Dr. Fauci emerges as truth teller for the left and right during coronavirus crisis
; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios
If you feel like you're suddenly spending a surprising amount of your days thinking and talking about Anthony Fauci, you're not alone. He's become the third-most talked about person online, according to data from NewsWhip provided to Axios.
Why it matters: Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health office that deals with infectious diseases, has quickly become a household name, and one of the few household names with (mostly) bipartisan credibility.
By the numbers: A Fox News poll last week shows Fauci has a 77% approval rating — well above any figure in the U.S. government.
- According to our NewsWhip data, President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the only people with more online mentions than Fauci over the last two weeks.
What they're saying: Of the top 40 stories about Fauci by interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media, none had negative sentiment, and several were positively glowing. Those stories included:
- "Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are the most trusted leaders in America on the coronavirus right now. Trump is not." (Business Insider)
- "Thank God the Doctor Is In" (Maureen Dowd in the New York Times)
- "Can we have daily briefings with just Trevor Noah, Dr. Fauci, and no one else? Please?" (Upworthy)
Between the lines: Fauci has been able to strike a rare balance that has mostly avoided alienating either side of the political aisle during the coronavirus crisis.
- On sites with left-leaning audiences, the top Fauci-related stories focused on instances when he contradicted President Trump or gave more pessimistic forecasts than the president.
- Right-leaning publishers' top stories have been about Fauci criticizing the press for seeking to create a rift between him and the president, and instances of praise for Trump.
Yes, but: The internet is still the internet. Fauci recently received a security detail, in response to "threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," per the Washington Post.
- Still, although some far-right commentators have worked to build distrust against Fauci, more Republicans approve of Fauci (85%) than Democrats (74%), per the Fox News poll.
The bottom line: In these polarized times, few people are trusted across the political spectrum — particularly when they’re standing behind a podium at the White House. Fauci has proven to be the exception.
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:00:32 +0000
The push to multiply limited medical supplies
Health care workers and the federal government are scrambling to stretch limited supplies of medical equipment.
Why it matters: We can’t manufacture enough medical masks or ventilators in time to meet the enormous surge in demand that's expected to hit in mid-April. The next-best thing is trying to make what we have last as long as possible.
As it became clear that medical supply shortages would be a problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released strategies for stretching mask supplies, which included reusing masks or, in truly desperate times, using bandanas and scarves as substitutes.
- The Trump administration has drastically loosened regulations on medical supplies, expanding the kinds of masks health care workers can use and speeding up the importation process for medical supplies.
- The administration is working to acquire 100,000 ventilators by the end of June, but most states are expected to have already experienced the worst of their outbreaks by then.
What's next: States, hospitals and the federal government are trying to make existing supplies last while they desperately try to find more equipment.
- The administration is airlifting in millions of masks, gloves and face shields, mostly from Asia.
- And yesterday it announced that it’s delivering hundreds of thousands of hoarded masks and gloves that were confiscated.
- The administration announced yesterday that it’s using additional authority under the Defense Production Act to speed up ventilator production.
- But Politico reported yesterday that Federal Emergency Management Agency officials told the House Oversight Committee this week that there are only 9,500 ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile, and only 3,200 more will become available by the week of April 13.
On the ground, the effort is even more intense.
- Doctors in New York are already thinking about how to decide which patients will receive limited ventilator supplies, the New York Times reports. Some hospitals are experimenting with putting more than one patient on one ventilator — an unproven method.
- And then there’s the bidding war: New York state is paying up to 15 times the normal price for medical equipment, amidst unprecedented demand, ProPublica reports.
Yes, but: All of this may be too late.
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:00:01 +0000
Coronavirus dashboard: Catch up fast
- Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,014,673 — Total deaths: 52,973 — Total recoveries: 210,335 — Map.
- U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 244,678 — Total deaths: 5,911 — Total recoveries: 9,058 — Map.
- 2020 updates: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus. A federal judge declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election.
- Jobs latest: Coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state.
- Public health latest: Anthony Fauci called for all states across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders. The FDA will allow blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
- Business latest: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said oil companies are eligible for aid from new lending programs the Federal Reserve is setting up, but not direct loans from his department.
- U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
- 1 future thing: In developing countries, consequences of COVID-19 could be deeper and far more difficult to recover from.
- What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios experts — What to know about social distancing — Q&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
- Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.
Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 02:04:26 +0000
Mark Meadows considers new White House press secretary
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has privately discussed bringing on Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah or Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany as a new White House press secretary, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.
Why it matters: Meadows' start on Tuesday as Trump's new chief presents a chance to overhaul a press shop that's kept a low profile since President Trump ended the tradition of daily press secretary briefings.
- Stephanie Grisham, who's held the post of White House press secretary and communications director since last July, has never held a formal daily briefing — a regular practice that ended under her predecessor Sarah Sanders.
- It's not clear whether Meadows intends to replace Grisham or to bring in a press secretary to supplement her communications director role — and whether he intends to resume regular briefings on topics beyond the coronavirus.
What we're hearing: Meadows met with Farah in recent days and has discussed the possibility of the job directly with her.
- Meadows did not respond to requests for comment.
- Grisham told Axios: “Sounds like more palace intrigue to me, but I’ve also been in quarantine. If true, how ironic that the press secretary would hear about being replaced in the press.”
- Farah, 30, served as communications director for Meadows when he chaired the House Freedom Caucus, and she has maintained a close relationship with Meadows and his aides. Before joining the Pentagon in August, Farah served as Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary.
- McEnany, 31, was a former CNN contributor and national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee before being hired last year as press secretary for the Trump re-election campaign.
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 02:02:23 +0000
CNN: Fauci advises all states issue stay-at-home orders
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci recommended on Thursday that all states across the U.S. implement stay-at-home orders, at a CNN town hall.
Why it matters: The recommendation stands in contrast to President Trump's calls for "flexibility." Nearly 4o states have issued stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing as a way to combat the novel coronavirus — but the orders vary in strictness and duration.
- Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Wednesday that in states with fewer infections, "it's awfully tough to say close it down."
What he's saying: "I don't understand why that's not happening," Fauci said, per CNN, of a nationwide stay-at-home order. "As you said, the tension between federally mandated versus states rights to do what they want is something I don't want to get into. But if you look at what is going on in this country, I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be."
Background: The Trump administration has directed Americans to "work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible" for roughly a month, to "avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits," and to "avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people."
Go deeper... U.S. coronavirus updates: Unemployment filings break record, death toll nears 6,000
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 01:07:56 +0000
World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million
Novel coronavirus infections have surpassed the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.
The big picture: Policy responses to the global coronavirus crisis have been every-country-for-itself and — in the case of the U.S. and China — tinged with geopolitics. But, the scientific work underway to understand the virus and develop a vaccine has been globalized on an unprecedented scale.
The latest: The global death toll exceeded 50,000 on Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data. "The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week," Tedros said during a WHO briefing. Italy has the highest reported count of 14,000 deaths.
- About 60% of deaths reported worldwide have come from Italy, Spain, France and U.K. In the U.K., 500 people were reported dead within 24 hours as of Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.
- Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliament speaker, tested positive and is receiving medical treatment in quarantine, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday.
- 74% of Jordanians approve of their government's measures, which started with a round-the-clock curfew that now lasts from 6 p.m. until 10 a.m. — and driving is banned during the day.
- Taiwan plans to donate 10 million surgical face masks to the U.S., European Union and other allies, President Tsai Ing-wen said Wednesday. The country pledged to send 100,000 masks to the U.S. per week.
- Sanctions on Venezuela, Iran, Syria and Cuba should be lifted "to prevent hunger crises" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hilal Elver, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said Tuesday.
- A landmark U.N. climate change summit, originally scheduled for November in Glasgow, Scotland, is being delayed until next year.
Economic impact: The virus has caused a "global shock" and significant economic pain "seems unavoidable in all countries," the World Bank said in an update for East Asia and the Pacific on Monday.
- The World Bank projected growth in China, where the outbreak began, would slow 2.3% in the baseline scenario, or as low as 0.1% in the lower-case scenario.
- Nearly 10 million people in the U.S. have filed for unemployment in the past few weeks.
Coronavirus symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath.
Editors note: This article will be updated regularly with breaking news.
Go deeper... The coronavirus: What you can do
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 00:40:53 +0000
U.S. coronavirus updates: Unemployment filings break record
Over the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with millions to come. The jobless hits right now are like a natural disaster striking every state at the same time.
The state of play: Payments to Americans from the $2.2 trillion stimulus package will be distributed in mid-April, but those without IRS direct deposit accounts may not receive checks until August, according to a House Ways and Means Committee memo first reported by CNN and confirmed by Axios.
By the numbers: The coronavirus has now killed more than 5,900 people in the U.S. Over 243,000 people are now infected, while just over 9,000 have recovered.
What's happening: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recommended that all states across the U.S. implement stay-at-home orders.
- Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved the captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after he sent a letter to officials pleading for help when members of his crew contracted the coronavirus.
- The FDA allowed blood donations from gay men after a 3-month waiting period, citing an "urgent need."
- Wisconsin's April 7 presidential primary will not be postponed, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. 13 states have delayed voting or made changes to promote social distancing to combat the spread of COVID-19.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a new committee to oversee the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, led by Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).
- Roughly 3.5 million Americans likely lost their health insurance in the past two weeks, according to an analysis of state and federal data from the Economic Policy Institute.
- The Democratic National Committee announced its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus.
The big picture: COVID-19 is expected to peak in the U.S. in two weeks, but many states like Virginia and Maryland will see their individual peaks well after that. Nearly 40 state governors and the District to Columbia have ordered residents to stay home to limit COVID-19 community spread.
- Washington and California, which originally appeared to be epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., have slowed the surges of new cases — though it can't be ruled out that California is just behind on testing.
- Florida's slow response to the coronavirus may have set the stage for a disastrous outcome in one of the country's most vulnerable states.
Between the lines: U.S. testing capacity has increased as more commercial labs pledge to up production. More available tests mean more coronavirus cases will be reported.
- However, rural-state governors across the country paint a more troubling picture on access to tests, contradicting Trump that the U.S. is on track.
What to watch: In a major pivot in tone, Trump said Tuesday it's "going to be a very painful two weeks," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with social distancing guidelines in place.
Go deeper: How Asian countries are beating back the coronavirus
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout. Check back for the latest.
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 00:35:54 +0000
Biden's team is working out details for a call with Trump
Joe Biden said during a virtual fundraiser on Thursday night that his staff is working with President Trump and his team to set up a call about the coronavirus and how he can help.
The state of play: "Yesterday, the Trump administration suggested I should call the president to offer my help," Biden said, chuckling. "Well, I’m happy to hear he’ll take my call; my team's working with him to set it up."
Why it matters: A call would mark a surprising shift in behavior between the two men, who have otherwise been critical of one another on personal and political matters.
President Trump said Wednesday he would "absolutely" take a call with Biden.
- "Oh sure, absolutely. I'd love to speak with him," the president said at his daily briefing. "I always found him to be a nice guy."
- During his virtual fundraiser, Biden said that for week's he's been offering advice and proposing policies for Trump to adopt. "When I released the initial plan for COVID on March 12, I said the president was welcome, I encouraged him to adopt everything in the plan and take credit for it."
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 23:40:39 +0000
The month coronavirus shook the world
It’s already hard to envision the world we lived in one month ago.
Flashback: A WHO report from March 1 shows a total of 7,169 coronavirus cases outside of China, with just seven countries having recorded even a single fatality and the total death toll under 3,000, including China.
- The only Europeans under quarantine were residents of 10 towns in northern Italy.
- Spectators packed into sports stadiums, friends gathered at bars, nearly everyone went to work.
- Stock markets were reeling as forecasts of the coming storm grew darker, but life in Europe and North America went on more or less as normal.
- The March 2 edition of this newsletter focused on the Afghan peace deal, Israel’s election and Syria’s refugee crisis. The coronavirus didn’t feature, beyond our regularly updated graphic.
Flash forward: The global case-count has now topped 1 million.
- Spain, which hadn’t recorded a single death as of March 1, saw 4,249 over the past five days alone. Italy averages roughly as many deaths each hour as all of Europe had recorded a month ago.
- The U.S. has three times as many cases as the entire world did on March 1, and more than 30 times the caseload outside of China at that time. Unemployment claims last week were 33 times the rate seen one month ago.
- Countries that haven’t implemented some form of lockdown are the exception. India’s 1.4 billion people have been ordered inside. Reports or images of even small gatherings incite anger in European cities.
- 9 in 10 children worldwide are out of school, according to UNESCO.
April is going to be far worse.
- While daily death tolls appear to be leveling off in cities like Milan and Madrid, others like New York and London are still climbing rapidly toward terrifying peaks.
- There are surely countries and regions that have yet to see significant outbreaks but will by May 1.
What to watch: Citizens of hard-hit countries have been offered little clarity as to when they'll be able to return to something approximating the lives they led one month ago.
- Denmark offers a hopeful case. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says mitigation efforts there have been effective, and the country can now consider reopening in stages after Easter (April 12).
- The borders will remain closed to avoid importing cases, and senior citizens will be asked to continue to self-isolate, but schools and workplaces could reopen under staggered hours, to limit crowds on public transport.
- But even places like Taiwan and Hong Kong that contained initial outbreaks remain on alert, using high-tech monitoring to enforce quarantines. Almost nowhere have schools that were closed been reopened.
- The first wave has yet to crest in the U.S. and Europe, meanwhile, but experts are already warning of the waves to come.
The bottom line: Our way of life changed in fundamental ways in less than a month. The return to "normal" will likely take far longer.
Go deeper: Coronavirus is being used to suppress press freedoms globally
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 23:16:21 +0000
Coronavirus could hit developing countries hardest
The coronavirus is spreading most widely in countries that should be among the best equipped to handle it. There's no reason to expect that to remain the case.
Where things stand: 88% of new coronavirus cases confirmed on Wednesday came within the OECD club of wealthy nations, which together account for just 17% of the world's population. While that data is based on uneven and inadequate testing, Europe and North America are clearly in the eye of the storm.
What they're saying:
- “In three to six weeks, Europe and America will continue in the throes of this — but there is no doubt the center will move to places like Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Monrovia,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the Washington Post. “We need to be very worried.”
- There's deep concern about a coming shortage of ICU beds across the U.S. But on a per-capita basis, America has 330 times as many as Uganda, Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group and his brother Richard, an infectious disease doctor, note in Foreign Affairs.
- "[T]he countries least able to impose physical distancing and perform contact tracing also tend to have the most overstretched health-care systems and the most precarious economies," they write.
The big picture: In many poor countries that are now imposing lockdowns, millions live in cramped conditions without regular access to running water — and many simply can't afford to stay home. The effectiveness of those policies is thus uncertain, and the economic pain is severe.
- "If economies crash, silent killers such as diarrhea, malnutrition and infant mortality may sweep through populations," David Pilling notes in the FT (subscription).
The bottom line: This virus has brought unprecedented challenges to the Western world. But in the developing world, the consequences could be deeper still and far more difficult to recover from.
Go deeper: Debt crisis awaits in emerging markets
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 23:11:59 +0000
The Humanity First push for a coronavirus vaccine
Policy responses to the global coronavirus crisis have been every-country-for-itself and — in the case of the U.S. and China — tinged with geopolitics.
The flipside: The scientific work underway to understand the virus and develop a vaccine has been globalized on an unprecedented scale.
Zoom in: Trump has boasted that in the race toward a vaccine, “America will get it done!”
- But the NY Times reports that a University of Pittsburgh lab on the cutting edge of vaccine research is collaborating with a research institute in Paris and a drug company in Austria. That group gets funding from an international organization based in Norway and is in talks about vaccine development with a major Indian manufacturer.
- Chinese researchers have contributed much of the coronavirus research now available to other scientists, the Times notes. And a team at Mass General hospital in Boston is testing possible treatments in conjunction with colleagues in Xi’an, China.
The good news: The global scientific community has perhaps never been so singularly devoted to one issue, and borders have not been a major barrier to that work.
But, but, but: Nationalism and geopolitics could still come into play in the eventual distribution of a vaccine, Axios’ Alison Snyder notes.
- There is a concern that the first countries to develop or obtain one could prioritize their own populations, and the vaccine would only reach some countries significantly later.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 23:04:37 +0000
Trump attacks Schumer for impeachment in letter about coronavirus crisis
President Trump accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of being "missing in action" during the coronavirus crisis, writing in a scathing letter on Thursday that Schumer's focus on the "ridiculous impeachment hoax" resulted in New York being ill-prepared for the pandemic.
Why it matters: It's a blistering response to Schumer urging Trump to assign a senior military officer to enforce the Defense Production Act to produce more medical supplies.
The big picture: The president formally authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up domestic ventilator production on Thursday, and said he had appointed White House trade adviser Peter Navarro to enforce the act last week.
- Rear Adm. John Polowczyk is in charge of coordinating America's coronavirus supply chain and is seeking to fill the most urgent needs: ventilators and personal protective gear.
- So far, the authority of the DPA has only been used to compel ventilator production — and not other personal protective gear or medical supplies, like surgical masks and gloves.
What they're saying:
- Schumer: "While companies that volunteer to produce ventilators and PPEE are to be commended and are appreciated, America cannot rely on a patchwork of uncoordinated voluntary efforts to combat the awful magnitude of this pandemic. It is long past time for your Administration to designate a senior military officer to fix this urgent problem."
- Trump: "The Defense Production Act (DPA) has been consistently used by my team and me for the purchase of billions of dollars' worth of equipment, medical supplies, ventilators, and other related items. It has been powerful leverage, so powerful that companies general do whatever we are asking, without even a formal notice. They know something is coming, and that's all they need to know."
The bottom line: The letter, which appears on White House letterhead, reads much like a Trump tweet would. The president finishes by writing: "I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a Senator you are for the state of New York, until I became President.
Read the letter.
Go deeper: Fixing America's broken coronavirus supply chain
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 22:49:55 +0000
Judge declines to delay Wisconsin April 7 primary, extends absentee deadline
A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election, saying he doesn't have the authority to do so.
Why it matters: Wisconsin is the only state scheduled to vote next Tuesday that has not yet delayed its primary.
- Wisconsin's Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has issued a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, but his refusal to delay the primary has angered his fellow Democrats and others who believe that he's putting the public at risk.
Details: District Court Judge William Conley denied an emergency request by state Democrats to postpone the election, saying the state legislature and governor should do so. Conley accused the state of "endangering the population" by moving forward with the contest.
Yes, but: Conley also required officials to count all absentee ballots received by April 13 and extended the deadline for voters to request absentee ballots to 5pm this Friday. He also removed a requirement for absentee voters to have their ballot signed by a witness.
Worth noting: The Democratic National Convention, which was set to be hosted in July in Milwaukee, was postponed earlier on Thursday until August.
Go deeper: All the states that have delayed primaries
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 21:15:05 +0000
Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved the captain of nuclear aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after he sent a letter to officials pleading for help when members of his crew contracted the coronavirus.
The big picture: Capt. Brett Crozier's four-page letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week, quickly garnering national attention after Crozier pleaded for more resources and space to quarantine crew members offshore.
Modly said at a press conference that Crozier went outside the chain of command and "at no time relayed" the levels of alarm that he wrote in his letter:
- "I could reach no other conclusion that Capt. Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most at the time."
- “I have no information nor am I trying to suggest he leaked the letter. ... What I will say. He sent it out pretty broadly and in sending it out pretty broadly he did not take care to ensure it couldn’t be leaked.”
Background: By Wednesday, nearly 100 of the nearly 5,000 crew members had tested positive for the coronavirus.
- 1,000 people have left the ship to be put in isolation, and 2,700 more are expected to leave this week. Some crew members will stay behind to ensure the safety of weapons onboard.
What they're saying: House Armed Services Committee Leadership released a statement Thursday, saying the decision to relieve Crozier of his command was "an overreaction."
"The COVID pandemic presents a set of new challenges and there is much we still do not know. Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction."
This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.
Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 21:06:58 +0000
The coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state
Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios
Over the past two weeks, 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment, with millions more to come.
Why it matters: The jobless hits right now are like a natural disaster hitting every state at the same time.
Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and cost an estimated $161 billion in current dollars, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history, Axios' Bryan Walsh reports.
- But those affected could find safety and aid outside the disaster area, and America's economy barely experienced a blip.
The big picture: In America, losing your job isn't just losing a paycheck — for many, it also means losing your health insurance.
- About 3.5 million Americans have likely lost their health insurance because of job loss in the last two weeks, Axios' Bob Herman reported, citing the Economic Policy Institute.
- Medicaid will serve as the major backstop, but its ballooning usage will strain state budgets. It also won't be a primary option for residents of the 14 states that didn't expand the program under the Affordable Care Act, and those people instead will hope to qualify for low-cost ACA plans, Bob notes.
The bottom line: The crush of applications is so bad that some states aren't able to keep up.
- Florida's "unemployment website is essentially broken, dogged by longstanding glitches and a crush of people thrown out of work because of the coronavirus," the Tampa Bay Times reports.
- "[T]he office received 1.5 million calls in the last week, with a third of them coming from Floridians looking to reset their PIN numbers. The PINs are required to log in to the site."
- The program's director apologized today and said the department will revert to paper applications.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 20:57:55 +0000
Americans without IRS direct deposit may not receive stimulus checks for months
Coronavirus stimulus payments will begin to be distributed in mid-April, but Americans without direct deposit accounts set up with the IRS may not receive checks until August, according to a House Ways and Means Committee memo first reported by CNN and confirmed by Axios.
Why it matters: The IRS estimates that only about 70 million of the roughly 150 million Americans eligible for the payments have direct deposit information on file, according to CNN.
- With record unemployment levels expected to continue growing, millions of families will have to endure the economic pain for months without direct cash payments from the government.
- The payments are part of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed by Trump last week to limit the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
Details: The IRS will begin depositing payments to 60 million Americans in mid-April, according to the memo. But paper checks won't start being mailed until the week of May 4, and they'll go out at a rate of 5 million checks per week.
- That rate would mean the final paper checks would be distributed 20 weeks later — the week of Aug. 17.
The timelines are based on "extensive conversations with the IRS and the Department of Treasury," according to the memo. But they could change as discussions continue between the Trump administration and Congress.
- The memo adds: "The Committee remains focused on ensuring all eligible Americans receive their payment as quickly as possible."
- The Trump administration has already reversed an earlier provision that required social security recipients who don't typically file tax returns to do so in order to receive their payment.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 20:34:15 +0000
FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need"
Gay men, bisexual men and their female partners can now donate blood after a three-month waiting period, instead of the previously required 12-month span, the Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday.
What's happening: The Red Cross says the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused "a severe blood shortage," as more states issue stay-at-home orders and cities enter lockdowns to fight the spread of COVID-19.
- Roughly 2,700 Red Cross blood drives had been canceled across the U.S. as of March 17, resulting in 86,000 fewer donations.
Details: The new policy is effective immediately, per the agency's guidance, and is "expected to remain in place after the COVID-19 pandemic ends," the FDA said.
- To explain the change, the FDA said Canada and the U.K. did not report safety concerns after installing three-month wait periods for blood donations from gay men.
- The FDA also said the adjustment is scientifically supported, since "nucleic acid testing for HIV, HBV, and HCV" works "well within a three-month period following initial infection."
Of note: People who have traveled to malaria-endemic countries can now donate blood after a three-month waiting period under the new policy, as well as those with recent tattoos and piercings.
Go deeper: U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll tops 5,000
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:26:02 +0000
Trump campaign demands Sessions stop campaigning on ties to president
The Trump campaign sent a letter to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday demanding that he stop touting his support of the president during his run for his old Senate seat in Alabama, the New York Times reports.
Why it matters: Trump has had a rift with Sessions dating back to the former attorney general's recusal from the Russia investigation — a decision the president relentlessly attacked him for publicly. Trump has endorsed Sessions' opponent, former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, in the GOP primary runoff election.
Details: “The Trump campaign has learned that your U.S. Senate campaign is circulating mailers like the one I have enclosed, in which you misleadingly promote your connections to and ‘support’ of President Trump,” Trump campaign chief operating officer Michael Glassner wrote in the letter.
- “The enclosed letter and donor form in fact mention President Trump by name 22 times. The letter even makes the delusional assertion that you are President ‘Trump’s #1 supporter.'"
- “We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the president supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary runoff election. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
What they're saying: Sessions campaign spokesperson Gail Gitcho told the Times the fundraising letter Glassner is referring to was sent before Trump endorsed Tuberville. Gitcho added that "Alabamans don’t like to be told what to do.”
- “They have shown that repeatedly. Washington told them to vote for Luther Strange over Roy Moore, they disobeyed. Washington told them to vote for Roy Moore over Doug Jones, they disobeyed. They are a hardheaded and independent lot.”
- Gitcho said Sessions is one of the most fervent supporters of Trump and his agenda. “No one can change that," she said.
What's next: Alabama's primary runoff, which was originally scheduled for March 31, was rescheduled to July 14 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 19:09:17 +0000
How pandemics are worse than wars
What happens after a war? Two weeks ago, that question may have resulted in cautiously optimistic answers about America's ability to bounce back from its current crisis. Now, things aren't so clear.
Why it matters: Wars are — generally — over when they're over; then the post-war rebuilding can begin. Pandemics don't work that way; their effects reverberate for decades.
What's happening: Billions of people around the world are living in fear of a lethal and invisible enemy. They're sequestering themselves inside their homes and avoiding human contact not just because they are being told to do so by their governments, but because they have internalized the need to do so out of simple self-preservation.
- Extreme measures are popular. 74% of Jordanians approve of their government's measures, which started with a round-the-clock curfew. The curfew now lasts from 6 pm until 10 am, and driving is banned during the day.
- New Zealand's very strict lockdown is also popular.
Between the lines: "Getting righteous about other people’s inadequate social distancing is how we manage our fear," Leslie Jamison writes in the NYRB. That, too, is visible in New Zealand, as well as all over Twitter.
- Righteousness requires self-certainty. Once people are certain of something, it takes years for those heuristics to decay. A mistrust of mingling with strangers — or even with friends — is likely to linger for a generation.
- That's going to have long-lasting economic repercussions in entertainment, sports, hospitality, travel, including mass transit, and myriad other sectors.
- Even a vaccine won't end the fear. Vaccines aren't 100% effective, viruses mutate, and fear is not governed by rational calculation.
The big picture: Americans who lived through the Great Depression were scarred for life by the experience, and they exhibited a level of caution and frugality that only their boomer children would eventually overcome.
- After the coronavirus crisis, we're similarly likely to enter what Allianz economic adviser Mohamed El-Erian characterizes as a "greater emphasis on resilience and a move away from efficiency."
- Economically speaking, that's likely to weigh on any recovery, making it risk-averse and sluggish.
- Unlike a war's V-Day, the end of the pandemic won't be greeted with euphoria. It won't even be possible to pinpoint when the end arrives.
The bottom line: It's easier to switch an economy off than to switch it on.
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 18:49:26 +0000
House GOP leader: Startups will be eligible for small business loans in coronavirus stimulus
Venture capital-backed startups will become eligible for $350 billion in small business loans guaranteed by the federal government, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told the Axios Pro Rata Podcast on Thursday: "I just got off the phone with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and this is going to be solved."
In context: The Paycheck Protection Program, which provides forgivable loans of up to $10 million for companies with fewer than 500 employees, was included in the $2 trillion stimulus plan passed last week. But it also maintained something called the "affiliation rule" for most applicants, which likely excluded many small businesses that count venture capitalists among their shareholders.
- McCarthy and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have in recent days pushed for the Treasury Department to issue guidance easing the affiliation rule.
- McCarthy says that in the next day or two, Treasury will release guidance that sets a simple guideline for PPP loan eligibility.
- If a small business is not controlled by a single outside shareholder, it would be eligible.
Between the lines: This does leave out possibly thousands of private equity-owned small businesses. McCarthy says there could be future efforts, or maybe even a subsequent piece of legislation, to address such companies, but for now he and Mnuchin agreed that "control" is the simplest and fairest way to determine eligibility.
Go deeper: Bipartisan push could save private equity-owned small businesses
Thu, 02 Apr 2020 17:49:42 +0000
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