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Coronavirus Update
May 21, 2020
Driving the Day:

By the Numbers

Thursday, May 21, 2020, 7:30 AM 
Number of US cases reported: 1,551,853
Number of US deaths: 93,439
Total Number of People Tested in US: 12,647,791 (may not include all labs) 

ProPublica: States Are Reopening: See How Coronavirus Cases Rise or Fall
Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus Case Count Tops Five Million World-Wide

What to Watch For

President Trump will travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan today for a tour of the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant and a listening session with African American leaders. The Senate Aging Committee will hold a hearing on the care of older adults amid the COVID-19 crisis.  First Lady Melania Trump will give her first solo remarks on the pandemic during CNN’s global coronavirus town hall tonight.

Must Read Stories

New Data Shows That Trump Delaying Stay At Home Orders Costs Tens Of Thousands Of Lives — And Americans Are Concerned It Will Happen Again If Orders Are Prematurely Lifted At Trump’s Urging

  • New York Times: Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show: If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers. And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated. Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer people would have died by early May.
  • Associated Press: AP-NORC poll: Americans Harbor Strong Fear Of New Infections: Strong concern about a second wave of coronavirus infections is reinforcing widespread opposition among Americans to reopening public places, a new poll finds, even as many state leaders step up efforts to return to life before the pandemic. […]  The poll finds that 83% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to additional infections, with 54% saying they are very or extremely concerned that such steps will result in a spike of COVID-19 cases.
  • Bloomberg: Trump’s Push to Reopen From Virus Repels Some Republican Supporters: For every Republican voter who tells pollsters they fear keeping the country closed too long, there’s another like Wilson who raises alarm about going back too soon. In fact, Republicans are split almost down the middle on reopening, according to recent polls. About three-quarters of Americans want the government to aggressively seek to slow the virus even if it means keeping businesses closed, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll released last week. Only 25% of voters surveyed — and half of Republicans — supported reopening businesses to “get the economy going again, even if that means more people would get the coronavirus,” the approach backed by the president.

The Patchwork Pandemic: States Are Now “Reopening” At Trump’s Urging Even As Cases Surge 

  • The Atlantic: America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further: In the most severely pummeled places, like New York and New Jersey, COVID-19 is waning. In Texas and North Carolina, it is still taking off. In Oregon and South Carolina, it is holding steady. These trends average into a national plateau, but each state’s pattern is distinct. Currently, Hawaii’s looks like a child’s drawing of a mountain. Minnesota’s looks like the tip of a hockey stick. Maine’s looks like a (two-humped) camel. The U.S. is dealing with a patchwork pandemic. The patchwork is not static. Next month’s hot spots will not be the same as last month’s. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is already moving from the big coastal cities where it first made its mark into rural heartland areas that had previously gone unscathed. People who only heard about the disease secondhand through the news will start hearing about it firsthand from their family. “Nothing makes me think the suburbs will be spared—it’ll just get there more slowly,” says Ashish Jha, a public-health expert at Harvard. Meanwhile, most states have begun lifting the social-distancing restrictions that had temporarily slowed the pace of the pandemic, creating more opportunities for the virus to spread. 
  • New York Times: All 50 States Are Now Reopening. But at What Cost?: The United States has crossed an uneasy threshold with all 50 states beginning to reopen in some way, two months after the coronavirus thrust the country into lockdown. But there are vast variations in how states are deciding to open up, with some forging far ahead of others. The increasing moves to lift restrictions on businesses — or at least open up outdoor spaces like beaches and state parks — reflect the immense political and societal pressures weighing on the nation’s governors, even as epidemiologists remain cautious and warn of a second wave of cases.
  • Axios: Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise Across The South:  Several Southern states are seeing a rise in new coronavirus cases, moving them further away from an important target for safely reopening parts of their economies. The Trump administration’s reopening guidelines call for a consistent decline in new cases before proceeding with the process — and some states are proceeding even without clearing that threshold.
  • Daily Beast: White House’s Own Data Crunchers: Southern Counties About to Get Hit Hard: A new analysis being reviewed by the White House shows southern states that moved too quickly to relax social distancing guidelines face significant risk for a resurgence of the coronavirus over the next several weeks. In several cases, counties will see hundreds of additional cases by June 17. The study, which was put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is part of a data set being reviewed by top coronavirus task force officials and people working with the team, The Daily Beast reported earlier this month. A previous model by the PolicyLab predicted that if officials moved too quickly and too aggressively to reopen in mid-May, individual counties could witness hundreds, if not a thousand-plus, more coronavirus cases reported each day by August 1. The new model shows that in southern counties, particularly in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Virginia, the risk for resurgence is high over the next four weeks. These states have moved to reopen, at least partially, since the team published its last model in April.

Trump Administration Muzzles Scientists While The CDC And Some States Are Fudging The Numbers 

  • CNN: ‘We’ve Been Muzzled’: CDC Sources Say White House Putting Politics Ahead Of Science: In the early weeks of the US coronavirus outbreak, staff members in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tracked a growing number of transmissions in Europe and elsewhere, and proposed a global advisory that would alert flyers to the dangers of air travel. But about a week passed before the alert was issued publicly — crucial time lost when about 66,000 European travelers were streaming into American airports every day. The delay, detailed in documents obtained by CNN, is the latest example to emerge of a growing sense of disconnect between the CDC and the White House. In interviews with CNN, CDC officials say their agency’s efforts to mount a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic have been hamstrung by a White House whose decisions are driven by politics rather than science.
  • CNN: Fauci Conspicuously Stops Doing TV Interviews As White House Moves To Reopen Economy: The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been conspicuously absent from national television interviews over the last two weeks, as the White House moves ahead with reopening the economy. Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last gave a television interview when he spoke to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on May 4th. Prior to his recent absence from the airwaves, Fauci was regularly appearing on national news programs to update the American people on the country’s fight against the coronavirus.
  • The Atlantic: ‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons. This is not merely a technical error. States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points.
  • Buzzfeed: Scientists Say Some State Officials Are Hiding Or Changing Coronavirus Data Ahead Of Reopening: Disputes over coronavirus case counts in reopening states like Georgia, Arizona, and Florida are worrying public health experts, who fear public trust in health agencies is being destroyed by moves to silence or obscure unwelcome data. “Ultimately this is going to kill people,” said biostatistics professor Ruth Etzioni of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “People are going to see low numbers from these reports with manipulated numbers, go outside when they should stay in, get ill, and die.” As those three states pushed to ease stay-at-home orders in recent weeks, they have each reportedly taken steps to obscure data that would have run counter to their plans, hiding or misapplying complete numbers of those who have died or become ill from COVID-19. The White House’s April guidelines to states called for a 14-day downturn in case counts before reopening, but the three states and others have proceeded before that happened.

First Responders Still Report PPE Shortages As Trump Administration Squanders Funds 

  • The Guardian: Survey Finds 87% Of America’s Nurses Forced To Reuse Protective Equipment: The vast majority of America’s nurses say they have not been tested for Covid-19, are reusing personal protective equipment (PPE), or have exposed skin or clothing while caring for Covid-19 patients, a new survey has shown. The nationally representative survey finds that “dangerous healthcare workplace conditions have become the norm” since Covid-19 spread widely in the US, said the union which conducted the survey. More than 100 nurses have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Washington Post: Mask Shortage For Most Health-care Workers Extended Into May, Post-Ipsos Poll Shows: Front-line health-care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May — including nearly two-thirds who cited insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll. More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36 percent said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low, according to the poll. Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once.
  • NBC: Trump Administration Paying Huge Premium For Mask-Cleaning Machines. Which Don’t Do The Job: It sounded like a great deal: The White House coronavirus task force would buy a defense company’s new cleaning machines to allow critical protective masks to be reused up to 20 times. And at $60 million for 60 machines on April 3, the price was right. But over just a few days, the potential cost to taxpayers exploded to $413 million, according to notes of a coronavirus task force meeting obtained by NBC News. By May 1, the Pentagon pegged the ceiling at $600 million in a justification for awarding the deal without an open bidding process or an actual contract. Even worse, scientists and nurses say the recycled masks treated by these machines begin to degrade after two or three treatments, not 20, and the company says its own recent field testing has only confirmed the integrity of the masks for four cycles of use and decontamination.
  • McClatchy: 3M Billed Government $7.63 For 85-Cent Earplugs. It Now Has $1 Billion Covid Contract: The company that has been awarded the largest single COVID-19 federal contract once boasted it charged the Defense Department $7.63 for earplugs that cost 85 cents a pair to produce. That company, 3M, was awarded a $1 billion contract on April 15 for “medical and surgical instruments, equipment and supplies,” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The IDIQ contract — “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” — was awarded without taking competing bids from other vendors.

Trump In Michigan: Record Unemployment, Record Floods, Racial Disparities, And Companies Reeling Because Trump Has Not Gotten The Pandemic Under Control 

  • Detroit News: In Swing Through Michigan, Trump To Find Records — Unemployment, Floods And 5,000 COVID Deaths: President Donald Trump is set to arrive Thursday in Michigan, a state beset by the historic challenges of record 22.7% unemployment, a 500-year flood in the middle of the state and the loss of more than 5,000 residents to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The visit to Ford Motor Co.’s Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, where the automaker builds ventilators for the national stockpile, comes as the president is sharply criticizing a proposal by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. And state Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling on the president to break with his practice and wear a protective mask inside the Ford plant.
  • Washington Post: Ahead Of President’s Visit, Michigan Town Battles Racial Disparities In Coronavirus Deaths: In the hardest-hit Zip code in Ypsilanti, nearly one in 100 residents has tested positive or is presumed positive for the novel coronavirus. Yet the area didn’t get a coronavirus testing site until early May, after local leaders fought to call attention to the deepening crisis there. […] As Trump has urged communities to reopen and cheered on protesters who have defied stay-at-home orders, communities such as Ypsilanti are struggling to contain the virus. In Washtenaw County — where Ypsilanti is located next door to Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan — there have been 1,261 confirmed coronavirus cases and 90 deaths. Black residents make up 12 percent of the county population, but 34 percent of the confirmed cases.
  • CNN: Ford Forced To Halt Production At Two Plants After Employees Test Positive For Covid-19: Just days after reopening its American assembly plants, Ford temporarily shut down two separate factories because employees tested positive for Covid-19. One plant in Chicago that builds the Ford Explorer, the Lincoln Aviator and the Ford Interceptor police car stopped operations Tuesday afternoon after two employees tested positive for Covid-19. Then, Ford’s plant in Dearborn Michigan that makes its bestselling F-150 pickup, shut down Wednesday. Both plants, as well as other Ford plants across four Midwest states — restarted production Monday after suspending production for about two months because of health concerns.
  • Bloomberg: Ford Backs Off Mask-Wearing Requirement for Trump’s Factory Tour: Ford Motor Co. is backpedaling from a policy that every visitor to its factories wear masks ahead of President Donald Trump’s tour of a components plant that it’s converted to a ventilator-making facility. Personal protective equipment use is among the health requirements Ford has put in place at U.S. factories that restarted vehicle production this week. But although the automaker has shared its protocols with the administration, it will defer to the White House’s safety policies and determinations on Thursday, according to Rachel McCleery, a spokeswoman.

Worth Watching

Ahead of his trip to Michigan today, Trump launched a baseless attack on the state for sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters and threatened to withhold federal funds: 

  • Washington Post: Trump escalates campaign to discredit mail balloting, threatening federal funds to two battleground states
  • Buzzfeed: Trump’s Attack On Vote-By-Mail Plans In Key 2020 States Is “Misinformation,” A Top State Official Says
  • CNN: Fact check: Trump falsely claims Michigan sent out absentee ballots and broke the law

Other News

Trump’s Failures 
The Atlantic: America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further
The Atlantic: ‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’
Axios: Coronavirus cases are on the rise across the South
Bloomberg: Trump Points Finger at China’s Xi, Escalating Fight Over Virus
Bloomberg: Ford Backs Off Mask-Wearing Requirement for Trump’s Factory Tour
CNN: ‘We’ve been muzzled’: CDC sources say White House putting politics ahead of science
CNN: Fauci conspicuously stops doing TV interviews as White House moves to reopen economy
Daily Beast: White House’s Own Data Crunchers: Southern Counties About to Get Hit Hard
Detroit News: In swing through Michigan, Trump to find records — unemployment, floods and 5,000 COVID deaths
The Guardian: Survey finds 87% of America’s nurses forced to reuse protective equipment
McClatchy: White House advising states to expand COVID-19 testing in prisons, meatpacking plants
NBC: Trump administration paying huge premium for mask-cleaning machines. Which don’t do the job.
New York Times: All 50 States Are Now Reopening. But at What Cost?
New York Times: Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 Lives, Data Show
Politico: Under pressure, Trump administration weighs extending National Guard deployments
USA Today (Opinion): Health leaders: We stuck together to #StayHome, now we can start together to #OpenSafely
Washington Post: Reopening guidance for churches delayed after White House and CDC disagree
Washington Post: Mask shortage for most health-care workers extended into May, Post-Ipsos poll shows
Washington Post: HHS watchdog who exposed hospital shortages to testify before House panel
Yahoo: White House says the Trump administration is ‘keeping people safe’ at airports despite a lack of coronavirus screening

Trump’s Lies and Misinformation
Buzzfeed: Trump’s Attack On Vote-By-Mail Plans In Key 2020 States Is “Misinformation,” A Top State Official Says
CNN: Trump said Obama administration was handling early days of Swine Flu outbreak ‘fine,’ cautioned not to overreact
CNN: Fact check: Trump falsely claims Michigan sent out absentee ballots and broke the law
New York Times: Amid Hydroxychloroquine Uproar, Real Studies of Drug Are Suffering
Daily Beast: Trump Fans Gobble Up His Favorite, Unproven COVID Drug—Some Are Even Trying To Cook It Themselves
Washington Post: Trump’s promise of ‘Warp Speed’ fuels anti-vaccine movement in fertile corners of the Web
WISN: Woman with lupus took hydroxychloroquine for 19 years, still got COVID-19

Trump and the GOP Not Looking Out For You 
Buzzfeed: Scientists Say Some State Officials Are Hiding Or Changing Coronavirus Data Ahead Of Reopening
CNBC: Investor Ricky Sandler pushes for herd immunity approach to coronavirus after his hedge fund suffered losses
CNN: Internal divisions linger as GOP push grows for new recovery package
McClatchy: 3M billed government $7.63 for 85-cent earplugs. It now has $1 billion COVID contract
Miami Herald: Florida knew a COVID-19 pandemic was likely. State leaders didn’t warn the public
New York Times: Trump’s Vaccine Chief Has Vast Ties to Drug Industry, Posing Possible Conflicts
New York Times: Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Fraud
New York Times: Poor Americans Face Hurdles in Getting Promised Internet
New York Times (Opinion): Don’t Bail Out the States
Politico: Emergency relief screw-up hits 5 million student loan borrowers
Politico: McConnell vows end to enhanced unemployment benefits
Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration Extends Order Blocking Migrants at Border
Washington Post: Trump uses official travel to gain campaign edge in swing states as he seeks to move past pandemic
Washington Post: Trump escalates campaign to discredit mail balloting, threatening federal funds to two battleground states
Washington Post: As the backlogged IRS struggles to open mail and answer the phone, taxpayers face long delays
Washington Post: Trump blames Democrats for his grounded campaign, even as bipartisan restrictions ban his signature rallies

Axios: Restaurants prepare for “distance eating”
CNN: Ford forced to halt production at two plants after employees test positive for Covid-19
Bloomberg: Big Banks Plan Staffing Limits, Shift to Suburbs After Lockdown
Wall Street Journal: Trident Seafoods’ Boss Charts Safer Course for Alaska Fishing Season
Wall Street Journal: Apple, Google Unveil Technology for Covid-19 Exposure Alerts

Campaigns and Elections
New York Times: G.O.P. Officials Quietly Consider Paring Back Convention

Democratic Response 
Vox: Paid sick leave could be a deciding issue in November’s key House races

Economic Impact
Wall Street Journal: When Will Big Concerts Finally Return After Covid? (Think 2021)
Washington Post: Millions of people lost their jobs in hard-hit New England. Many fear their homes could be next.

Education and Child Care 
New York Times (Opinion): Your Day Care Probably Won’t Survive the Coronavirus

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