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Coronavirus Update
April 27, 2020
Driving the Day:

By the Numbers

Monday, April 27, 2020,  7:30 AM 
Number of US cases reported: 965,933
Number of US deaths: 54,877
Total Number of People Tested in US: 5,441,079 (may not include all labs) 

Financial Times: Global coronavirus death toll could be 60% higher than reported

What to watch for

President Trump will participate in a teleconference with governors at 2:00 PM and an in-person meeting with industry executives at 4:00 PM. The coronavirus task force will brief the press at 5:00 PM today.

Must read stories

Testing, Testing, Testing

  • Axios: Coronavirus Testing Increasing, But Still Not Good Enough: The good news is that the number of daily coronavirus tests is going up again. The bad news is that it’s still not nearly enough for the country to safely reopen. Why it matters: If we don’t know who has the virus, we can’t stop it from spreading without resorting to stringent social distancing measures.
  • New York Times: Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States: As governors decide about opening their economies, they continue to be hampered by a shortage of testing capacity, leaving them without the information that public health experts say is needed to track outbreaks and contain them. And while the United States has made strides over the past month in expanding testing, its capacity is nowhere near the level Mr. Trump suggests it is.
  • Stat: Many States Are Far Short Of Covid-19 Testing Levels Needed For Safe Reopening, New Analysis Shows: More than half of U.S. states will have to significantly step up their Covid-19 testing to even consider starting to relax stay-at-home orders after May 1, according to a new analysis by Harvard researchers and STAT. The analysis shows that as the U.S. tries to move beyond its monthslong coronavirus testing debacle — faulty tests, shortages of tests, and guidelines that excluded many people who should have been tested to mitigate the outbreak — it is at risk of fumbling the next challenge: testing enough people to determine which cities and states can safely reopen and stay open.
  • Politico: Fauci Calls For At Least Doubling Virus Testing Before Reopening Country: The U.S. should at least double coronavirus testing in the coming weeks before easing into reopening the economy, the government’s top infectious disease expert said Saturday. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the U.S. now churns through about 1.5 million to 2 million tests a week. “We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will,” he said during the National Academy of Sciences annual meeting.
  • Politico: Unreliable Antibody Tests Flood The Market As FDA Waives Quality Reviews: The Food and Drug Administration is dealing with a flood of inaccurate coronavirus antibody tests after it allowed more than 120 manufacturers and labs to bring the tests to market without an agency review. […] Normally, the FDA does its own quality check before allowing tests on the market. Agency leaders have said they tried to create more flexibility for makers of antibody tests to help inform discussions about when people can safely return to work and school, and to identify survivors whose antibody-rich blood could help treat the sick. But many of the tests available now aren’t accurate enough for such purposes. Some are giving too many false positive results, which could mislead some people into thinking they have already been infected. The problem has gotten so bad that the New York City Health Department warned health providers last week against using the tests to determine whether someone is infected with the coronavirus or has developed immunity through previous exposure.  Public health experts say the FDA shouldn’t have waived its reviews of antibody tests and are calling on it to crack down. 

PPE Shortages Are Still A Huge Problem

  • Politico: Trump Called PPE Shortages ‘Fake News.’ Health Care Workers Say They’re Still A Real Problem:  President Donald Trump often opens his evening news briefings on the pandemic by rattling off a list of actions his administration has taken to secure protective gear for frontline health workers, claiming dire shortages have been resolved. But hospitals, nursing homes and caregivers across the country tell POLITICO they are still struggling to obtain medical masks, gloves and gowns, undercutting Trump’s assertions.
  • Los Angeles Times: Grocery Stores Seeking Masks For ‘Essential’ Workers Confront Shortages, Federal Interference: Six weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and long after grocery workers were deemed essential, major retailers are only lately beginning to provide them with masks. Walmart and Kroger, the largest supermarket chains in the country, have announced new policies requiring all employees to wear masks. Some independently owned stores are still awaiting shipments or have yet to find a distributor to provide them. Washington, it seems, has contributed to the delay. Without a centralized process by the federal government to buy and distribute protective gear, states, cities and hospitals have scrambled to outbid each other — and the feds, too. With prices skyrocketing and supply chains disrupted, some grocery stores have struggled to compete.

Trump And Republicans Desperately Want To Change The Subject And Find A Scapegoat 

  • Axios: White House To Shift To Economic Message On Coronavirus:  The White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging toward boosting the economy and highlighting “success stories” of businesses, reducing its public emphasis on health statistics, according to two officials familiar with the planning.  The Coronavirus Task Force — and the doctors who’ve become household names, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci — “will continue but take a back seat to the forward-looking, ‘what’s next’ message,” a White House official told Axios.
  • Washington Post: Republican Strategy Memo Advises GOP Campaigns To Blame China For Coronavirus:  A new Republican strategy memo advises Senate candidates to blame China for the coronavirus outbreak, link Democrats to the Chinese government and avoid discussing President Trump’s handling of the crisis. 
  • Washington Post: Trump Expands Battle With World Health Organization Far Beyond Aid Suspension: President Trump and his top aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organization on several fronts as they seek to shift blame for the novel coronavirus pandemic to the world body, according to U.S. and foreign officials involved in the discussions. Last week, the president announced a 60-day hold on U.S. money to the WHO, but other steps by his top officials go beyond a temporary funding freeze, raising concerns about the permanent weakening of the organization amid a rapidly spreading crisis. At the State Department, officials are stripping references to the WHO from virus fact sheets, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has instructed his employees to “cut out the middle man” when it comes to public health initiatives the United States previously supported through the WHO.
  • Politico: White House Weighing Plan To Replace Azar: White House officials are weighing a plan to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, according to four people familiar with the discussions. Among the names on the short list to replace Azar are White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, Medicare chief Seema Verma and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, said the four people familiar with the talks. 

Worth Watching

Reports continue to pour in that giant corporations took the lion’s share of funds intended for struggling small businesses in the federal relief package: 

  • CNBC: Public companies took far more small business loans than first thought — here’s the latest tally
  • New York Times: Large, Troubled Companies Got Bailout Money in Small-Business Loan Program
  • CBS: Up to 90% of minority and women owners shut out of Paycheck Protection Program, experts fear
  • Politico: Backlash grows as pandemic relief stumbles
  • Popular Information: Multi-millionaire Trump donor is top recipient of funds intended for struggling small businesses

Other News

Trump’s Failures

Axios: The coronavirus crisis is way worse than feared
Axios: Coronavirus testing increasing, but still not good enough
Axios: White House to shift to economic message on coronavirus
NBC: Fauci’s absence from recent coronavirus briefings draws notice
NBC: Birx: U.S. needs a ‘breakthrough’ on antigen testing to aid in reopening
NPR: Ex-Officials Call For $46 Billion For Tracing, Isolating In Next Coronavirus Package
New York Times: Testing Remains Scarce as Governors Weigh Reopening States
New York Times: Americans Abroad Ask Whether to Stay, and Risk Infection, or Fly Home, and Risk Infection?
Politico: Fauci calls for at least doubling virus testing before reopening country
Politico: Trump called PPE shortages ‘fake news.’ Health care workers say they’re still a real problem.
Politico: White House weighing plan to replace Azar
Politico: Trump rejects reports of Azar firing, says health secretary ‘doing an excellent job’
Politico: Unreliable antibody tests flood the market as FDA waives quality reviews
Stat: Many states are far short of Covid-19 testing levels needed for safe reopening, new analysis shows
Talking Points Memo: Many States Fall Short Of Mandate To Track Virus Exposure
Washington Post: White House is reviewing expanded guidance on reopening society
Washington Post: White House officials weigh replacement of HHS Secretary Alex Azar
Washington Post: Trump expands battle with World Health Organization far beyond aid suspension
Washington Post: The pandemic at sea
Washington Post (Analysis): Coronavirus is invading Red America, new data show. That’s ominous for Trump.

Trump’s Lies and Misinformation 

NPR: NYC Poison Control Sees Uptick In Calls After Trump’s Disinfectant Comments
New York Times: Prescriptions Surged as Trump Praised Drugs in Coronavirus Fight
New York Times: Trump Turns Shared American Experiences Into Us vs. Them
New York Times: Trump’s Disinfectant Remark Raises a Question About the ‘Very Stable Genius’
Vox: Why Pence’s favorite talking point about coronavirus testing is misleading
Vox: Trump claims the media misrepresented his coronavirus cure comments. Video proves otherwise.
Washington Post: 13 hours of Trump: The president fills briefings with attacks and boasts, but little empathy

Trump and the GOP Not Looking Out For You 

CNBC: Public companies took far more small business loans than first thought — here’s the latest tally
Los Angeles Times: Grocery stores seeking masks for ‘essential’ workers confront shortages, federal interference
New York Times: Large, Troubled Companies Got Bailout Money in Small-Business Loan Program
Politico: USDA let millions of pounds of food rot while food-bank demand soared
Politico: Backlash grows as pandemic relief stumbles
Politico: Schumer to introduce legislation preventing Trump from signing stimulus checks
Popular Information: Multi-millionaire Trump donor is top recipient of funds intended for struggling small businesses
Washington Post (Analysis): McConnell’s rejection of federal aid for states risks causing a depression, analysts say

Affordability and Access
New York Times: Closed Hospitals Leave Rural Patients ‘Stranded’ as Coronavirus Spreads

Washington Post: ‘We’re basically ill-prepared’: Hobbled House majority frets about its effectiveness amid pandemic

Democratic Response 
Washington Post: Democrats see Senate suddenly within reach, boosted by Biden’s ascent
Washington Post: With rallies banned, Joe Biden welcomes voters to another kind of show

Economic Impact
Bloomberg: Tale of Two Economies Will Determine Post-Lockdown Growth
New York Times: How Las Vegas Became Ground Zero for the American Jobs Crisis
Vox: Study: 71 percent of jobless Americans did not receive their March unemployment benefits

Associated Press: “I just can’t do this.” Harried parents forgo home school
New York Times (Opinion): College Campuses Must Reopen in the Fall. Here’s How We Do It.

Hospitals and Health Care Workers
New York Times: One Rich NY Hospital Got Warren Buffet’s Help. This One Got Duct Tape. 

CBS: Up to 90% of minority and women owners shut out of Paycheck Protection Program, experts fear
Washington Post: ‘For black folks, it’s like a setup: Are you trying to kill us?’
Washington Post: Covid-19 is ravaging one of the country’s wealthiest black counties

In the States
McClatchy: Tallahassee feasted on Florida’s $50M bridge loan program. Miami-Dade, Broward got crumbs
New Yorker: Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not
New York Times: March, April, May: City’s Mood Darkens as Crisis Feels Endless N.J. counties are fighting over testing supplies as they battle coronavirus with little help from the state
Time: This Japanese Island Lifted Its Coronavirus Lockdown Too Soon and Became a Warning to the World

Personal Narratives
Washington Post: ‘Is this another death I’ll have to pronounce?’
Washington Post: We wait in our nursing home, helpless and scared, knowing the virus is coming for us

Politico: The Koch network, avatar of the tea party, rejects shutdown protests
Washington Post: In Wisconsin, protesters attack stay-at-home orders as unnecessary — or a government cabal

Republican Campaigns
Politico: Big-government conservatives mount takeover of GOP
Washington Post: Republican Strategy Memo Advises GOP Campaigns To Blame China For Coronavirus

New York Magazine: We Still Don’t Know How the Coronavirus Is Killing Us
San Francisco Chronicle: Kaiser study finds coronavirus seriously affects people regardless of age

San Antonio Express News: Texas farmworkers struggle without government aid and coronavirus protection
Washington Post: As they rushed to maintain U.S. meat supply, big processors saw plants become covid-19 hot spots, worker illnesses spike

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