The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Trump leads from behind on the coronavirus, invoking federalism to excuse his dithering response

with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

“I’m a wartime president,” Donald Trump reiterated on Sunday night. “This is a war.”

But even as he sought the deference historically afforded to leaders at the start of a military conflict, President Trump made clear that he does not want to accept any responsibility for either strategic blunders or tactical failures in the battle against the novel coronavirus

As he spoke repeatedly of “winning” against “the hidden enemy,” Trump’s news conference at the White House starkly illustrated an unabashed effort to have his cake and eat it too.

The president was widely ridiculed last week for ripping into NBC’s Peter Alexander after being asked the softball question of what message he would like to deliver to Americans who are afraid. Attempting a do-over of sorts, Trump sounded a soothing, if scripted, note when he entered the briefing room.

“For those worried and afraid, please know as long as I am your president you can feel confident that you have a leader who will always fight for you, and I will not stop until we win,” he said. “This will be a great victory. … And it's going to be a victory that, in my opinion, will happen much sooner than originally expected.”

Trump then repeatedly sought to pass the buck, primarily to Democratic governors. “The governors, locally, are going to be in command,” he explained. “We will be following them, and we hope they can do the job.”

President Trump on March 22 did not say whether his properties would benefit from a proposal aimed at helping businesses hurt by covid-19. (Video: The Washington Post)

A few hours earlier, Trump ripped Democratic governors who had criticized his handling of the pandemic on the Sunday talk shows. “We’re all building the airplane as we fly it right now,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on ABC. “It would be nice to have a national strategy.” The president tweeted that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Whitmer and others “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings.” Describing his view of the federal role, the president wrote: “We are there to back you up should you fail.”

In 2011, a White House official described President Barack Obama’s approach to Libya as “leading from behind” during an interview on background with the New Yorker. Prominent Republicans spent the remainder of Obama’s presidency mocking him for this formulation, even though there’s no evidence he ever used it.

But this has seemingly been Trump’s mentality toward the coronavirus outbreak. He told the governors on a conference call last week that they should procure their own medical equipment in case the federal government cannot deliver. “Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves,” he told them. 

We’ve come a long way from “I alone can fix it,” as Trump declared at the Republican National Convention in 2016, to “I don’t take any responsibility at all,” as the president said at the White House 10 days ago.

After Trump said the federal government is following the lead of the states, Vice President Pence explained how “that is the way our system works”: “It's extremely important that the American people recognize that one of the things that makes America different is that we have a system of federalism.”  The former governor of Indiana said: “It is locally executed, state managed, and federally supported. We want the people on the ground, the decision-makers, to have what they need.”

But many of those decision-makers on the ground say the Trump administration is not giving them what they need to contain covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Responding to a demand from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Trump on Sunday authorized the federal construction of four temporary hospitals sites, with 250 beds each to start. Trump also said he has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ship mobile hospital centers to New York, as well as California and the state of Washington. At the White House, the president read aloud a list of supplies being deployed by the government.

But Trump continues to resist pleas by governors, especially Cuomo, to fully use his authorities under the Defense Production Act. The 1950 law was enacted during the Korean War to allow the government to stock up on wartime materials like aluminum and copper. Trump technically invoked the power last week, but he has not used it to the extent that he could to either allocate scarce resources to the states that need them most or mandate production by private companies. “Former Pentagon officials who handled Defense Production Act policy for Democratic and Republican administrations said the Trump administration has so far made little use of the law,” Bob Costa and Aaron Gregg report.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said March 22 that President Trump should "order factories to manufacture" medical equipment. (Video: New York state)

Trump said the “threat” that he could use these powers in the future is coaxing companies into complying voluntarily or offering to help without being asked. He expressed fear that nationalizing an industry would transform the United States into Venezuela. “The concept of nationalizing our business is not a good concept,” Trump said. “We have the threat of doing it if we need it. … We may have to use it some place along the chain, but we're getting calls. Here's the beauty of it.”

Democratic governors said they’re not talking about nationalizing industries but allocating resources to make sure everyone gets what they need. “If I had the power, I would do it in New York state because the situation is that critical,” Cuomo said at his own daily briefing. “I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators – the essential medical equipment that’s going to make the difference between life and death. … If the federal government does it, then they can do it in a very orderly way. They can decide how many they need, they can designate how many each factory should produce and then they could distribute those goods by need, rather than having the states all compete against each other.”

Cuomo said federal inaction has allowed “price gouging” for these products. “I’ll contract with a company for 1,000 masks. They’ll call back 20 minutes later and say the price just went up because they had a better offer,” he said. “And I understand that: Other states who are desperate for these goods, literally, offer more money than we were paying. … The states simply cannot manage it. I'm competing with California and Illinois and Florida. And that’s not the way it should be.”

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor said the president has “leverage” to get private companies to ramp up the production of ventilators and protective masks. “What I’ll say is: If you can find it on the open market, go buy it,” he said on NBC. “Any governor that needs it, and you find it, go buy it.”

Indeed, many businesses are stepping up production absent dictates from the federal government. 3M says that it is shipping half a million protective N95 masks for medical workers to New York and Seattle, and they’ll start arriving today. The Minnesota-based manufacturer said it will almost double production of the masks over the next year to an annual rate of 2 billion masks worldwide.

Even with the surge in supply, Pritzker, the Illinois governor, complained that it’s still “a wild West out there” and everyone is overpaying for personal protective equipment as a result. “I’ve got people working the phones calling across the world, frankly, to get this stuff to Illinois,” he said on CNN.

Lawmakers and public health leaders debate if it's time to call on private companies to produce much needed coronavirus supplies on March 22. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

It’s not just Democrats who want the administration to do more. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), the chairman of the National Governors Association, said FEMA “has to take the lead” in getting medical items because states like his are scrambling to find supplies on their own. “We are getting some progress. Now, it’s not nearly enough. It’s not fast enough. We’re way behind the curve,” Hogan said on NBC. 

There are now about 35,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and more than 470 reported deaths. More than 15,000 New Yorkers had tested positive as of Sunday, and about 2,000 of them have required hospitalization. Most of these cases are in the Big Apple. “We are very much on our own at this point,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). “April is going to be a lot worse than March, and May could be worse than April.”

Trump said he has “a great relationship” with Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), and that they’re putting aside political differences to do what’s best for their people. “We're really backing up the governors,” Trump said. “The governors have to go out and do their thing. And you have a lot of governors, they've done a fantastic job. You have some that haven't. Usually it's the ones that complain that have the problems.”

Moments after calling for Americans to unify during his White House briefing, Trump snarked when he learned that Mitt Romney had chosen to self-quarantine because of his exposure to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who tested positive for the coronavirus. “Romney’s in isolation? Gee, that’s too bad,” the president said sarcastically, referring to the only Republican senator who voted to convict him during the impeachment trial. Romney is being cautious because his wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, which makes her more vulnerable to the coronavirus and made the president’s remarks sound even more callous.

During the news conference, Trump also refused to commit to not filling his own pockets with taxpayer bailout money meant for hotels. He complained that “nobody said thank you” when he donated his salary to charity. “So, I've learned: Let's just see what happens,” he said. “Because we have to save some of these great companies.” This seemed to be a reference to his own company. Once again, he found a way to make the pandemic about himself. A few minutes later, he claimed dubiously – and repeatedly – that it is costing him “billions” of dollars in missed opportunities to serve as president.

When a reporter asked Trump whether he’d consider reaching out to Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter – who all faced crises during their tenure in the White House – Trump said he doesn’t need them or whatever wisdom they might have to offer. Trump criticized Obama’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic 11 years ago and Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. Trump appeared to reference an ABC News-Ipsos poll released Friday that showed 55 percent of Americans approved of the way he’s handling the coronavirus response.

“All you have to do is look at the approval numbers on the job we’re doing,” he said. “I think we’re doing an incredible job. So I don't want to disturb them [or] bother them. I don't think I'm going to learn much.”

Quote of the day

“I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down,” said Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, referencing Trump’s stream of false statements during televised briefings. “OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.” (Science magazine

The federal response

Congress failed on March 22 to pass a procedural vote on a coronavirus stimulus bill that aims to inject close to $1.8 trillion into the economy. (Video: The Washington Post)
The Federal Reserve announced an unlimited expansion of bond purchasing programs.

“The Fed is taking swift action never done before in its history to ensure businesses, individuals and local governments can get loans to tide them over until the economy bounces back,” Heather Long reports. “As part of these efforts, the Fed said Monday it would purchase Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities ‘in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning,’ effectively putting no limits on how many assets the Fed is willing to buy. This extraordinary move goes even further than the 2008-09 financial crisis playbook. … The Dow Jones industrial average fell about 300 points when trading began on Wall Street. Economists have dubbed this the ‘do whatever it takes’ moment for the Fed. Some analysts on Twitter compared it to when talk show host Oprah gave everyone in the audience a car.”

The coronavirus stimulus package hit a speed bump as Senate Democrats voice objections. 

“Lawmakers had hoped to pass the enormous $1.8 trillion bill by Monday but Sunday night they were scrambling to revive talks, with the stock market poised for another sharp drop and households and businesses fretting about an uncertain future,” Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Jeff Stein report. “Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short, with 47 senators voting in favor and 47 opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes that were needed to move forward. The number of ‘aye’ votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears. … Ever since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the legislation Thursday night, senators have missed one self-imposed deadline after another to reach a deal. The vote Sunday evening was delayed three hours so talks could continue after it became clear it would fail, but no resolution was reached and it failed anyway. …

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin played shuttle diplomacy all afternoon and night, exiting the Capitol just before midnight after his sixth face-to-face meeting with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) while expressing optimism. … And while Schumer also struck an upbeat tone -- saying he was ‘very hopeful’ of a deal Monday morning – McConnell left the Capitol visibly angry and blaming Schumer for blowing up an emerging deal early Sunday. If the sides do not reach a pact by the early afternoon, a series of votes will unfold that are like to be a replay of Sunday’s blocked path, except this time the U.S. financial markets will be open and trading. … 

“Senate Democrats and Republicans spent Friday and Saturday negotiating over the legislation with both sides saying they’d made progress, until McConnell announced late Saturday he was moving forward on drafting a bill even though there wasn’t yet a final deal. … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, suggested that House Democrats might chart their own course and release their own bill, which could put the Democratic-led House and the Republican-led Senate on different tracks and delay final agreement on any deal. … 

A major sticking point is a $500 billion pool of money for loans and loan guarantees that Republicans want to create, which some Democrats are labeling a ‘slush fund’ because the Treasury Department would have broad discretion over who receives the money. There is little precedent for a program with a similar size and scope. … The biggest subset of this $500 billion fund would be $425 billion in loans and loan guarantees meant to rescue ‘eligible businesses, states or municipalities.’ … Trump has already talked about how he wants to help the cruise industry and the hotel industry, but dozens of other industries have pleaded for assistance as well. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called the bucket of money a ‘slush fund to boost favored companies and corporate executives -- while they continue to pull down huge paychecks and fire their workers.’

“This section also includes $50 billion for passenger airline companies, $8 billion for cargo air firms, and $17 billion for companies deemed critical to the U.S.'s national security. The legislation does not include many restrictions on the companies that receive these funds. For example, companies are required to maintain the same employment levels that they had as of March 13 ‘to the extent practicable,’ but it does not define what practicable means. The bill does appear to prohibit stock buybacks at firms that receive the emergency loans and gives the Treasury Department the opportunity to take equity stakes in the firms so that taxpayers could benefit if a firm regains its financial footing. The $350 billion small business program appeared to have broad bipartisan support, but processing this program could be a major logistical challenge because of the potential number of firms that could seek to have government support.”

Rand Paul was the first senator to test positive. 

“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,” the Kentucky Republican's office said in a statement. “He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.” Paul’s office added that “virtually no staff” have had contact with him since his D.C. office began operating remotely 10 days ago, Felicia Sonmez, Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane report. “But word of Paul’s diagnosis prompted two of his fellow senators, Republicans Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, both of Utah, to announce that they were self-quarantining because of their recent contact with him. … Paul received his test results Sunday morning, according to his deputy chief of staff, Sergio Gor. … 

“Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told fellow senators that Paul was working out in the Senate gym Sunday morning. Moran also said Paul was swimming in the pool. Asked about Paul’s Sunday morning whereabouts, Gor said, ‘As soon as he got the results, he left the building.’ … Romney, 73, said in a statement that he ‘has no symptoms but will be tested.’ … Other Republican senators appeared unnerved … The news prompted some senators to call for the chamber to allow for votes to be cast remotely. … Paul took part in Friday’s Senate Republican luncheon at the Capitol. He was the lone senator to vote ‘no’ this month on an $8.3 billion emergency spending measure to fight the outbreak and … was among eight senators to vote against a relief package that ensures paid leave for many Americans.” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said Paul's decision not to self-quarantine while waiting for the test results was “absolutely irresponsible.” Paul tested positive days after his father said the coronavirus was a hoax. 

Amy Klobuchar announced that her husband, John Bessler, has tested positive for the coronavirus. “We just got the test results at 7 a.m. this morning,” she said in a statement. “While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing. John started to feel sick when I was in Minnesota and he was in Washington D.C. and like so many others who have had the disease, he thought it was just a cold. Yet he immediately quarantined himself just in case and stopped going to his job teaching in Baltimore. He kept having a temperature and a bad, bad cough and when he started coughing up blood he got a test and a chest X-ray and they checked him into a hospital in Virginia because of a variety of things including very low oxygen levels which haven’t really improved. He now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator. 

“While this is his story and not mine, I wanted to let my colleagues and constituents know that since John and I have been in different places for the last two weeks and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick, my doctor has advised me to not get a test,” Klobuchar added. “As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard. I love my husband so very much and not being able to be there at the hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease.”

A Secret Service employee tested positive. In a statement, the agency said the employee is currently in quarantine and their health is being monitored. (CBS News)

What we're learning about the virus itself

The infected talked with us about what it feels like to have the coronavirus.

“Ritchie Torres, 32, a New York City councilman from the Bronx, first had nothing more than a ‘general sickly feeling.’ Then came a bad headache. He felt terrible. But for Torres, the worst effects of covid-19 so far have been mental: ‘It is psychologically unsettling to know I am carrying a virus that could harm my loved ones,'" Joel Achenbach, Ben Guarino and Ariana Eunjung Cha report. "The Rev. Jadon Hartsuff, 42, an Episcopal priest in Washington, D.C., felt drained after a Sunday service on Feb. 23. He took a nap. No big deal — the service can be tiring. The next day at the gym, his muscles ached. He became fatigued, feverish, slightly dizzy. ‘I kept telling people I felt spongy,’ he recalls. ‘Like a kitchen sponge.’ Mike Saag, 64, an infectious disease doctor in Alabama, developed a cough, like a smoker’s hack. He was bone-tired, his mind foggy. About five days in, the misery intensified. … 

“In sharing their experiences, they are helping to demystify this alarming contagion. Covid-19 can be a severe illness, even deadly. But it varies from person to person, and most people with a confirmed infection do not require hospitalization. … This is a slow-developing illness, and it lingers, the whole process typically playing out in weeks rather than days."

Losing your ability to smell and taste may be a clue that you're infected.

“On Friday, British ear, nose and throat doctors, citing reports from colleagues around the world, called on adults who lose their senses of smell to isolate themselves for seven days, even if they have no other symptoms, to slow the disease’s spread," the Times reports

The coronavirus may have a weakness.

“Although there are incidents of rampant spread, as happened on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the coronavirus more often infects clusters of family members, friends and work colleagues, said Dr. David L. Heymann, who chairs an expert panel advising the World Health Organization on emergencies,” the NYT reports. “No one is certain why the virus travels in this way, but experts see an opening nonetheless. ‘You can contain clusters,’ Dr. Heymann said. ‘You need to identify and stop discrete outbreaks, and then do rigorous contact tracing.’”

Nearly 70 drugs or experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus.

A team of researchers published a list of them on Sunday night on the web site bioRxiv. “Some of the medications are already used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch,” per the Times. Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients suddenly can’t access their crucial medication because Trump tweeted it out as a potential, but unproven, treatment, ProPublica notes.

Gilead Sciences, a major pharmaceutical company, is halting access to an experimental drug used to treat the novel coronavirus in emergencies. Amid an “exponential increase” in requests for the drug, called remdesivir, Gilead said it wanted more of those receiving the antiviral to participate in a clinical trial. (Teo Armus)

The global fallout

As the world hunkers down in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus, some people are coming up with interesting ways to pass the time. (Video: The Washington Post)
Daily life has come to a near halt around the world.

As Italy’s death toll leaps by hundreds each day, a frantic Europe is scrambling for hospital beds, ventilators and medical supplies. “A team of firefighters and volunteers turned a 15,000-square-foot convention center hall in Vienna into a new 880-bed coronavirus hospital over the course of a weekend,” Loveday Morris, William Booth and Luisa Beck report. “Soldiers in Germany, France and Spain have been deployed to help build similar temporary facilities for thousands of patients. Across Europe, tens of thousands of nurses and doctors are being graduated early or called back from retirement. … Countries are competing against one another for medical supplies on an international market that has been sucked dry.” 

Governments extended lockdowns across the world, Shane Harris reports: 

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel was placed under quarantine after being treated by a doctor on Friday who tested positive for the virus. Merkel banned meetings of more than two people to slow the virus.
  • Spain is extending its national lockdown for another 15 days. The country has more than 33,000 confirmed cases of infection, and more than 2,100 people have died.
  • Britain, which has confirmed more than 5,000 infections and 282 deaths, planned to notify 1.5 million people with serious health issues that they should not leave their homes for the next 12 weeks.
  • Italy continued to confine its citizens to their homes. Authorities reported 651 new deaths on Sunday (for a total of 5,476), which was the lowest percentage increase since the beginning of the outbreak. Some took that cautiously as a sign that strict quarantine measures were helping.
  • India’s largest cities, home to more than 65 million, went into lockdown mode. The country suspended domestic flights. (Niha Masih and Joanna Slater)
  • Pakistan locked down an entire province and banned international flights to slow the spread. (Pam Constable and Shaiq Hussain)
  • Hong Kong banned tourists and transiting passengers. It also banned the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants after a jump in infections. (Shibani Mahtani)
  • Trump offered North Korea’s Kim Jong Un help against the coronavirus. Kim’s sister said Trump sent the leader a letter offering help, but she warned that it wasn’t enough to improve relations. (Min Joo Kim)
  • Australia, which has more than 1,300 infections and seven deaths, closed pubs, athletic facilities, entertainment venues and houses of worship. Australia will also withdraw nonessential troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • New Zealand is preparing for a month-long lockdown. The country has more than 100 reported cases, but no confirmed deaths. (Jennifer Hassan)
  • Israel has modified funeral rituals, as antiviral safety protocols now trump tradition. (Steve Hendrix)
  • Afghanistan, Romania and Kosovo reported their first coronavirus deaths.
  • In Lebanon, where authorities have been unable to stanch a large rise in infections following a national lockdown, the army was called in to keep people in their homes.
  • A region in Japan, which launched its own coronavirus fight, is now being hailed as a “model” for local action. (Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi)
  • Mexico City is starting to slowly shut down after its mayor ordered the closure of museums, nightclubs and gyms and a ban on events with over 50 people this weekend. To date, Mexico has reported about 250 cases and two deaths. (Reuters)
  • The number of virus deaths in Ecuador doubled over the weekend, growing from 7 to 14. (CNN)
Olympic officials, facing mounting pressure, are considering a postponement. 

Canada said last night it will not send any of its athletes to compete at the Tokyo Games this summer, becoming the first country to refuse to participate. Australia later said it wouldn't participate either. (Rick Maese and Des Bieler)

The U.S. axed a CDC position in Beijing that was intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China.

“The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July,” Reuters reports. “‘It was heartbreaking to watch,’ said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the [CDC], between 2007 and 2011. ‘If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.’ Zhu and the other sources said the American expert, Dr. Linda Quick, was a trainer of Chinese field epidemiologists who were deployed to the epicenter of outbreaks to help track, investigate and contain diseases."

The domestic fallout

The biggest worry for many Americans right now is their April 1 rent and mortgage payments. 

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard told Bloomberg News on Sunday that the unemployment rate could hit 30 percent between April and June because of mass layoffs. “Millions of Americans don’t know how they will get the money in time to make rent. The nation has 40 million renters, who tend to be younger. Black and Hispanic families are twice as likely to rent than white households," Heather Long and Renae Merle report. 

Eviction notices are still being issued, as millions are told to shelter in place. 

“Federal actions announced last week would protect more than 30 million homeowners from eviction, but they do not cover the nation’s 40 million renters. HUD issued a 60-day moratorium on evictions for homeowners who are unable to pay their federally backed mortgages,” Jessica Contrera and Tracy Jan report. “While some governors, mayors, city councils and judges are taking action, most state- and municipal-wide moratoriums on evictions last only a few weeks … Without a national moratorium on evictions, housing advocates say, some of the country’s most vulnerable people will lose the homes that could keep them from contracting the virus.”  

  • Nearly 100 million Americans are now living under stay-at-home orders. (Paige Winfield Cunningham)
  • The Justice Department brought its first case against an alleged fraud related to the coronavirus, convincing a federal judge in Texas to issue a restraining order Sunday to block a web site that claimed to be distributing vaccines. (Matt Zapotosky)
  • Ohio clinics were ordered to halt all abortions deemed “nonessential," per Hannah Knowles. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) closed all public playgrounds as part of a state-at-home order requiring residents to stay in until April 6, per the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • Health officials face a mounting battle in pro-Trump West Virginia. Many still don’t view the virus as a serious threat, with some even accusing their Republican governor of overreacting when he closed the schools. (Todd Frankel)
  • The virus has shut down Sin City, creating an economically devastating situation for Las Vegas. (Robert Klemko)
  • The FAA said 11 air-traffic control facilities nationwide have employees who have tested positive. (Michael Laris)
  • Harvey Weinstein tested positive for the virus in a New York prison. The disgraced movie mogul will be placed in isolation. (Niagara Gazette)
  • In Texas, Dallas officials issued shelter-in-place rules as the number of positive cases in the county surpassed 100 and the death toll rose to three. But Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he wasn’t prepared to implement such limits statewide, nothing that most Texas counties have not confirmed any cases. (Dallas Morning News)
  • College students in Florida tested positive for the virus after going on a spring break trip. (WKBN27)
  • California’s lockdown gives us a glimpse at America’s stay-at-home future. (Geoffrey Fowler, Reed Albergotti and Faiz Siddiqui)
  • Many fear catastrophic outbreaks will rip through jails and prisons. Some officials have slowly started to authorize releases nationwide, to reduce the virus’s impact, per Katie Shepherd.
  • The financial losses for the transit sector are projected to be in the billions and the impacts and disruptions could stretch for weeks if not more, say experts and transit leaders who fear that even when the crisis is over, recovery could take months, if not years. (Luz Lazo and Justin George)
Coronavirus cases in the D.C. region spiked, as testing ramped up. 

The overall tally of known covid-19 cases in this area rose to 586 on Sunday. There were 221 known cases in Virginia, 245 in Maryland and 120 in the District, in addition to eight related deaths. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) emphasized the likely long duration of the pandemic and suggested schools may need to be closed for an extended period. D.C. officials announced restrictions to limit public access to the Tidal Basin, where people have been crowding to see the cherry blossoms, including barring pedestrian and bicycle traffic and deploying the D.C. National Guard to enforce a restricted access zone. Metro said it hopes to provide riders with reduced but steady service after a week of drastic cutbacks and sudden shifts that left some people stranded. Metrobus riders will be required to board using the rear doors, making their trips essentially free. (Ann Marimow, Gregory Schneider and Fenit Nirappil)

As the virus spreads, so do doubts about America’s ability to meet the moment. 

“‘We hit dark moments before in U.S. history, and this is clearly one of them,’ said Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Rice University. ‘It doesn’t help that the federal government is perceived as utterly dysfunctional.’ But, Brinkley added, Americans throughout the country have shown impressive mettle in dealing with a virus … Hospital workers are treating thousands of patients during day-long shifts. Healthy people are volunteering to help their vulnerable neighbors with everyday tasks. Most Americans are abiding by instructions to stay home,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Griff Witte and Seung Min Kim report. 

There are ways you can help during the outbreak. Several nonprofit groups could use your time or money to care for vulnerable populations. We've prepared a list here. We're also tracking coronavirus-related cancellations, closings and postponements. The hope is for our list to eventually become a list of reopenings and rescheduled events.

While many get to telework, others must show up to work.

This has shined a light on America’s racial and educational divides. “The people most at risk for getting sick, because they must venture out, are largely people of color, those with only a high school education and those whose incomes are likely to suffer during the ongoing crisis,” Christian Davenport, Aaron Gregg and Craig Timberg report.

Social media speed read

The Utah Jazz player whose positive test for the coronavirus led the NBA to suspend its season said he still doesn’t have a sense of smell two weeks later:

Trump has started signaling that he may push to relax pressure for social distancing to keep the economy moving:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) shared scripture:

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) reacted viscerally to a Politico report that the Justice Department is quietly seeking new emergency powers:

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) spoke out against giving the Treasury secretary the power to direct the stimulus money as he sees fit:

An author articulated how many of us feel:

Some nurses in New York City have started wearing trash bags to protect themselves against the virus due to limited resources:

In a sign of the times, a grandfather met his grandson for the first time – through a window:

Videos of the day

The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action launched a $6 million ad campaign slamming Trump for downplaying the coronavirus as it spread exponentially on American soil. This commercial will air in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin:

Trevor Noah video-chatted with two of his “Daily Show” correspondents: 

Omari Hardy, a local commissioner, confronted the mayor of Lake Worth Beach, Fla., over utility shut-offs amid the outbreak. Their screaming argument has now been viewed millions of times:

Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy and Mayor Pam Triolo got into a heated confrontation on March 19 over the city's handling of the coronavirus outbreak. (Video: City of Lake Worth Beach)