March 28, 2020
Driving the Day:
By the Numbers
What to Watch For
President Trump will receive a briefing on the 2020 hurricane season and will reportedly sign an executive order on social media companies today. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 2:00 PM.
The House Appropriations military subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Department of Veterans Affairs response to COVID-19. The House Ed and Labor workforce protections subcommittee will hold a hearing on the federal government’s actions to protect workers from COVID-19.
Must Read Stories
In Less Than Four Months 100,000 Americans Have Died
- CNN: Coronavirus Has Killed More Than 100,000 People In The US In Less Than Four Months: In less than four months, coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States. It’s as if every person died in Boca Raton, Florida. Or almost everyone in South Bend, Indiana. When the first coronavirus-related death was reported in February, no one could have fathomed the numbing stream of grim news that followed. Since then, an average of nearly 900 people have perished every day from Covid-19.
- Washington Post: For A Numbers-obsessed Trump, There’s One He Has Tried To Ignore: 100,000 Dead: President Trump has spent his life in thrall to numbers — his wealth, his ratings, his polls. Even during the deadly coronavirus pandemic, he has remained fixated on certain metrics — peppering aides about infection statistics, favoring rosy projections and obsessing over the gyrating stock market. But as the nation reached a bleak milestone this week — 100,000 Americans dead from the novel coronavirus — Trump has been uncharacteristically silent. His public schedule this week contains no special commemoration, no moment of silence, no collective sharing of grief. Instead, Trump’s most direct comments so far on the number came in a pair of tweets Tuesday, amounting to a preemptive rebuttal. “For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number,” he wrote. “That’s 15 to 20 times more than we will lose.”
Trump Pushes For Reopening Even As Cases Continue To Rise And Bad Data Obscures The Threat
- Axios: Coronavirus Still Has A Foothold In The South: Overall, new coronavirus infections in the U.S. are on the decline. But a small handful of states, mainly clustered in the South, aren’t seeing any improvement. Our progress, nationwide, is of course good news. But it’s fragile progress, and it’s not universal. Stubborn pockets of infection put lives at risk, and they can spread, especially as state lockdowns continue to ease.
- Politico: Bad State Data Hides Coronavirus Threat As Trump Pushes Reopening: Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus’ spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly. In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from POLITICO, other news outlets and the states’ own admissions. Some states have shifted the metrics for a “safe” reopening; Arizona sought to clamp down on bad news at one point by simply shuttering its pandemic modeling. About a third of the states aren’t even reporting hospital admission data — a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus. The spotty data flow is particularly worrisome to public health officials trying to help Americans make decisions about safely venturing out. The lack of accurate and consistent Covid-19 data, coupled with the fact that the White House no longer has regular briefings where officials reinforce the need for ongoing social distancing, makes that task even harder.
- Buzzfeed: The CDC Released New Death Rate Estimates For The Coronavirus. Many Scientists Say They’re Too Low: New CDC estimates of coronavirus death rates look suspiciously low and present almost no data to back them up, say public health experts who are concerned that the agency is buckling under political pressure to restart the economy. A week ago, as the US began to reopen, the CDC put out five scenarios for how the coronavirus crisis could play out across the country. This “pandemic planning” document is being used throughout the federal government and is meant to help public officials make decisions about when and how to reopen, according to the CDC. In addition to providing various rates of hospitalizations and infections, the CDC gave new estimates of the total fatality rate of the virus, ranging from about 0.1% (its least deadly scenario) to 0.8% (its deadliest scenario). The agency also cited a “best estimate” of 0.26%. While no one yet knows the coronavirus’s actual death rate, the agency’s range of possible rates seemed alarmingly low to many epidemiologists, compared to existing data in places both inside and outside the US. For instance, estimates of New York City’s total death rate, 0.86% to 0.93%, are even higher than the CDC’s worst-case scenario. Estimates from countries like Spain and Italy are also higher, ranging from 1.1% to 1.3%. Researchers also lambasted the CDC’s lack of transparency about its data sources. The eight-page document disclosed almost nothing about its numbers, citing only internal data and a preprint — a study that has not been peer-reviewed — led by scientists in Iran.
The GOP Is Not Looking Out For Those Who Need It Most
- HuffPost: Senate GOP Has No Plan To Help Millions Of Americans Losing Health Insurance During Pandemic: As millions of Americans slip into unemployment and lose their health insurance during a public health crisis, Senate Republicans still see no need to act on health care. More than 36 million people have filed for unemployment benefits due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, meaning millions will be left without health insurance. In mid May, left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute estimated 16.2 million people have lost health insurance once provided by their employer — how roughly half of Americans get their health insurance. That number could be as high as 26.8 million if those who lost their jobs don’t sign up for other coverage, the Kaiser Family Foundation found. But the Republican majority in the Senate isn’t interested in pursuing additional emergency relief for those who suddenly find themselves uninsured.
- New York Times: DeVos Demands Public Schools Share Pandemic Aid With Private Institutions: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income. Ms. DeVos announced the measure in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, defending her position on how education funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, should be spent. […] A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.
- Politico: ‘I Need The Food’: Ag Department Food Box Program Beset By Delays: An event-planning company that received one of the largest federal contracts to provide produce, meat and dairy to hungry families has yet to deliver the much-needed boxes to food banks across the Southwest. The delay has stoked concerns about the Agriculture Department’s new $3 billion “Farmers to Families Food Box Program” — especially surrounding multimillion-dollar contracts awarded to several small firms with little experience in food distribution. Leading lawmakers and food banks are demanding answers about how a small event planner received a huge, $39 million federal contract to serve charities like the San Antonio Food Bank, which has yet to receive a single box from CRE8AD8 (pronounced “Create a Date”), a San Antonio company that markets itself as a lavish wedding and corporate event planner.
Trump’s COVID Contractors: Incompetence, Fraud, and Cronyism
- ProPublica: A Closer Look at Federal COVID Contractors Reveals Inexperience, Fraud Accusations and a Weapons Dealer Operating Out of Someone’s House: A firm set up by a former telemarketer who once settled federal fraud charges for $2.7 million. A vodka distributor accused in a pending lawsuit of overstating its projected sales. An aspiring weapons dealer operating out of a single-family home. These three privately held companies are part of the new medical supply chain, offered a total of almost $74 million by the federal government to find and rapidly deliver vital protective equipment and COVID-19 testing supplies across the U.S. While there’s no evidence that they obtained their deals through political connections, none of the three had to bid against competing firms. One has already lost its contract for lack of performance; it’s unclear if the other two can fulfill their orders on time, or at all. They are among about 345 first-time federal contractors promised at least $1.8 billion in deals by the Trump administration since March, representing about 13% of total government spending on pandemic-related contracts of $13.8 billion, a ProPublica analysis of federal procurement data found. Like the three companies, many of the new contractors have no experience acquiring medical products.
- ProPublica: Masks Sold by Former White House Official to Navajo Hospitals Don’t Meet FDA Standards: The Indian Health Service acknowledged on Wednesday that 1 million respirator masks it purchased from a former Trump White House official do not meet Food and Drug Administration standards for “use in healthcare settings by health care providers.” The IHS statement calls into question why the agency purchased expensive medical gear that it now cannot use as intended. The masks were purchased as part of a frantic agency push to supply Navajo hospitals with desperately needed protective equipment in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. ProPublica revealed last week that Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, formed a company in early April and 11 days later won a $3 million contract with IHS to provide specialized respirator masks to the agency for use in Navajo hospitals. The contract was granted with limited competitive bidding.
Trump wants mail-in voting for himself and his cronies, but not for the millions of Americans affected by the pandemic:
- Fox News: Trump claims ‘Big win’ after Texas court rules lack of coronavirus immunity not valid for mail-in ballot
- CNN: Trump could have voted in person in Florida this year but chose not to
- CBS: While Trump tries to discredit mail voting, GOP officials move ahead with plans
- Tampa Bay Times: Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years
The Atlantic: Small Towns Won’t Know They’re Infected Until It’s Too Late
Axios: Coronavirus still has a foothold in the South
Buzzfeed: The CDC Released New Death Rate Estimates For The Coronavirus. Many Scientists Say They’re Too Low.
CNN: Antibody tests for Covid-19 wrong up to half the time, CDC says
Kaiser Health News: Antibody Tests Were Hailed As Way To End Lockdowns. Instead, They Cause Confusion.
New York Times: Coronavirus Epidemics Began Later Than Believed, Study Concludes
Politico: NIH director: ‘No way of knowing’ if coronavirus escaped from Wuhan lab
Politico: Bad state data hides coronavirus threat as Trump pushes reopening
ProPublica: A Closer Look at Federal COVID Contractors Reveals Inexperience, Fraud Accusations and a Weapons Dealer Operating Out of Someone’s House
ProPublica: Masks Sold by Former White House Official to Navajo Hospitals Don’t Meet FDA Standards
Washington Post: For a numbers-obsessed Trump, there’s one he has tried to ignore: 100,000 dead
Washington Post: Coronavirus may never go away, even with a vaccine
Trump’s Lies and Misinformation
Politico: ‘There’s no stigma attached to wearing a mask’: McConnell makes plea in favor of face masks
Vanity Fair: “I’ll Send You the Contact”: Documents Expose FDA Commissioner’s Personal Interventions on Behalf of Trump’s Favorite Chloroquine Doctor
Wall Street Journal: Fauci Warns About Hydroxychloroquine and In-Person Party Conventions
Trump and the GOP Not Looking Out For You
CNN: Trump could have voted in person in Florida this year but chose not to
CBS: While Trump tries to discredit mail voting, GOP officials move ahead with plans
Fox News: Trump claims ‘Big win’ after Texas court rules lack of coronavirus immunity not valid for mail-in ballot
HuffPost: Senate GOP Has No Plan To Help Millions Of Americans Losing Health Insurance During Pandemic
New York Times: DeVos Demands Public Schools Share Pandemic Aid With Private Institutions
Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. House Democrats say they were in the dark for a week about Republican’s positive coronavirus test
Politico: ‘I need the food’: Ag Department food box program beset by delays
Tampa Bay Times: Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in 10 years
Washington Post: Trump wants to know ‘within a week’ whether North Carolina can hold August convention amid pandemic
New York Times: For Families Already Stretched to the Limit, the Pandemic Is a Disaster
New York Times: An ‘Avalanche of Evictions’ Could Be Bearing Down on America’s Renters
Wall Street Journal: As Coronavirus Lockdown Rules Ease, Some Want to Keep Working From Home
NPR: Survey Shows Big Remote Learning Gaps For Low-Income And Special Needs Children
New York Times: With Or Without The Say Of Players, College Football Moves Toward A Return
New York Times: Should the Child Care Industry Get a Bailout?
Immigration and Travel
Washington Post: Coronavirus on the border
NPR: In Large Texas Cities, Access To Coronavirus Testing May Depend On Where You Live
New York Times: Italians Flock to Beaches, Hoping Tourists Will Follow
In the States
Buzzfeed: NYC Is No Longer The Epicenter Of The United States’ Coronavirus Epidemic
HuffPost: Many Workers Would Prefer To Keep Working From Home At Least Some Of The Time
Texas Supreme Court: Lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone not enough to vote by mail https://dallasnews.com/news/public-health/2020/05/27/texas-supreme-court-lack-of-immunity-to-covid-19-not-enough-to-vote-by-mail/… Big win in Texas on the dangerous Mail In Voting Scam! [@realDonaldTrump, 5/27/20]
The Radical Left Lamestream Media, together with their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats, are trying to spread a new narrative that President Trump was slow in reacting to Covid 19. Wrong, I was very fast, even doing the Ban on China long before anybody thought necessary! [@realDonaldTrump, 5/27/20]
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