With Mariana Alfaro
The 1918 flu hit the United States in three waves — a mild outbreak in the spring, the deadliest wave in the fall and a final spike when the virus returned that winter. All told, the pandemic infected a third of the world’s population and killed at least 50 million people, including at least 675,000 Americans.
One of them was the great-grandmother of Debbie Birx, the lead coordinator of the federal government’s coronavirus task force. “My grandmother, for 88 years, lived with the fact that she was the one, at age 11, who brought home flu to her mother … when her mother had just delivered,” said Birx, 63. “She never forgot that she was the child that was in school that innocently brought that flu home.”
Her middle name is Leah in honor of her great-grandma who succumbed to the deadliest outbreak in modern history. “This is why we keep saying to every American: You have a role to protect each and every person that you interact with,” Birx explained. “It’s why we are social distancing.”
The 1918 case study weighs on leaders of the public health community as they scramble to ramp up capacity and spur vaccine development in preparation for a sustained war against covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “We're dealing with Cycle A right now, not the one that could come in the fall of 2020 – although we're getting prepared for it by the innovations that are being worked on,” Birx said at the White House on Wednesday evening.
Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there are growing indications this coronavirus could become cyclical and seasonal. “And the reason I say that is that what we’re starting to see now in the Southern Hemisphere – in southern Africa and in the Southern Hemisphere countries – is that we’re having cases that are appearing as they go into their winter season,” said Fauci, 79. “If, in fact, they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we’ll get a cycle around here the second time.”
Fauci, who has run the infectious disease center since 1984, said the risk of secondary and tertiary waves is why accelerating vaccine research is so critical, as well as conducting randomized and controlled trials of drugs already on the market that might be effective. “Because I know we'll be successful in putting this down now, but we really need to be prepared for another cycle,” he said.
The United States now has 69,197 confirmed cases and 1,046 reported deaths from the contagion. Vice President Pence said on Wednesday night that 432,000 coronavirus tests have now been administered nationwide. Many other Americans probably have the virus but still have not been able to get tested. The world has 480,446 confirmed cases and 21,571 deaths related to the coronavirus.
Fauci said he joined a conference call earlier in the day that was organized by the World Health Organization during which Chinese medical experts warned that they’re starting to see a second wave coming on. “One of the things that was striking to me, and I just throw it out there because it’s something that we will face … is that our Chinese colleagues are very concerned because they went through the entire cycle of the curve … and they have very, very few cases,” he said. “But what they’re starting to see as they're relaxing the constraints on travel is that they’re getting imported cases. And they wanted to warn us that, when we get successful, make sure you very carefully examine how you’re going to release the constraints on inputs.”
This warning, from Fauci and his Chinese counterparts, comes as President Trump continues to agitate for relaxing guidance encouraging social distancing and work stoppages in a bid to jumpstart the economy as quickly as possible. The president said he hopes that churches can be full on Easter. “I'm not going to do anything rash or hastily – I don't do that – but the country wants to get back to work,” Trump said at Wednesday’s daily briefing, as he was flanked by Fauci and Birx.
Fauci left little doubt that he thinks this is a bad idea. Birx, the more diplomatic of the two scientists, has carefully avoided getting crosswise with the president. She said during the briefing that some of the worst-case models being circulated by some epidemiologists are overly alarmist because they assume that no efforts will be made to flatten the curve of transmission across three separate cycles of the virus slamming the United States. “Our job right now is to carefully detail … what the infrastructure needs are and ensure that we’re meeting them,” she said.
Trump seemed to acknowledge that he understands there could be additional waves of coronavirus cases, but mostly he patted himself on the back during the 73-minute briefing. He again falsely claimed that nobody anticipated an outbreak like this. “Nobody could have ever seen something like this coming, but now we know, and we know it can happen and happen again,” he said. “And if it does, somebody is going to be very well prepared because of what we’ve learned and how we’ve done.”
Successful wartime presidents effectively manage the expectations of the citizenry. Trump focuses so much on winning individual news cycles, like a reality TV show star who thinks of each day as an episode, that he often loses sight of this long game amid a pandemic he likens to a war. With premature celebration, the president risks a “Mission Accomplished” moment akin to President George W. Bush’s 2003 speech aboard an aircraft carrier announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq or Vice President Dick Cheney’s declaration in 2005 that the insurgency, which sprang up after Bush declared victory, was in its “last throes.”
“Nobody has done the job that we've done,” Trump said at the end of a day that saw the death toll spike and horror stories emerge from hospitals in his hometown. “And it's lucky that you have this group here, right now, for this problem, or you wouldn't even have a country left.”
Trump’s boastful, self-congratulatory tone in these briefings is so jarringly at odds with the ground truth. Consider the stories that follow.
Our domestic health care system is stretching past the breaking point
Medical personnel and construction workers build a makeshift morgue in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
Hospitals are considering universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients.
“Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic are engaged in a heated private debate over a calculation few have encountered in their lifetimes — how to weigh the ‘save at all costs’ approach to resuscitating a dying patient against the real danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the contagion of coronavirus,” Ariana Eunjung Cha reports. “The conversations are driven by the realization that the risk to staff amid dwindling stores of protective equipment — such as masks, gowns and gloves — may be too great to justify the conventional response when a patient ‘codes,’ and their heart or breathing stops. Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members — a wrenching decision to prioritize the lives of the many over the one. … The new protocols are part of a larger rationing of lifesaving procedures and equipment — including ventilators — that is quickly becoming a reality here as in other parts of the world battling the virus. …
“Officials at George Washington University Hospital in the District say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate covid-19 patients using modified procedures, such as putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier. The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, one of the country’s major hot spots for infections, is dealing with the problem by severely limiting the number of responders to a contagious patient in cardiac or respiratory arrest. Several large hospital systems — Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Geisinger in Pennsylvania and regional Kaiser Permanente networks — are looking at guidelines that would allow doctors to override the wishes of the coronavirus patient or family members on a case-by-case basis due to the risk to doctors and nurses, or a shortage of protective equipment … But they would stop short of imposing a do-not-resuscitate order on every coronavirus patient."
Some health-care workers are resisting orders to work without adequate protection.
“To do so, they must buck the pandemic’s all-hands-on-deck ethos, the medical tradition of accepting elevated risk in a crisis and the threat of discipline from employers. Confrontations and difficult personal decisions are occurring as hospital administrators enforce rationing of masks, face shields and other equipment for workers worried about protecting themselves,” Lenny Bernstein and Ariana report. “Labor unions have noted that in China, where supplies were more plentiful, health-care workers were told to double up on gowns and other protective equipment. They have warned of a catastrophe if many health-care workers fall ill.”
Thirteen deaths in one day: Inside the “apocalyptic” surge at one NYC hospital.
“In several hours on Tuesday, Dr. Ashley Bray performed chest compressions at Elmhurst Hospital Center on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into cardiac arrest. All eventually died,” the Times reports. “Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of ‘Team 700,’ the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed. A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead."
- A worker at a New York City hospital where nurses wear trash bags as protection, due to a shortage of supplies, died from the coronavirus. (New York Post)
- New York University's medical school is offering its senior students the chance to graduate early so they can go work in local hospitals. (Newsweek)
- New York City morgues are near capacity, DHS warned. (Politico)
- A Brooklyn rabbi who once rescued 56 families from the Nazis died from the virus. Just two months ago, an emotional Rabbi Romi Cohn stood before Congress and delivered the opening prayer on the day that marked 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. He was 91. (Julie Zauzmer)
- D.C. will open emergency child-care centers for the children of health-care workers. (Perry Stein and Ovetta Wiggins)
- The Washington National Cathedral found 5,000 medical masks stored in its crypt. The masks are safe to use and will be donated to area hospitals. (Michelle Boorstein)
Doctors and nurses warn that the virus is killing even more Americans than we know.
“In the U.S., state and county authorities are responsible for collecting data on cases of COVID-19 and deaths. The data is then reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In California, one ER doctor who works at multiple hospitals in a hard-hit county [said] ‘those medical records aren't being audited by anyone at the state and local level currently and some people aren’t even testing those people who are dead,'" BuzzFeed News reports. "'We just don't know. The numbers are grossly under-reported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,’ the doctor said.”
The U.S. military is failing to utilize skilled immigrant doctors who are desperate to help.
Dozens of immigrant physicians who enlisted through a Pentagon program meant to harness their medical skills are stuck taking out trash and filing paperwork, even as the military mobilizes doctors to fight the growing coronavirus pandemic. Six recruits with relevant training — a pulmonary specialist, an epidemiologist and two internal medicine practitioners, among others — are frustrated that the glacial pace of security checks has slowed their chance to serve at a crucial moment, they told The Post. “The inertia comes as the nation braces for a mounting crisis of dwindling hospital staff as health-care workers contract the virus and are forced to quarantine,” Alex Horton reports. “It is unclear whether the military has enough doctors to treat its own troops and family members throughout the pandemic. The Pentagon’s top health official, Thomas McCaffery, warned Tuesday the military health system is facing a ‘surge in demand.’ More than 250 service members have been infected.”
More than 140 nursing homes have confirmed cases, but federal officials won’t say which ones.
"A news release from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, said 147 nursing homes had a resident with coronavirus, and that figure included only nursing homes, not elder care facilities. … [It] tucked the new figure in the seventh paragraph,” Peter Whoriskey and Maria Sacchetti report.
Unprotected and unprepared, home health aides who care for the elderly are bracing for the worst.
“At least 12 million people in the United States depend on such services every year, according to the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, many of them older or coping with severe disabilities,” Peter Jamison reports. "Many who require medical services or help with the basic tasks of daily living are likely to be confined to their homes in the weeks and months ahead. Yet the providers of those services say they are unprepared to step into the breach, hamstrung by regulations ill-suited to the current pandemic and unable to access protective gear that could shield workers and clients alike from infection. ‘There’s no doubt that we’re being sort of forgotten in all this, and I fear that mentality is going to eventually come back and punish us,’ said Joe Russell, executive director of the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice.”
Some cancer patients face delayed surgeries and scaled-back treatments.
“Cancer will be diagnosed in estimated 1.8 million people in the United States this year, according to the American Cancer Society, and more than 600,000 will die of the disease. Now, with the virus racing through the country, cancer doctors and patients are taking sometimes drastic steps to try to deal with the crisis,” Laurie McGinley reports. “Nationwide, oncologists are delaying some surgeries and paring back treatments to reduce patients’ hospital time and risk of infection. Cancer-fighting pills taken at home are being substituted for IV therapies administered at hospitals and clinics. With blood donations falling sharply, doctors are switching to regimens that require fewer transfusions. In many places, clinical trials, the last hope of many desperately ill patients, are being closed to new patients.”
A man who planned to bomb a hospital died as the FBI tried to arrest him.
“A man who plotted to bomb a Missouri hospital during the coronavirus crisis was killed during a shooting this week after he went to pick up what he thought was a vehicle rigged with explosives, not knowing he was doing so as the FBI looked on,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “The FBI said Timothy Wilson, 36, was the ‘subject of a months-long domestic terrorism investigation, which revealed him to be a potentially violent extremist, motived by racial, religious, and anti-government animus.’ Authorities said in the release that Wilson had planned to commit a bombing and — because of the pandemic — ‘decided to accelerate his plan’ to use a vehicle bomb to attack a hospital.”
- Wilson considered targeting a school with a large population of black students, a mosque, and synagogue before ultimately settling on the hospital, the Times reports.
- “The news comes at a time when counterterrorism experts have warned neo-Nazi extremists adhering to ‘accelerationism’—a hyper violent doctrine among the far-right seeking to hasten the collapse of society through terrorist acts—have discussed using the global coronavirus pandemic to spur the disintegration of vulnerable governments dealing with the crisis,” Vice News reports.
More on the federal response
The Senate advanced the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
“Lawmakers acted with unusual speed … to produce the largest economic rescue package in U.S. history. The sprawling legislation, which passed 96 to 0, would send checks to more than 150 million American households, set up enormous loan programs for businesses large and small, pump billions of dollars into unemployment insurance programs, greatly boost spending on hospitals, and much more,” Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane report. “The Senate vote sends the bill to the House, where Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced a vote to approve it Friday morning. Trump said he intends to sign it immediately. … In a fresh reminder of the dangers reaching into the Capitol itself, a spokesman for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, announced just minutes before the vote that Thune was returning to South Dakota to self-quarantine because he was feeling unwell. Thune was one of four senators absent for Wednesday night’s vote, and the other three absences were also due to the coronavirus — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has tested positive, and GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah, who self-quarantined … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had initially favored passing the bill by ‘unanimous consent,’ which would require agreement from all members of the chamber. But one prominent liberal — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — had already suggested she could oppose it.” (Today is Pelosi's 80th birthday, Karen Tumulty notes in a deep dive on the speaker.)
This bill won’t prevent a recession.
The Labor Department said this morning that 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the biggest jump in new jobless claims in history, surpassing the record of 695,000 set in 1982. “Many economists say this is the beginning of a massive spike in unemployment that could result in over 40 million Americans losing their jobs by April,” Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers report. “Laid off workers say they waited hours on the phone to apply for help. Websites in several states, including New York and Oregon, crashed because so many people were trying to apply at once. Despite the ominous news about laid off workers, the stock market rose Thursday with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 400 points, or about 2 percent. Wall Street investors cheered the Senate’s massive government aid package.”
“Economists say Congress’s response was too slow, too stingy and too focused on big Wall Street firms during the Great Recession, and that prevented a faster turnaround. Many analysts say Congress deserves some credit for doing better this time,” Heather adds. “But economists say two key problems remain: Fixing the health crisis and getting money to people in time. Constance Hunter, chief economist at KPMG, predicts it will take at least six to 10 weeks for the government to get a significant amount of the money disbursed. That’s a long time for laid-off workers and small-business owners with no money coming in to wait. It makes it less likely they will bounce back quickly.”
What’s in the bill?
“It contains a number of measures aimed directly at helping workers … and others to shore up the government safety net, with provisions such as more food stamp spending and more robust unemployment insurance benefits. It also includes numerous provisions to help businesses weather the impending crunch, providing them with zero-interest loans, tax breaks and other subsidies,” Jeff Stein reports. “The bill also includes some measures aimed at the public health crisis, providing at least $100 billion for American hospitals to help them survive what is expected to be an overwhelming influx of patients.” The final version also includes:
- $1,200 checks per adult and $500 per child for tens of millions of families. The benefit would be smaller for taxpayers earning over $75,000 annually. Over 80 percent of American adults will receive a payment. (We made a calculator so you can see how much, if anything, you’ll get.)
- An increase in unemployment insurance benefits for four months.
- $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans for passenger airlines; $17 billion for companies deemed critical to national security and $425 billion for other businesses, cities and states.
- Close to $400 billion in loans for small businesses.
- Provisions that stand to benefit specific industries and interest groups, including restaurants, community banks and for-profit colleges. (NYT)
- $175 billion in emergency aid for state and local governments.
- $114 billion to prop up transportation networks across the nation that have been battered as passengers stay home.
Taxpayers are bailing out executives who have dodged taxes and regulations.
The biggest airlines, hotel conglomerates, cruise lines and coal-mining companies are lining up to take government handouts. “Writing checks to some of the companies in need of help may require some Americans to swallow hard and look away,” Jonathan O’Connell reports. “Airlines and hotel chains have in recent years dramatically increased spending on stock buybacks (which can pump up a share price without building anything or hiring anyone) … The hotel giant Hilton, for instance, announced a $2 billion stock buyback on March 3, weeks after coronavirus cases began affecting the industry. Cruise lines for years have avoided taxes and U.S. safety regulations by registering their vessels abroad [like Liberia and Panama]. Coal companies put some of their workers in harms way and are now asking to get out of a tax that generates money to compensate former miners who have black lung disease. … Even Boeing, the aerospace manufacturer that is accused of misleading pilots and federal safety inspectors about lapses that led to two of its 737 Max jets to crash (killing 346 people), is poised to receive a portion of a $17 billion loan program designated for businesses deemed ‘critical to maintaining national security.’”
Quote of the day
"I think the corporate bailout was too much too soon, and maybe we didn’t need it ever,” said Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard and a 2016 Republican presidential candidate. (MSNBC)
The bill prevents Trump and his family from benefiting from loan programs.
“The provision, which was touted by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in an early-morning letter to colleagues, would also apply to Vice President Pence, members of Congress and heads of federal departments, as well as their children, spouses and in-laws,” John Wagner and David Fahrenthold report.
Politicians jockeying for coronavirus tests are finding that proximity to Trump is the fastest route.
“Late last month, Mick Mulvaney, who was still the acting White House chief of staff at the time, told a crowd of conservative activists that the media was exaggerating the threat posed by covid-19 … But unbeknownst to attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mulvaney had already received a coronavirus test, at the recommendation of the White House physician,” Juliet Eilperin, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report. “The easy access … high-ranking politicians have gotten to coronavirus tests highlights the extent to which members of America’s elite continue to have greater access to medical care during the pandemic, even as federal officials emphasize that testing should be reserved for health care providers and people who are seriously ill.”
More on the federal response:
- The Government Accountability Office said in 2015 that the government should develop a plan to protect the aviation system against an outbreak. It never happened. (Ian Duncan and Lori Aratani)
- Trump’s team has largely ignored the National Security Council’s own playbook on how to respond to pandemics. The 69-page document, which was finished in 2016, provides a step-by-step list of priorities. (Politico)
- Live from his basement, Joe Biden wants you to remember that an election is still going on. Democrats urged Biden’s campaign to try to wrestle a place onstage to better compete with Trump. Abruptly, Biden has begun doing so. (Matt Viser and Annie Linskey)
The global fallout
Spain’s is now the world’s hardest-hit country behind Italy.
“Spain announced 738 new deaths, taking its total to 3,434. That was the biggest overnight jump anywhere in the world and took Spain past the official tally of 3,285 deaths in China,” Pamela Rolfe and Loveday Morris report. “Italy remains the world's worst-hit country, with more than 7,500 dead. Italian authorities, though, indicated Wednesday that their outbreak may have peaked, with the daily death toll dipping to 683 in the previous 24 hours.”
Soldiers around the world face a new mission: Enforcing lockdowns.
“In every region, under all kinds of political systems, governments are turning to increasingly stringent measures — and deploying their armed forces to back them up,” Kevin Sieff reports. “Countries as varied as China, Jordan, El Salvador and Italy have sent service members into the streets. … At no time since World War II have so many nations wrestled with what it means to be in a state of emergency and how to impose fundamental and sudden changes in human behavior.”
In Russia, facial surveillance and the threat of prison are being used to make people stay home.
“Russia has pulled some tools from its authoritarian toolbox to battle the disease, including the use of facial-recognition technology to track people ordered into self-isolation. The government is also developing a system using geolocation data from mobile operators to monitor individuals,” Robyn Dixon reports. “Teams of police and doctors have been conducting raids on hotels, student dormitories and apartments to track people who traveled from China before the border closure, according to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.”
- Rwandan police fatally shot two men who they said defied the country’s lockdown. (Miriam Berger)
- Iran instituted a national travel ban and commercial lockdown. The country has 29,406 cases of the virus, with 2,234 fatalities. (Ruth Eglash)
- A soccer match in Italy last month has been linked to the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak. A Feb. 19 Champions League game drew over 40,000 Bergamo residents to Milan. Weeks later, Bergamo became the hardest-hit province in the hardest-hit region. (Des Bieler)
- The British government ordered tech company Dyson to make 10,000 more ventilators as shortages persist in Europe. Britain has almost 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 465 deaths. (Jennifer Hassan)
- Mexico has abandoned its go-slow approach as cases mount. Starting today, authorities will halt all nonessential government activities. (Mary Beth Sheridan)
- Mexican protesters blocked a port of entry that connects Nogales, Ariz., with Nogales, Mexico. They expressed worries that U.S. travelers could bring the pandemic into Mexico and demanded more screenings on traffic from the U.S. (Teo Armus)
- Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as Trinidad and Tobago, reported their first virus deaths. (Berger)
- Scientists warn that the virus could threaten endangered great apes, including chimpanzees and gorillas. There is no evidence yet that great apes can become infected with the virus, but primates are susceptible to human respiratory diseases. (Karin Bruillard)
China’s claim of victory in Wuhan brings hope, but experts worry it's premature.
“A central part of the narrative is that Wuhan, the onetime center of the outbreak and the site of a recent visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping, has stopped transmission in its tracks. It went five days without reporting new, local cases. On Monday, Wuhan reported one new case,” Emily Rauhala reports. “But Wuhan’s near-zero count is being called into question by independent reporting and received with suspicion from experts.” Talks among members of the U.N. Security Council over a joint resolution related to the coronavirus have stalled over the Trump administration's insistence that language be included stating that the virus originated in Wuhan, China. Beijing's diplomats are enraged, NBC News reports.
The domestic fallout
Deaths, restrictions and closures continue mounting from coast to coast.
As the crisis deepens in the Big Apple, experts are split over how to contain its spread to new areas. The ongoing debate over whether it’s practical for the federal government or individual states to issue guidance that restricts the movement of Americans based on where they’ve recently been is expected to only intensify in the coming weeks. (Shayna Jacobs, Ben Guarino and Tim Craig)
- Two Grand Princess passengers died from the virus in California. These appear to be the first known coronavirus-related deaths involving the cruise ship that was kept off the California coast for days this month, partly because Trump didn't want to increase the number of cases in the U.S., after infected passengers and crew were found aboard. (Mark Berman)
- Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) ordered residents in his state to stay mostly at home for 21 days. Essential activities, like grocery shopping or picking up food, are still allowed. (Idaho Statesman)
- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed an order superseding a number of local bans on public gatherings and restrictions. Reeves's order declares that most types of businesses are "essential" and thus exempt from municipal restrictions. (Jackson Free Press)
- New Orleans is on track to become the next U.S. epicenter. Authorities warned the number of cases in the city could overwhelm its hospitals by April 4. (Reuters)
- All Latter-day Saint temples in Utah and around the world will close starting today, the head of the Mormon church said in a letter to his flock of 16.3 million. (Salt Lake Tribune)
- Guantanamo Bay reported its first case. (NYT)
- The Tony Awards were postponed. (Peter Marks)
- Across the country, undocumented household workers are being left without jobs, without paid sick leave and with little help. (NYT)
- New York City is running out of pets for people to foster after a 10-fold surge of applications in the last two weeks. (Bloomberg News)
Known cases in the D.C. area topped 1,000.
“Maryland announced 74 additional cases, bringing the state’s total to 424, and extended its closure of public schools another four weeks, through April 24. Virginia reported 101 additional cases, for a total of 392. The District reported 48 new cases Wednesday, including an eight-week-old infant, for a total caseload of 235,” Antonio Olivo, Ovetta Wiggns, Gregory Schneider and Darran Simon report. “Overall, the region had 1,051 reported cases as of Wednesday evening, with 20 deaths. ‘It’s clear that we’ve got community spread now; that is quite obvious,’ said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), a physician by training who on Wednesday directed hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries so that supplies of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment are not depleted.”
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) attributed much of the spike in cases to an expansion of testing. He said the stringent social-distancing measures now in place throughout the region will take considerable time to bear fruit.
- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said the city is not issuing a stay-at-home directive and residents can still leave their homes for “essential trips.” She said city officials will not stop people walking down the street but may ask groups such as people playing basketball or soccer to disperse.
- The stimulus bill treats the District not as a state but a territory, meaning the District would receive only about $500 million, which is less than half the minimum $1.25 billion guaranteed to all 50 states. (Jenna Portnoy)
Some continue to argue that the economy's health trumps the public's health.
The former CEO of Wells Fargo wants healthy Americans back at work next month. “We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know,” Dick Kovacevich, who was also the bank’s chairman until 2009, told Bloomberg News. “Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you’ll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose.”
A 56-year-old California lawyer faced America’s wrath for suggesting it's more important to save the economy than those who are “not productive.” Scott McMillan tweeted: “The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive." Marc Fisher has a good yarn on what happened next (and talked to his parents): “McMillan instantly became Scrooge, a ‘ghoul,’ an advocate for the death of 8.2 million Americans. Within minutes, he was trending on Twitter, and not in a good way. People called him a ‘liberal’ and a ‘right-wing nut,’ even a ‘Nazi.’ They threatened his livelihood, his family, his home. … Within 48 hours, he had received nine death threats. … As the blowback grew fierce, the lawyer took down his tweet, took down his website, screened his calls. He was miserable. He took his chloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that Trump kept talking up, hoping that it might protect him against the virus, though there is no evidence that it will. It makes him feel like crap. He lowered his dose, but he keeps taking it because, he said, maybe it does work.”
Twitter blocked an article by a right-wing blog promoting “chickenpox parties” to stop the virus. “The article, titled ‘How Medical ‘Chickenpox Parties’ Could Turn The Tide Of The Wuhan Virus,’ argued that a ‘controlled voluntary infection’ program could allow young people to return to work after contracting and recovering from the virus. Such a strategy, the article stated, could promote ‘herd immunity’ and help save the economy,” the NYT reports. “Twitter said the article posted by the conservative website, The Federalist, as well as a tweet about it, violated the company’s rules, which ban content that flouts the recommendations of public health officials on the coronavirus.”
Three non-coronavirus developments that should be on your radar.
- Robert Levinson, the retired FBI agent who vanished in 2007, died in Iranian custody, his family said. The heart-rending statement, posted on the family’s Facebook page, said that information they received from U.S. officials had led “both them and us” to conclude he was dead. The Levinsons said that, because of the pandemic, they will hold a memorial service for the father and husband in the future when it is safe to do so. (Carol Morello)
- Turkish prosecutors charged 20 Saudis, including senior officials, on murder charges after an investigation into the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (Kareem Fahim)
- The suspect in New Zealand’s 2019 mosque shootings unexpectedly pleaded guilty to 51 murder charges. (Emanuel Stoakes)
Social media speed read
Floyd Cardoz, the influential India-born chef credited for introducing the flavors of his homeland to New York’s fine-dining scene in the 1990s, died from an infection related to covid-19. He was 59, Tim Carman reports. Tributes poured in:
.@floydcardoz made us all so proud. Nobody who lived in NY in the early aughts could forget how delicious and packed Tabla always was. He had an impish smile, an innate need to make those around him happy, and a delicious touch. This is a huge loss... pic.twitter.com/Q6eRVIpZkL— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) March 25, 2020
More physicians are taking steps to isolate from their own families:
I am an emergency physician. My increased exposure means that I have chosen to isolate from my family, to keep them safe. This is how I see my daughters (pictured with their cousins, with whom they’re staying).— Anna Carvalho (@thelastanna) March 25, 2020
If I can do this, you can stay home. #stayhome #BCdocs #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/pv6Ys9OQEk
The previous president, sharing a worrisome story in the Atlantic about the over-stretched medical system in New York, urged his followers to stay home:
These are the burdens our medical heroes already face in NYC. It's only going to get harder across the country. Another reason to maintain social distancing policies at least until we have comprehensive testing in place. Not just for our sake—for theirs. https://t.co/bwNXhOPMYs— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 25, 2020
Ambulance sirens have become chillingly common in Brooklyn:
The increased wail of ambulances in our Brooklyn neighborhood is haunting over the last few days.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 26, 2020
Reporting from the 2020 campaign has changed a lot:
“I’m probably the only Irishman you know who has never had a drink,” Joe Biden says during his virtual Happy Hour. “I have in here Gatorade." pic.twitter.com/D5oUcVZTmt— Matt Viser (@mviser) March 25, 2020
Videos of the day
Seth Meyers moved his monologue from his hallway to his home library:
Jimmy Fallon shared some funny videos of people dealing with the quarantine:
Trevor Noah went after Trump for saying he’ll have churches “packed” on Easter: