cavalierly. On Tuesday he took to the White House lectern and made a remarkable assertion: He knew it was a pandemic all along…. This [article chronicles] what Mr. Trump has actually said over the past two months.” See also, Since January Trump has downplayed and dismissed the pandemic threat. Now he tries to rewrite history and says he ‘always viewed it as very serious.’ Politico, Quint Forgey, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The president has been criticized over the course of several weeks for repeatedly minimizing the coronavirus threat, while public health officials within his administration have issued urgent warnings as to the risk the disease posed to the nation. In his first statements on the coronavirus in late January, Trump said the United States had it ‘totally under control’ and tweeted days later that it ‘will all work out well.’ The president’s efforts to downplay the pandemic continued steadily until as recently as earlier this month. He accused the World Health Organization of producing an inaccurate mortality rate, falsely claimed that ‘anybody that wants a test can get a test,’ and predicted that ‘it will go away. Just stay calm.’ But the White House’s optimism seemed to dim significantly Monday, as the coronavirus continued to ravage communities and the federal government rolled out a new slate of stern guidelines intended to counter its rapid spread.”

Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired, The New York Times, Zeynep Tufekci, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “As the pandemic rages on, there will be many difficult messages for the public. Unfortunately, the top-down conversation around masks has become a case study in how not to communicate with the public, especially now that the traditional gatekeepers like media and health authorities have much less control. The message became counterproductive and may have encouraged even more hoarding because it seemed as though authorities were shaping the message around managing the scarcity rather than confronting the reality of the situation.”

U.S. Military Prepares Hospital Ships for Deployment and Will Open Up Some of Its Labs to Test Civilians, The Wall Street Journal, Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The U.S. military said Tuesday it would open its labs, distribute key medical equipment and ready its hospital ships in response to the growing crisis surrounding coronavirus. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. military would provide up to 5 million respirator masks and other items of personal protective equipment to safeguard front-line responders, as well as up to 2,000 specialized ventilators. He also said the Pentagon would open up as many as 16 labs to test civilians for the virus and potentially call up more members of the National Guard and Reserve.” See also, Trump considers mobilizing National Guard for coronavirus response, Politico, Lara Seligman, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The administration is considering mobilizing the National Guard and Reserve at the federal level to help combat the coronavirus, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Tuesday, while also preparing hospital ships to relieve stress on civilian facilities.”

Once Political B-Listers, Governors Lead the U.S. Coronavirus Response, The New York Times, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “One day after President Trump told the nation’s governors on a conference call that he had been ‘watching a lot of you on television’ dealing with the coronavirus, he proved it Tuesday morning by angrily tweeting at Michigan’s governor for saying on MSNBC that ‘the federal government did not take this seriously early enough.’ But Mr. Trump’s name-calling — he referred to Gretchen Whitmer only as ‘Failing Michigan Governor,’ and said she needed to ‘work harder’ — soon backfired. Responding on Twitter, Ms. Whitmer laid out a list of steps she had taken since last week to mitigate the outbreak, and mentioned both the website and toll-free hotline Michigan has set up to answer questions about the virus. ‘Ironically, he made my point that they’re not taking this as seriously as they need to,’ Ms. Whitmer said in an interview Tuesday afternoon, noting that the president had been ‘watching TV.'”

Trump Is Slowly Enlisting More Agencies in ‘Whole of Government’ Response to the Novel Coronavirus. Hospital ships stayed in port, veterans hospitals awaited orders, and requests for help went unanswered, as much of the government remained on the sidelines. The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, and Helene Cooper, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The mayor of Seattle wanted ‘mass tents’ from the federal government to rapidly build shelters to house people in quarantine. The state of New York pleaded for help from the Army Corps of Engineers to quickly build hospitals. Oregon’s governor repeatedly pressed the Department of Health and Human Services for hundreds of thousands of respirators, gowns and gloves, face shields or goggles. After so many pleas, President Trump moved on Tuesday to begin enlisting much of his government in what the White House had called for weeks a ‘whole of government’ approach to the rampaging coronavirus.”

Coronavirus layoffs surge across America, overwhelming unemployment offices, Politico, Rebecca Rainey, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Employers are slashing jobs at a furious pace across the nation due to mass shutdowns over the coronavirus, slamming state unemployment offices with a crush of filers facing sudden crises. Long before official government data is expected to reveal the depths of the economic shock inflicted by the coronavirus, reports from state officials and businesses around the country indicate the gathering of a massive wave of unemployment on a scale unseen since the Great Recession.” See also, Layoffs intensify, leading to soaring unemployment claims as coronavirus closures continue, The Washington Post, Rachel Siegel, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Layoffs are continuing to mount by the tens of thousands, prompting a surge of applications at unemployment offices nationwide as coronavirus brings more of the U.S. economy to a standstill. Just a week ago, hundreds of people had been laid off, but those numbers are skyrocketing. As Trump administration leaders, industry officials and economists project dire warnings of millions of jobs vanishing this year, an increasingly grim picture of the U.S. labor market is emerging for the months to come. The deluge into unemployment offices is beginning to strain systems.” See also, Jobless Claims Mount as Employers and Workers Face Bleak Outlook, The New York Times, Patricia Cohen, published on Thursday, 19 March 2020.

Asylum Seekers Say the U.S. is Returning Them to the Dangers They Fled, The New York Times, Kirk Semple, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “A new agreement allows the United States to transfer asylum seekers to Guatemala — a high-crime country that poses its own risks and offers them little protection.”

How Long Will Coronavirus Live on Surfaces or in the Air Around You? The New York Times, Apoorva Mandavili, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel, new research suggests. Experts say the risk of consumers getting infected from touching those materials is still low, although they offered additional warnings about how long the virus survives in air, which may have important implications for medical workers. The new study, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, also suggests that the virus disintegrates over the course of a day on cardboard, lessening the worry among consumers that deliveries will spread the virus during this period of staying and working from home. When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than 5 micrometers — known as aerosols — it can stay suspended for about a half-hour, researchers said, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours. The finding on aerosol in particular is inconsistent with the World Health Organization’s position that the virus is not transported by air. The virus lives longest on plastic and steel, surviving for up to 72 hours. But the amount of viable virus decreases sharply over this time. It also does poorly on copper, surviving four hours. On cardboard, it survives up to 24 hours, which suggests packages that arrive in the mail should have only low levels of the virus — unless the delivery person has coughed or sneezed on it or has handled it with contaminated hands.”

VA’s mission to see civilian patients in times of crisis vanished from its website, The Washington Post, Alex Horton, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “The Department of Veterans Affairs serves as a backup health system in times of crisis, but its mission statement for this crucial role was deleted from the agency’s website Friday as many in the country grew concerned that the coronavirus could overload civilian hospitals. VA’s three missions are to serve veterans through care, research and training in its behemoth health system. But in 1982, Congress expanded VA’s role into what has become known as VA’s ‘fourth mission’: to absorb non-veteran civilian or military patients in the event that hospitals overflow in an emergency, such as a pandemic like the coronavirus.”

Biden Sweeps Three States and Takes a Commanding Lead in the Democratic Primary, as the Novel Coronavirus Reshapes U.S. Politics, The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, 17 March 2020: “Joseph R. Biden Jr. easily defeated Senator Bernie Sanders in three major primaries on Tuesday, all but extinguishing Mr. Sanders’s chances for a comeback, as anxious Americans turned out to vote amid a series of cascading disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Biden, the former vice president, won by wide margins in Florida and Illinois and also carried Arizona, sweeping the night and achieving a nearly insurmountable delegate lead. The emphatic outcome could greatly intensify pressure on Mr. Sanders to end his campaign and allow Democrats to unify behind Mr. Biden as their presumptive nominee.” See also, 4 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Democratic Primaries, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020. See also, Biden takes control of race with wins over Sanders, as uncertainty continues amid coronavirus outbreak, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz, and Felicia Sonmez, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Former vice president Joe Biden took control of the race for the Democratic nomination Tuesday night with decisive wins over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in FloridaIllinois and Arizona — but the terrain ahead remains uncertain amid the coronavirus outbreak. With Biden widening his delegate lead, Sanders is facing growing calls to suspend his campaign. And with more states postponing their primaries due to health concerns, the candidates are facing a hiatus in voting for at least a few weeks — and possibly much longer. The final primaries now could come only weeks before the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to convene in July in Milwaukee — if it is held as planned.” See also, 4 takeaways from the Arizona, Florida, and Illinois primaries, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 17 March 2020. See also, Progressive Marie Newman Beats Dan Lipinski, Anti-Abortion Conservative Democratic Incumbent, in Illinois House Primary, The New York Times, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Representative Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat from Illinois whose opposition to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act made him a pariah in his party, lost a hard-fought primary race on Tuesday night to his progressive challenger, Marie Newman. Ms. Newman, a business consultant and founder of an anti-bullying program, edged out Mr. Lipinski by two percentage points, with 493 of 500 precincts reporting early Wednesday. She had the backing of the progressive group Justice Democrats and its standard-bearer, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as well as Emily’s List, the powerful group that backs Democrats who support abortion rights.” See also, Conservative Illinois Democratic Representative Daniel Lipinski loses to progressive Marie Newman in high-profile Democratic primary rematch, The Washington Post, Mike DeBonis, published on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last antiabortion Democrats in Congress, lost his bid for renomination to a ninth term Tuesday to a more liberal challenger, business executive and activist Marie Newman. The race had been closely watched as a test of whether a socially conservative Democrat could maintain support among the party’s base in a solid blue seat — and whether the dwindling number of Democratic lawmakers opposing abortion would be further culled by primary voters.”

Democratic groups to spend millions hitting Trump over coronavirus response, The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “A Democratic super PAC said Tuesday it would spend $5 million on digital advertising flaying President Trump for his response to the novel coronavirus, one of several groups that planned to devote resources to this type of messaging. The campaign from Pacronym — a political action committee affiliated with the nonprofit group Acronym — represents the first major pivot to coronavirus-related advertising fewer than 250 days from the election. It is a bet that the pandemic, which is also causing a deep economic downturn, will be the defining issue of the campaign.”

As much of the U.S. takes drastic action, some Republicans remain skeptical of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post, Robert Costa, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “Over the weekend, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a leading ally of President Trump, dismissed concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and said on Fox News that ‘it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant.’ And former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, a Trump supporter who was pardoned last month, tweeted that ‘this hysteria is being created to destabilize the country, and destroy’ Trump. But from Italy, where there is a national quarantine to try to slow the devastating effects of the coronavirus, Newt Gingrich offered a different perspective. The former House speaker wrote an opinion piece seeking to convince his fellow Republicans that not only was the pandemic very real, it required urgent action. Inside the Republican Party and the conservative movement that Trump commands, there is now a deep divide as the nation confronts the coronavirus. For weeks, many on the right, including Trump, minimized the virus, if they considered it at all. Even in recent days, as much of the world shuts down to try to stop its spread, some Republicans mocked what they saw as a media-generated frenzy…. A turning point for Trump came last week when Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whom the president regularly calls, said in his opening monologue: ‘This is real. People you trust — people you probably voted for — have spent weeks minimizing what is clearly a very serious problem,’ Carlson said. Carlson’s riff caught Trump’s attention and was one of the factors that led the president to start to reconsider his position, according to two White House officials who requested anonymity to speak frankly.” See also, On the Political Right, Anger and Suspicion Over Virus Precautions, The New York Times, Elizabeth Williamson, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “When Deborah Frank Feinen, the mayor of Champaign, Ill., drafted an emergency powers declaration last Thursday to confront the coronavirus pandemic, she was proud of her city’s early preparation. But by the time she got to work the next morning, the National Rifle Association had blared a ‘national alert’ saying ‘anti-gun extremists’ were moving ‘to undermine our firearms freedom.’ The city government was soon under siege. ‘We were talking about how to get food to kids when schools were closed, and suddenly I’m getting Facebook messages about how I’m violating the Constitution and taking away people’s rights,’ Ms. Feinen said in an interview. Now, in addition to working on plans for fire and police departments, emergency supplies, and helping small businesses weather state-mandated closures, ‘I’m obsessively looking at my email, checking for threats.’ Keen to defend President Trump from criticism and portray virus-related warnings as politically motivated fear-mongering, conservative organizations, media and Trump loyalists are undermining state and local government efforts to convey accurate information and protect their constituents.”

‘Secret Science’ Rule Broadened Under New EPA Proposal, Bloomberg Environment, Tuesday, 17 March 2020: “A proposal to expand the scope of the EPA’s much-debated ‘secret science’ rule beyond its use in regulations will be published Wednesday in the Federal Register. The underlying rule proposal would prevent the agency from considering scientific studies that aren’t or can’t be made public in rulemaking. The proposed supplement expands the proposal so that it would apply to ‘influential scientific information,’ even if that information isn’t used in writing regulations.”

 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020, Day 1,153:

 

Live updates on some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, 18 March 2020: China reports zero new local coronavirus infections, and Trump signs bill to ensure paid leave and other financial benefits for some workers, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, Rick Noack, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Brittany Shammas, Hannah Knowles, and Michael Brice-Saddler, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “President Trump has signed into law a bill to ensure paid leave benefits to [some] Americans, part of a broader aid package to fight the effects of the pandemic. The legislation also promises free coronavirus testing to anyone who needs it, including the uninsured; increases health funding around the country; and supports nutrition programs such as the food stamp system. China on Thursday said that there had been no cases of domestic coronavirus infections in the country the previous day, for the first time since the outbreak began. All 34 infections diagnosed on Wednesday were in people arriving into China from abroad, the National Health Commission said. It was a significant milestone for the country, where the virus was first reported in mid-November. Two members of Congress, Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), said Wednesday they had tested positive for coronavirus.” This article covers many more developments that occurred today. See also, Paid sick leave: Who gets it during the coronavirus outbreak, The Washington Post, Heather Long, published on Tuesday, 17 March 2020. See also, Senate passes coronavirus package as Treasury proposes rescue with emergency checks, Politico, Marianne Levine and Andrew Desiderio, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Washington is mobilizing to rescue the country from potentially disastrous economic consequences from the global coronavirus outbreak, with the Senate on Wednesday passing a multi-billion dollar emergency package and quickly getting to work on a larger stimulus agreement. With Senate leaders vowing to work at ‘warp speed’ to blunt the financial fallout from the pandemic, the Treasury Department unveiled to lawmakers a plan for $250 billion in direct payments to Americans starting April 6.”

Negotiations intensify on Capitol Hill over massive stimulus legislation as coronavirus fallout worsens, The Washington Post, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein, and Mike DeBonis, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The Trump administration and congressional leaders rushed on Wednesday to assemble a massive stimulus package aimed at preventing the U.S. economy from plummeting into its worst collapse since the Great Depression, as fears about the coronavirus pandemic brought much of American life to a standstill. The administration’s $1 trillion proposed rescue plan, which forms the basis for fast-moving negotiations on Capitol Hill, includes sending two large checks to many Americans and devoting $300 billion toward helping small businesses avoid mass layoffs. Priorities laid out in a two-page Treasury Department document also include $50 billion to help rescue the airline industry and $150 billion to prop up other sectors, which could include hotels.”

Trump vs. the Experts: How Trump Downplayed the Coronavirus, The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Bill Marsh, and Jon Huang, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “From the start of the coronavirus outbreak, statements from the presidential pulpit have been far out of step with those of health experts and many inside the administration. President Trump contradicted some officials while they were standing right next to him. Here is a sampling of what Mr. Trump has said compared with statements made by prominent officials.”

There Is Widespread Criticism of Trump for Calling the Coronavirus the ‘Chinese Virus.’ A Wide Range of Critics Say Using This Terminology is Racist and Anti-Chinese. The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Lara Jakes, and Ana Swanson, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday defended his increasingly frequent practice of calling the coronavirus the ‘Chinese Virus,’ ignoring a growing chorus of criticism that it is racist and anti-Chinese. ‘It’s not racist at all,’ Mr. Trump said, explaining his rationale. ‘It comes from China, that’s why.’ But the term has angered Chinese officials and a wide range of critics, and China experts say labeling the virus that way will only ratchet up tensions between the two countries, while resulting in the kind of xenophobia that American leaders should discourage. Asian-Americans have reported incidents of racial slurs and physical abuse because of the erroneous perception that China is the cause of the virus.”

Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in the U.S., The New York Times, Pam Belluck, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 of the first recorded cases in the United States. The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients had the greatest likelihood of dying and of being hospitalized. But of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 38 percent were notably younger — between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 patients who were admitted to intensive care units were adults under 65, the C.D.C. reported.” See also, Coronavirus Coverage for Wednesday, 18 March: China reports zero new local infections; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it will make only ‘mission critical’ arrests until the crisis passes; Trump signed a bill providing paid sick leave for some workers; Two members of Congress test positive for the coronavirus; Trump invokes the Defense Production Act to increase supplies of vital equipment; Rich and famous patients are getting tested while other Americans are being denied; Stocks drop and oil crashes as investor alarm persists; EU says Russian coronavirus disinformation campaign is hitting Europe; and As the coronavirus spreads through the Middle East, concern rises about its potential toll. The New York Times, Wednesday, 18 March 2020. See also, Younger adults are a large percentage of coronavirus hospitializations in the United States, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ariana Eunjung Cha, published on Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The deadly coronavirus has been met with a bit of a shrug among some in the under-50 set in the United States. Even as public health officials repeatedly urged social distancing, the young and hip spilled out of bars on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. They gleefully hopped on flights, tweeting about the rock-bottom airfares. And they gathered in packs on beaches. Their attitudes were based in part on early data from China, which suggested covid-19 might seriously sicken or kill the elderly — but spare the young. Stark new data from the United States and Europe suggests otherwise. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of U.S. cases from Feb. 12 to March 16 released Wednesday shows 38 percent of those sick enough to be hospitalized were younger than 55.”

There Aren’t Enough Ventilators to Cope With the Coronavirus, The New York Times, Sarah Kliff, Adam Satariano, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Nicholas Kulish, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “As the United States braces for an onslaught of coronavirus cases, hospitals and governments are confronting a grim reality: There are not nearly enough lifesaving ventilator machines to go around, and there is no way to solve the problem before the disease reaches full throttle. Desperate hospitals say they can’t find anywhere to buy the medical devices, which help patients breathe and can be the difference between life and death for those facing the most dire respiratory effects of the coronavirus. American and European manufacturers say they can’t speed up production enough to meet soaring demand, at least not anytime soon. And while the acute shortages are global, not just in the United States, some European governments are deploying wartime-mobilization tactics to get factories churning out more ventilators — and to stop domestic companies from exporting them.”

Shortages of face masks, swabs, and basic supplies pose a new challenge to coronavirus testing, The Washington Post, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Brady Dennis, Steven Mufson, and Tom Hamburger, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “As the federal government scrambles to rapidly boost the nation’s capacity to test for the novel coronavirus, cutting red tape and leaning on the speed and technology of the private sector, new delays are developing because of a shortage of raw materials and vital items: chemical solutions, swabs and even face masks for health-care workers. From coast to coast, local and state officials complain that shortages of everyday supplies are disrupting efforts to sharply ramp up testing, which is key to identifying the spread of disease. The scarcity is hampering both the ability of health-care workers in hospitals to draw samples to send to laboratories and the ability of those laboratories to confirm infection.” See also, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells nurses to use bandanas and scarves as a ‘last resort’ if face masks run out, McClatchy DC, Don Sweeney, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “As U.S. hospitals grapple with a shortage of face masks, new federal guidelines suggest health care workers such as nurses use bandanas or scarves as a ‘last resort.’ The suggestion appears in a new strategy guide for dealing with the shortage by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Panic buying of surgical and respirator masks by the public may produce a shortage for doctors, nurses and other medical workers if hospitals become overwhelmed, the CDC says.” See also, Hospital workers battling coronavirus turn to bandanas, sports goggles, and homemade face shields amid shortages, The Washington Post, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Michael E. Miller, Christopher Rowland, and Lena H. Sun, published on 19 March 2020: “One Seattle-area hospital system has set up its own makeshift assembly line — using parts purchased from Home Depot and craft stores — to create protective face shields for workers. Boston nurses are gathering racquetball glasses to use in place of safety goggles. In New York, a dialysis center is preparing to use bandanas in place of masks as protection against the novel coronavirus. Just 11 weeks into a pandemic crisis expected to last months, the nightmare of medical equipment shortages is no longer theoretical. Health-care workers, already uneasy about their risk of infection amid reports of colleagues getting sick and new data showing even relatively young people may become seriously ill, are frustrated and fearful.” See also, ‘At War With No Ammo’: Doctors Say Shortage of Protective Gear Is Dire, The New York Times, Andrew Jacobs, Matt Richtel, and Mike Baker , Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The lack of proper masks, gowns and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and putting their own lives at risk. The Open Cities Community Health Center in St. Paul, Minn., is considering shutting down because it doesn’t have enough face masks. Doctors at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis are performing invasive procedures on coronavirus patients with loose fitting surgical masks rather than the tight respirator masks recommended by health agencies. At a Los Angeles emergency room, doctors were given a box of expired masks, and when they tried to put them on, the elastic bands snapped. With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus. In interviews, doctors said they were increasingly anxious, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus, but their families and others.”

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) orders 60-day foreclosure moratorium for homeowners affected by coronavirus, The Washington Post, Renae Merle and Tracy Jan, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday authorized the Federal Housing Administration to put an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for the next two months for single-family homeowners who are unable to pay their FHA-backed mortgages amid the coronavirus pandemic. Homeowners with loans backed by two government-controlled companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also will be granted foreclosure relief, according to the Federal House Finance Agency, which regulates the companies. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back about half of the nation’s mortgages and have operated under government control since the global financial crisis of 2008.” See also, Racing to Head Off Evictions and Foreclosures, The New York Times, Conor Dougherty, Matthew Goldstein, and Emily Flitter, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The financial shock from the coronavirus pandemic threatens the housing security of millions of Americans, prompting federal, state and local officials — and even judges and the police — to move quickly to ward off foreclosures and evictions. On Wednesday, the federal agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant government-run finance firms that back the mortgages of 28 million homeowners, ordered a suspension of foreclosures and foreclosure-related evictions for at least two months. The move is meant to keep people in their homes and avoid a housing squeeze like the one that followed the mortgage-fueled financial crisis of 2008. And over the past week, there has been a groundswell across the country to protect renters as well. The Miami-Dade police in Florida said they wouldn’t carry out evictions during the health crisis. A high-ranking New York State judge declared that the courts would consider no eviction cases until further notice. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California issued an executive order allowing cities to impose eviction moratoriums.”

Canada, U.S. border temporarily closing to non-essential traffic to slow COVID-19, CBC, Catharine Tunney and Katie Simpson, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Canada and the United States have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across the border as both countries try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus — but they insist key supplies will still flow between the two nations. U.S. President Donald Trump first tweeted the news Wednesday morning. Soon afterward, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a news conference to announce that travellers will no longer be able to cross the border for recreational and tourism purposes. ‘These measures will last in place as long as we feel they need to last,’ he told reporters from outside his home at Rideau Cottage, on the grounds of Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where he’s in self-isolation. ‘In both our countries, we’re encouraging people to stay home. We’re telling our citizens not to visit their neighbours if they don’t absolutely have to.’ Canadian citizens will still be able to get home, although the government says travellers presenting symptoms won’t be able to board flights.” See also, US and Canada are closing shared border to nonessential travel, Associated Press, Rob Gillies and Elliot Spagat, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The United States and Canada agreed Wednesday to temporarily close their shared border to nonessential travel to confront the coronavirus pandemic, bringing a halt to tourism and family visits but leaving the flow of trade intact.”

Locked-Down Europe Faces Closed Borders, Economic Wounds, and Dire Warnings, The New York Times, Benjamin Novak, Melissa Eddy, Katrin Bennhold, and Richard Pérez-Peña, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “Drivers faced daylong waits to cross European borders that nations raced to close on Wednesday, years after proudly throwing them open. Britain closed schools to millions of children amid talk of shutting down London. And Germany’s stoic leader made an unusually personal appeal for unity and purpose in the face of crisis. Across an increasingly locked-down Europe, people and their governments struggled to adjust to the grim, immobilized life wrought by the new coronavirus epidemic, their every adjustment seemingly a step behind the worsening reality. The continent passed a bleak milestone that few envisioned last month, when the virus was ravaging China but had barely touched the West: As of Wednesday, by official government counts, it had infected and killed more people in Europe — more than 82,000 cases and more than 3,400 dead — than in China.”

Special Report: How South Korea trounced the U.S. in race to test people for coronavirus, Reuters, Chad Terhune, Dan Levine, Hyunjoo Jin, and Jand Lanhee Lee, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “In late January, South Korean health officials summoned representatives from more than 20 medical companies from their lunar New Year celebrations to a conference room tucked inside Seoul’s busy train station. One of the country’s top infectious disease officials delivered an urgent message: South Korea needed an effective test immediately to detect the novel coronavirus, then running rampant in China. He promised the companies swift regulatory approval…. South Korea’s swift action stands in stark contrast to what has transpired in the United States. Seven weeks after the train station meeting, the Koreans have tested well over 290,000 people and identified over 8,000 infections. New cases are falling off: Ninety-three were reported Wednesday, down from a daily peak of 909 two weeks earlier. The United States, whose first case was detected the same day as South Korea’s, is not even close to meeting demand for testing. About 60,000 tests have been run by public and private labs in a country of 330 million, federal officials said Tuesday.”

Rikers Island inmate has contracted coronavirus, Daily News, Chelsia Rose Marcus, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “An inmate at Rikers Island has contracted the coronavirus, officials confirmed on Wednesday — the first person in city custody to test positive for COVID-19. The inmate has been taken out of their housing unit and is being closely monitored by Correctional Health Services, officials said. Advocates have called for drastically reducing the jail population to curb the spread of coronavirus. Mayor de Blasio said on Tuesday that the mayor’s office of criminal justice was working to identify people in custody who are at high risk of becoming infected and could potentially be removed from city jails — but so far, the mayor has yet to say whether that will happen.” See also, Coronavirus Has Arrived at Rikers Island: Inside New York City Jails, Where the Pandemic Is Set to Explode, The Intercept, Nick Pinto, Wednesday, 18 March 2020.

Markets Enter New Phase Where Cash Is All That Matters, The Wall Street Journal, Paul J. Davies, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “A rush for cash shook the financial system Wednesday, as companies and investors hunkered down for a prolonged economic stall, taking the recent market turmoil into a new, more troubling liquidation phase. Investors sold nearly everything they could in the most all-encompassing market drawdown since the darkest days of the 2008 financial crisis. Short-term money markets at the heart of the financial system were strained and large companies have drawn heavily on credit facilities while they have them.” See also, Dow tumbles again, nearly wiping out gains of Trump’s presidency, Politico, Victoria Guida, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The stock market’s latest plunge on Wednesday did more than wipe out billions of dollars in investor equity. It also nearly obliterated President Donald Trump’s favorite measure of his economic success. The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s decline below 20,000 almost completely erased all of the iconic index’s previous gains since Trump’s inauguration, jeopardizing a key talking point for his reelection campaign. Earlier in the day, the S&P 500 fell by more than 7 percent, triggering a marketwide trading halt.”

Minnesota and Vermont Just Classified Grocery Clerks as Emergency Workers, Mother Jones, Becky Z. Dernbach, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “As the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic closes schools across the country, more and more parents are juggling working from home with caring full-time for their children. But working from home isn’t possible for emergency personnel like paramedics, nurses, and public health workers who are on the front lines of the fight against the virus. Some states and cities are providing child care for emergency workers so they can do their jobs. Minnesota and Vermont have now officially designated another group of workers as emergency personnel: grocery clerks. This means the workers hurrying to stock shelves and check out customers in those states will also receive free child care.” See also, Minnesota and Vermont will classify gorcery store employees as emergency workers, CNN Business, Harmeet Kaur, Thursday, 19 March 2020.

Venice canals clear up as pandemic shuts down tourism, Independent, Kate Ng, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The waters of Venice’s famous canals have cleared for the first time in years amid a decline in pollution as the city locks down to stop the spread of coronavirus. Usually choked by pollution from diesel-powered commuter boats and water buses, Venice’s canals are usually clouded and murky. But videos and photos posted on social media show waters clear enough to bring back shoals of small fish and swans to the canals.”

Oil and gas companies want to drill within a half-mile of Utah’s best-known national parks, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The Interior Department has received over 230 nominations for oil and gas leases covering more than 150,000 acres across southern Utah, a push that would bring drilling as close as a half-mile from some of the nation’s most famous protected sites, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The petitions for the Bureau of Land Management’s September lease sale, some of which come from anonymous potential bidders, could transform a region renowned for its pristine night skies and stunning topography. Some of the parcels are also within 10 miles of Bears Ears National Monument’s current boundaries. ‘This is a scale like nothing we’ve seen so far as far as leasing outside our national parks,’ said Erika Pollard, associate director for the southwest region at the National Parks Conservation Association. ‘ . . . It’s a big chunk of the public land out there.'”

China Banishes U.S. Journalists from Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “China said it would revoke the press credentials of Americans working for three major U.S. newspapers in the largest expulsion of foreign journalists in the post-Mao era, amid an escalating battle with the Trump administration over media operating in the two countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday it was demanding all U.S. nationals working for The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post whose credentials expire by the end of the year turn those credentials in within 10 days. The measure would affect most of the U.S. journalists working at those newspapers in China, which issues press credentials for up to 12 months and has recently limited them to six and, in some cases, as little as one month.” See also, China Defends Expulsion of American Journalists, Accusing the U.S of Prejudice, The New York Times, Alexandra Stevenson and Sustin Ramzy, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “An increasingly rancorous rivalry between the United States and China entered a new phase on Wednesday as Beijing accused the Trump administration of starting a diplomatic clash that led it to expel almost all American journalists from three newspapers. The Chinese government cast its expulsion of the journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post as necessary to defend Beijing against what it perceived as an ideological campaign by the United States to impose its values on China. Around a dozen reporters could be required to leave, in a move that Beijing said was reciprocation for the United States’ forcing out of about 60 Chinese reporters, who worked for propaganda outlets, this month.” See also, Expelling U.S. journalists during the coronavirus crisis, China doubles down on media war, The Washington Post, Emily Rauhala, Wednesday, 18 March 2020: “The world is gripped by a health crisis. The global economy is on the brink. And the relationship between Beijing and Washington has rarely looked worse. Amid all this, China announced Tuesday that it will expel about a dozen American journalists working for The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in the country and force these outlets and two others to register as ‘foreign missions.'”

 

Thursday, 19 March 2020, Day 1,154:

 

California Governor Gavin Newsom Orders All Residents to Stay Home, The New York Times, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night ordered California’s almost 40 million residents to stay home except for essential trips, extending similar restrictions statewide that Bay Area counties had previously enacted. The order, which is in place until further notice, exempts travel to essential services like grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. In large swaths of the state, nonessential businesses like movie theaters, gyms and bars had recently been ordered to close. Restaurants have been limited to takeout or delivery only. ‘This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time,’ Mr. Newsom said in a news conference. ‘We will look back at these decisions as pivotal.’ Also in this article: Trump administration’s plea to states: Keep mum about unemployment statistics; Senate Republican plan includes corporate tax cuts and checks for taxpayers; Italy’s death toll soars, surpassing China’s, as European cases rise; Doctors and nurses plead for masks and other equipment; A surveillance tool could soon become a smartphone virus tracker; Trump said, with minimal evidence, that existing malaria drugs could potentially be used as treatment; What does ‘social distancing’ actually mean? A 34-year-old man becomes one of the youngest victims in the U.S.; Brazil shuts down land borders as travel is halted across Latin America; and Netanyahu says Israeli police will enforce a strict order for residents to stay home.” See also, Governor Gavin Newsom of California Orders Californians to Stay at Home, The New York Times, Tim Arango and Jill Cowan, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “America’s most populous state is ordering its residents to stay indoors. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Thursday ordered Californians — all 40 million of them — to stay in their houses as much as possible in the coming weeks as the state confronts the escalating coronavirus outbreak. The order represents the most drastic measure any governor has taken to control the virus, and a decision that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, which has far more cases than California, has resisted taking…. Citing a model that state planners have been using, suggesting that 56 percent of Californians, or more than 25 million people, could be infected over eight weeks, Mr. Newsom said, ‘I think it’s time I tell you what I tell my family.'”

Live updates on significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, 19 March 2020: California governor issues statewide stay-at-home order; Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. doubled in two days, The Washington Post, Rick Noack, Alex Horton, Marisa Iati, Meryl Kornfield, Miriam Berger, Siobhán O’Grady, Michael Brice-Saddler, Hannah Knowles, and Teo Armus, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday evening. ‘This is a moment we need to make tough decisions,’ Newsom said at an online news conference. It is the strongest statewide restriction yet aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement follows similar orders issued in the past few days across the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. As the novel coronavirus continued to spread globally, the number of confirmed cases in the United States doubled: A figure that surpassed 5,700 on Tuesday climbed above 11,500 on Thursday. The dramatic increase stems in part from more testing, but also indicates just how much the virus has spread. Officials say the number will continue to rise sharply as more test results become available.” Other significant developments are also covered in this article. See also, California Orders Lockdown for State’s 40 Million Residents, The Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Calfas, Margherita Stancati, and Chuin-Wei Yap, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “California ordered its 40 million residents to stay at home except for essential activities beginning Thursday night in the largest such lockdown in the U.S., as the nation’s total coronavirus cases rose to more than 14,000 and an intensifying outbreak in Europe pushed State Department officials to advise citizens not to travel abroad.”

U.S. Government Warns Against International Travel and Raises Its Travel Advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel, The Wall Street Journal, Courtney McBride, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The State Department on Thursday raised its travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel, for all international destinations, and urged U.S. citizens currently abroad to return home immediately. ‘In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel,’ the advisory read. The department last week authorized the return to the U.S. of all diplomatic personnel and relatives with higher risk of exposure. Accordingly, U.S. embassies and consulates may be able to provide only limited assistance to U.S. citizens.” See also, State Department warns U.S. Citizens: Don’t travel abroad and come home if you are overseas, Politico, Dan Diamond, Hahal Toosi, and Sam Mintz, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The State Department on Thursday issued an extraordinary advisory urging Americans not to travel overseas and to return to the United States if they can, a move that comes amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The Level 4 travel advisory for all international travel appears to be unprecedented and is the most severe such warning issued by the department. It urges American citizens who live abroad or otherwise cannot reach the U.S. to essentially stay where they are and avoid crossing international boundaries. POLITICO first reported the plans for the advisory earlier Thursday.” See also, As Pandemic Grows, U.S. Warns Its Citizens Not to Travel Abroad. The State Department also said that citizens abroad should either return home or stay in place. The New York Times, Edward Wong, Thursday, 19 March 2020.

The Staggering Rise in Jobless Claims This Week, The New York Times, Quoctrung Bui and Justin Wolfers, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Numbers released on Thursday by the Labor Department — as well as a preliminary analysis of even more recent data — provide the first hard confirmation that the new coronavirus is bringing the United States economy to a shuddering halt. The government reported that the number of initial unemployment claims rose to 281,000 last week, a sharp rise from 211,000 the previous week. This rise in initial claims of 70,000 is larger than any week-to-week movement that occurred during (or since) the 2008 financial crisis. But even these numbers understate the economy’s free fall, as they reflect the state of the economy last week. Based on preliminary news reports this week from 15 states, it’s already clear that initial claims will skyrocket next week, most likely to levels never seen before.” See also, As layoffs skyrocket, the holes in America’s safety net are becoming more and more apparent. Laid-off workers are struggling to apply for unemployment aid as government webistes crash and phone lines have hours-long waits. Then some are finding they do not even qualify for help. The Washington Post, Heather Long and Abha Bhattarai, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “U.S. workers are getting laid off at an unprecedented pace as the coronavirus outbreak shuts down much of the economy, and the government safety net to help the newly jobless appears ill-equipped to handle the surge in the unemployed…. Job losses are mounting. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 281,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, up 33 percent from the previous week. Economists say it is only going to get worse.” See also, Coronavirus pandemic drives up unemployment claims, Politico, Rebecca Rainey, Thursday, 19 March 2020. See also, Trump Administration Asks States to Keep Quiet About Jobless Figures, The Wall Street Journal, Sarah Chaney, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The Trump administration asked states to abstain from releasing unemployment-claims figures prior to the publication of a national compilation of weekly U.S. jobless claims, according to a state labor department official. The official cited an email sent on Wednesday from Gay Gilbert, an administrator at the U.S. Labor Department. The message, sent as states across the nation started reporting surges in claims tied to the coronavirus pandemic, said jobless claims are closely watched by policy makers and financial markets during a time of fast-changing economic conditions. The emailed message asked states to keep the numbers embargoed until the national claims figures are released each Thursday, the state official said.”

Before the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings That the Federal Government Was Underfunded, Underprepared, and Uncoordinated for a Pandemic Went Unheeded, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Eric Lipton, Eileen Sullivan, and Michael Crowley, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “[In a simulation by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services code-named Crimson Contagion] the outbreak of [a] respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead. That scenario, code-named ‘Crimson Contagion’ and imagining an influenza pandemic, was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August. The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed. The draft report, marked ‘not to be disclosed,’ laid out in stark detail repeated cases of ‘confusion’ in the exercise. Federal agencies jockeyed over who was in charge. State officials and hospitals struggled to figure out what kind of equipment was stockpiled or available. Cities and states went their own ways on school closings. Many of the potentially deadly consequences of a failure to address the shortcomings are now playing out in all-too-real fashion across the country. And it was hardly the first warning for the nation’s leaders. Three times over the past four years the U.S. government, across two administrations, had grappled in depth with what a pandemic would look like, identifying likely shortcomings and in some cases recommending specific action.”

With Minimal Evidence, Trump Asks the F.D.A. to Study Malaria Drugs for Treatment of the Novel Coronavirus, The New York Times, Denise Grady and Katie Thomas, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “President Trump on Thursday exaggerated the potential of drugs available to treat the new coronavirus, including an experimental antiviral treatment and decades-old malaria remedies that hint of promise but so far show limited evidence of healing the sick. No drug has been approved to treat the new coronavirus, and doctors around the world have been desperately administering an array of medicines in search of something to help patients, especially those who are severely ill. The malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, are among the remedies that have been tried in several countries as the virus has spread around the world, killing at least 9,800. Doctors in China, South Korea and France have reported that the treatments seem to help. But those efforts have not involved the kind of large, carefully controlled studies that would provide the global medical community the proof that these drugs work on a significant scale.” See also, Trump Touts Malaria Drug That the FDA Says Isn’t Yet Approved for the Novel Coronavirus, Bloomberg, Anna Edney, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The Food and Drug Administration has been told by President Donald Trump to see if it can expand the use of a decades-old malaria drug as an experimental treatment for coronavirus patients. The drug, chloroquine, hasn’t yet been approved for treatment of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. While it’s been available for decades for malaria, it’s not clear whether it will work against the new illness. A March 10 review of existing research found there’s little solid proof one way or the other.”

Senate Rescue Package Includes Corporate Tax Cuts and $1,200 Checks, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Jim Tankersley, and Alan Rappeport, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The White House and lawmakers scrambled on Thursday to flesh out details of a $1 trillion economic stabilization plan to help workers and businesses weather a potentially deep recession, negotiating over the size and scope of direct payments to millions of people and aid for companies facing devastation in the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Republicans, racing to put their imprint on the crisis response, unveiled a package that would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to big corporations and small businesses, large corporate tax cuts and checks of up to $1,200 for taxpayers. The plan would also place limits on a paid-leave program enacted this week to respond to the crisis. But the 247-page measure, the product of a feverish round of negotiations among Republicans, was all but certain to face opposition from Democrats who have pressed for more generous paid-leave benefits and targeting help to workers and families rather than large corporations.” See also, 5 Takeaways From the Coronavirus Economic Relief Package, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Thursday, 19 March 2020. See also, Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response, The Washington Post, Jeff Stein, Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner, and Paul Kane, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released a massive economic stimulus bill Thursday to fight the coronavirus’s fallout, even as opposition emerged from some key Republicans to one of the central elements of the plan — direct cash payments to many Americans. Some conservatives expressed opposition to these cash payments entirely, while others warned that GOP leaders were effectively penalizing low-income households by the way they had designed the plan.”

Trump drops his coronavirus media detente, Politico, Caitlin Oprysko, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Donald Trump’s cease-fire with the press was short-lived. Days after calling news media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic ‘very fair’ at a White House news briefing, the president on Thursday went back on the offensive, agreeing with a reporter from the right-wing outlet One America News Network that outlets like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were siding with Chinese government propaganda and joking that he wanted to remove 75 percent to 80 percent of the journalists in the briefing room in the name of social distancing.”

Trump cancels G7 meeting at Camp David because of coronavirus pandemic. A video-conference will be held instead. Reuters, Jeff Mason, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “President Donald Trump will cancel an in-person meeting of G7 leaders at Camp David in June because of the coronavirus and will hold a video-conference instead, the White House said on Thursday. The decision comes as nations around the world seal their borders and ban travel to stop the virus’ spread.”

Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, Who Helped Defeat Samllpox, Explains What’s Coming. He says we can beat the novel coronavirus, but first, we need lots more testing. Wired, Steven Levy, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Epidemiologist Larry Brilliant: ‘The whole epidemiological community has been warning everybody for the past 10 or 15 years that it wasn’t a question of whether we were going to have a pandemic like this. It was simply when. It’s really hard to get people to listen. I mean, Trump pushed out the admiral on the National Security Council, who was the only person at that level who’s responsible for pandemic defense. With him went his entire downline of employees and staff and relationships. And then Trump removed the [early warning] funding for countries around the world…. [D]id we get good advice from the president of the United States for the first 12 weeks? No. All we got were lies. Saying it’s fake, by saying this is a Democratic hoax. There are still people today who believe that, to their detriment. Speaking as a public health person, this is the most irresponsible act of an elected official that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. But what you’re hearing now [to self-isolate, close schools, cancel events] is right. Is it going to protect us completely? Is it going to make the world safe forever? No. It’s a great thing because we want to spread out the disease over time.”

Richard Burr, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sold Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring the Public About Coronavirus Preparedness, ProPublica, Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions. As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story. A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.” See also, Richard Burr, Chair of the powerful Senate Committee, sold a large number of stocks before sharp declines in the market, The Washington Post, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, published on Friday, 20 March 2020: “Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who had expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak, sold a significant share of his stocks last month, according to public disclosures. The sales included stocks in some of the industries that have been hardest hit by the global pandemic, including hotels and restaurants, shipping, drug manufacturing, and health care, records show. Until about a week ago, President Trump and GOP leaders had projected optimism in the country’s ability to manage the global outbreak of the coronavirus. Burr’s sales were among those of several senators to come to light late Thursday, raising questions about whether they were influenced by private briefings on the outbreak that in subsequent weeks caused U.S. equity markets to plunge. Also under scrutiny were sales by Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, as well as Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.).” See also, Senator Richard Burr Sold a Fortune in Stocks as Republicans Played Down Coronavirus Threat, The New York Times, Eric Lipton and Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Senator Richard M. Burr sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market’s precipitous plunge. The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was ‘better prepared than ever before’ to confront the virus. At least three other senators sold major stock holdings around the same time, disclosure records show. Two weeks after Mr. Burr sold his stocks, he spoke at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington to a nonpartisan group called the Tar Heel Club, warning that the virus could soon cause a major disruption in the United States. The gathering, which drew fewer than 100 people, included representatives from the North Carolina governor’s office, as well as staff members from other congressional offices in the state.” See also, A Secret Recording Shows that Richard Burr, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Raised Virus Alarms Weeks Ago to a Small Group of Well-Connected North Carolina Constituents at a Luncheon Organized by the Tar Heel Circle, NPR, Tim Mak, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR. The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums. On Feb. 27, when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting the virus could be seasonal…. On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message. ‘There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,’ he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. ‘It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.'” See also, Secret Recording Exposes Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr Warning Donors About the Novel Coronavirus 3 Weeks Ago, Rolling Stone, Peter Wade, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “Three weeks ago, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee privately warned dozens of donors about the harrowing impact the coronavirus would have on the United States, while keeping the general public in the dark. In a secret recording obtained by NPR, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is heard giving attendees of a club luncheon a much different message than most federal government officials, especially President Trump, were giving the public at the time. ‘There’s one thing that I can tell you about this,’ Burr said, ‘It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history.’ He added, ‘It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.’ UPDATE: ProPublica reported on Thursday that Sen. Burr sold off up to $1.56 million in stock on February 13th, as he was reassuring the public about coronavirus preparedness. At the time, Burr and the Intelligence Committee were receiving daily briefings about COVID-19.” See also, Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr offered a dire warning about the coronavirus at a private luncheon three weeks ago, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Thursday, 19 March 2020.

Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler Sold Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing, The Daily Beast, Lachlan Markay, William Bredderman, Sam Brodey, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.”

Idaho legislature sends anti-trans bills to governor’s desk, Washington Blade, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “As the nation continues to reel from the coronavirus, the Idaho legislature has sent a pair of anti-trans bills to the desk of its governor, one aimed at barring transgender youth from participating in sports, the other keeking transgender people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificates. Both bills were given final approval in the Idaho legislature and sent to the desk of Idaho Gov. Brad Little. Transgender rights activists are urging him to veto the legislation, or, if not, threatening the substantial costs of litigation.”

Russell Travers, the acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired, according to former U.S. officials, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Thursday, 19 March 2020: “The acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center was removed Wednesday in what insiders fear is a purge by the Trump administration of career professionals at an organization set up after 9/11 to protect the nation from further attacks, according to two former U.S. officials. Russell E. Travers, a highly regarded intelligence professional with more than 40 years of government service, told colleagues he was fired by acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell, said the former officials, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.” See also, Russ Travers, the Acting Head of the Counterterrorism Center, Is Being Abruptly Replaced, The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt, Thursday, 19 March 2020.