With Mariana Alfaro

Tony Fauci put his hand on his face when President Trump referred to the State Department the Friday before last as “the Deep State Department,” concealing a bemused expression.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, Fauci has counseled six presidents and become an esteemed pillar of the federal civil service that Trump has loved to hate during his three years in power. Until now.

For the first time since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the president and the government’s top medical experts seemed to be on the same page as they warned the American people on Tuesday evening of the nightmarish weeks ahead.

Right-wing media figures have slimed Fauci for weeks, including Lou Dobbs on Fox Business. On Tuesday, though, Trump praised him and White House coronavirus task force coordinator Debbie Birx, another physician who has devoted her career to government service. After years of debasing expertise and marginalizing experts, Trump signaled to his loyalists that now is the time to listen and take seriously what they say.

“It's a matter of life and death, frankly,” the president said.

Trump and the doctors went over slides that showed a best-case scenario of 100,000 to 240,000 fatalities in the United States, even with social distancing and school closures to slow the spread. Without mitigation, the models presented at the White House showed that 1.5 million to 2.2 million Americans could die of covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” Trump said during a news conference that lasted two hours and 12 minutes. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. And then hopefully, as the experts are predicting — as I think a lot of us are predicting, after having studied it so hard — you’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel. But this is going to be a very painful — very, very painful – two weeks.”

Since taking office, Trump has attacked career prosecutors for bringing charges against his longtime associates, intelligence officers for warning that Russia favored his election and scientists for sounding the alarm about his inaction on climate change

The president’s newfound respect for – and deference to – experts, careerists and technocrats is part of an even more dramatic shift in his tone over the past few days as the gravity of the crisis enveloping the country appeared to fully sink in. He’s no longer downplaying the danger, saying that the virus will kill fewer people than the seasonal flu or car crashes. A week ago, Trump predicted the country would be “raring to go” by Easter, which is April 12.

Despite the bad blood exposed by L’affaire Ukraine, Trump also went out of his way Tuesday to praise foreign service officers for their efforts to bring home 25,000 Americans who were stranded across more than 50 countries as countries closed their borders. “I salute the incredible public servants at the Department of State, as well as their counterparts at DHS and HHS, who have played such an important role in doing this,” said Trump, referring to Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, two departments that are populated almost entirely with non-patronage employees.

The contagion has killed at least 3,900 people in the United States as of this morning, including 1,550 in New York. Listening to him speak, the gut-wrenching visuals from the president’s hometown of New York – where Fifth Avenue is deserted, and Central Park is now home to a field hospital – appear to have chilled him as much as any charts or models. 

For context on Trump’s projection that 100,000 to 240,000 people will die of the virus, about 58,000 troops died during the entire Vietnam War. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 675,000 Americans, and the 1957 influenza epidemic killed 70,000 to 116,000 people.

Tuesday’s news conference was Trump’s most somber performance as president, but he didn’t fully muzzle his fiery personality. He still called impeachment a “total hoax,” criticized the number of homeless people in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district in San Francisco and congratulated himself for doing a great job. Trump also has a history of erratically changing his tone and approach. 

The president explained his strategy this way. “You know, I'm a cheerleader for the country,” he said. “We're going through the worst thing that the country’s probably ever seen … but I want to give people in this country hope.”

More on the uneven federal response

State officials wonder whether politics is playing a role in resource allocation. 

“As states across the country have pleaded for critical medical equipment from a key national stockpile, Florida has promptly received 100 percent of its first two requests — with Trump and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis both touting their close relationship,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, Chelsea Janes and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. “States including Oklahoma and Kentucky have received more of some equipment than they requested, while others such as Illinois, Massachusetts and Maine have secured only a fraction of their requests. It’s a disparity that has caused frustration and confusion in governors’ offices across the country ... State and congressional leaders are flooding FEMA with letters and calls seeking clarity about how it is allocating suddenly in-demand resources such as masks, ventilators and medical gowns. …

Governors and state officials have become increasingly frustrated by what they describe as a byzantine and unsteady process for distributing medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. … [S]ome GOP-led states such as Georgia have had trouble filling their requests. But Trump has contributed to the sense that politics could be a factor by publicly attacking Democratic governors who criticize his handling of the public health crisis. … Still, some Democrats have given the Trump administration plaudits for being accessible and for responding to their requests. Even after verbally attacking Democrats such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Trump has approved federal support for their states. …

"Privately, state and congressional officials have expressed alarm about a system beset by shortages, inefficiencies and disorder. … An administration official with knowledge of the rationing process said political affiliation is not a consideration in processing requests, though Trump has occasionally made promises over the phone that FEMA has had to accommodate."

Testing continues to be a failure.

After Trump claimed testing is no longer a problem, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that’s “just not true.” None of the testing advancements the president touted in a conference call with governors Monday have been deployed, Hogan told NPR.

  • A few weeks ago, Trump said the federal government would partner with major retailers to set up drive-thru coronavirus testing sites. HHS confirms there are only five locations from these major retailers – which include Walmart, CVS and Walgreens — offering testing, but none are open to the general public. (CNN)
  • Testing backlogs at private health labs have ballooned, making it difficult to deliver a comprehensive view to the medical community and policymakers of the contagion's spread. (Atlantic)
  • The FDA issued emergency approval for a two-minute antibody testing kit that can detect the virus. But the Bodysphere test can only detect covid-19 in people who have had the disease for several days. (Axios)
  • Serology tests for antibodies in the blood of coronavirus survivors could help establish how lasting immunity to the disease will be once someone recovers. (Carolyn Johnson)
Leaked CDC memos lay out the rationale for widespread use of face coverings.

Federal officials debating whether to recommend face coverings be routinely worn by the public are responding to increasing evidence infected people without symptoms can spread the virus, according to internal memos provided to the White House and obtained by Lena Sun and Laurie McGinley. “Simple cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose can prevent virus transmission from such individuals when they are out buying groceries or seeking medical care, according to the memos … But the documents note that widespread public use of masks is not culturally accepted in the United States the way it is in many Asian countries, where face coverings helped reduce the spread of the virus.”

Trump was asked about this at last night’s briefing. “My feeling is there is no harm in using a scarf or something,” he said, adding that medical masks should be reserved for hospitals. “I would say do it."

The captain of a nuclear aircraft carrier pleaded with his commanders for help.

A four-page letter from Capt. Brett Crozier aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. More than 100 sailors of a 4,000-person crew have tested positive. The carrier has been docked in Guam, and the captain wants to isolate sick crew members. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Crozier wrote. He said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded and most of the remaining crew is unable to socially distance. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” he wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” 

He asked for “compliant quarantine rooms” on shore in Guam for his entire crew as soon as possible. “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care,” he wrote. Asked what should be done about the Roosevelt last night, Trump said he would “let the military make that decision.”

The Pentagon hasn’t shipped 2,000 ventilators because it doesn't know where to send them. In order to ship the equipment to FEMA and the HHS, the Defense Department “has to be given a location to send them by civilian authorities who have to decide where the items are most needed,” CNN reports. “Civilian Pentagon officials had repeatedly said they are making ventilators and five million N-95 respirator masks available. So far only 1.5 million masks have been shipped by the Pentagon. Another 500,000 are to be shipped within days."

The Defense Production Act has been invoked routinely, but the president continues to treat it like a “break the glass” last resort. “As recently as last summer, the Department of Defense used it to obtain rare earth metals needed to build lasers, jet engines and armored vehicles. [DOD] estimates that it has used the law’s powers 300,000 times a year. The Department of Homeland Security — including its subsidiary, FEMA — placed more than 1,000 so-called rated orders in 2018, often for hurricane and other disaster response and recovery efforts," the New York Times reports.

Trump said infrastructure should be the focus of the next stimulus package.

He expressed support for another $2 trillion of spending in the fourth phase of the congressional response. “Citing extraordinarily low interest rates that have reduced the cost of federal borrowing, Trump said on Twitter that now ‘is the time’ to push forward with an infrastructure package,” Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim report. “Numerous House Democrats have also discussed in recent weeks advancing infrastructure legislation as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

  • The Dow sank more than 800 points, or 3.8 percent, at the open this morning on the expectation of rough weeks ahead. The S&P 500 also dropped 3.8 percent, and the Nasdaq was down 2.9 percent. (Jacob Bogage and Thomas Heath)
  • Federal officials are scrambling to make sure that tech glitches and mismanagement don’t delay the public’s $1,200 relief checks. (Tony Romm)
  • The government is delegating the authority to make $349 billion in new loans to the nation’s banks. Financial institutions are bracing for millions of small-business loan requests that could overwhelm the system. (David Lynch)
  • The Department of Agriculture has stalled on approving requests from states to speed up distribution in food banks by reducing paperwork burdens, which would help limit contact between the needy and workers amid a sudden and dramatic increase in demand. (Jenna Johnson)
  • The Trump administration has also decided not to reopen enrollment to the federal health exchanges for the uninsured, per Politico.
Taxpayers paid a company millions to design a low-cost ventilator. Now it's selling overseas. 

“Five years ago, [HHS] tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies,” ProPublica reports. “This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the [FDA], HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each. But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile. Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.” 

Vice President Pence has frozen coronavirus aid to foreign countries after discovering the efforts weren’t being coordinated with domestic requests. The task force is now scrutinizing all of USAID’s deliveries to countries requesting equipment and, in some cases, asking that equipment be sent back, per Politico.

Other governments around the world are taking drastic steps. 

The United Nations called the pandemic the single biggest challenge facing the globe since World War II. (Paul Schemm)

  • Israel is deploying security forces to make ultra-Orthodox Jews stay home as their neighborhoods become hot spots. (Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash)
  • Kenyan police fatally shot a teenager as he stood on his balcony during a coronavirus curfew crackdown. (Max Bearak and Rael Ombuor)
  • China reported a sharp increase in new cases as it began officially counting the number of people who’ve been infected but aren’t showing symptoms. (Anna Fifield)
  • Farms across Western Europe depend on Eastern European migrants who come during the growing season, meaning that border closings because of the coronavirus outbreak threaten the continent’s food supply. European countries say they have enough food for now, but there are growing concerns about what could happen if the crisis drags on. (Michael Birnbaum and Quentin Ariés)
  • Turkmenistan banned the word “coronavirus” from its vocabulary in a radical attempt to suppress all information about the pandemic. State-controlled media outlets are no longer allowed to use the word, and it has been removed from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals and workplaces. (Reporters Without Borders)

Tracking the spread

Some New York hospitals have stopped resuscitating coronavirus victims. 

“Last week, DNRs or do-not-resuscitate policies for coronavirus patients who stop breathing, or are in cardiac arrest, were being discussed as part of worst-case scenario planning. … Over the past few days, however, as the city’s death count topped 1,000 with 10,900 people hospitalized amid predictions the peak of the crisis is still two weeks off, some hospitals and medical centers activated those protocols,” Ariana Eunjung Cha, Lenny Bernstein, Frances Stead Sellers and Shane Harris report. “Spokespeople for Montefiore, NYU Langone Health, and New York-Presbyterian’s Brooklyn Methodist said no new systemwide resuscitation protocols have been adopted. But doctors and nurses at those facilities say some doctors have been informally allowed in recent days to override a covid-19 patient’s ‘code status’ — the part of their medical record that expresses their desire for lifesaving medical intervention."

  • New data shows the disease is thrusting people with chronic conditions of all ages into intensive care units, reinforcing an important lesson: Although covid-19 is typically more severe among older people, people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk if they contract the virus. (Joel Achenbach and William Wan)
  • Blood banks are panicking they will face a supply crisis about four weeks from now. (Alex Horton)
  • More than 1,000 New York Police Department officers have tested positive. More than 5,600 officers, or 15.6 percent of the workforce, called in sick yesterday. (Fox News)
  • A husband in New York hid his symptoms from a hospital so he could see his wife after she gave birth. Then, she started showing symptoms. The family of three has been asked to self-quarantine. (Timothy Bella)
  • Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their poor working conditions. Some have followed through, including a Washington state hospital that ousted an emergency room physician after he gave an interview detailing alleged inadequate equipment and testing. In Chicago, a nurse was fired after emailing colleagues she wanted to wear a more protective mask while on duty. (Bloomberg News)
Buffalo is bracing to become New York's next hot spot. 

An additional 332 New York state residents died Tuesday as cases topped 75,000. “In Buffalo and its suburbs, the number of coronavirus cases has been doubling every three days," Justin Sondel and Tim Craig report. "With local hospitals bracing for an influx of sick patients, the situation serves as a reminder that the worst of the crisis could soon shift away from coastal cities and deeper into the Midwest and here in the Great Lakes.” 

Deaths and infections in Louisiana rose 30 percent in a 24-hour period. 

“The ‘very sobering numbers’ brought the state's total number of cases to 5,237, and 239 covid-19 patients have died, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said at a news conference. That is an increase of 1,212 cases and 54 deaths over what the state reported Monday. The city of New Orleans had 1,834 total cases and 101 deaths,” David Montgomery and Richard Webster report. “The new data pushed up the estimated date when the New Orleans region could run out of ventilators to April 4, and advanced the date when hospital beds in the region may be filled to April 7, the governor said. Edwards offered one caveat to the numbers: State health officials said 90 percent of the new cases were based on tests processed by private labs, and officials have been unable to pin down whether the spike in cases is partly because of a sudden rush of reporting of tests that could have been collected many days ago.”

Yet New Orleans police continue jailing people for minor offenses. “One man was accused of stealing whiskey from a drugstore. A homeless man had allegedly refused to leave a hotel lobby. A woman had walked out of a grocery store without paying for a cart full of food worth $375, according to the police,” Richard Webster, Emma Brown and Kimberly Kindy report

Meanwhile, California will release 3,500 inmates early as the virus spreads inside the state's prisons, per the Los Angeles Times. The Golden State also told its schools to plan on staying closed for the rest of the academic year. Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Virginia and Vermont have already ordered their schools closed for the rest of the semester, per Valerie Strauss. 

The virus continues to take both the old and the young. 
  • Jorge Ortiz-Garay, of Brooklyn, became the first Catholic priest known to have died of the virus in the United States. He passed just days after celebrating Mass via live stream. He was 49. (NYT)
  • Gita Ramjee, a world-renowned virologist and a leading HIV researcher, died at 64. (HuffPost)
  • Jeannie Danker, director of radiology at Ohio State University's medical center, was 60. She had just lost her husband to ALS. (WBNS)
  • Lorena Borjas, a transgender Latina activist who fought for immigrants and sex workers, died at 59. (CNN)
  • A 13-year-old boy in London, thought to be the youngest person to die from the virus in the U.K., had no apparent underlying health conditions. He just tested positive on Friday. (BBC)
Not everyone who gets covid-19 is incapacitated.
  • CNN host Chris Cuomo, 49, said he tested positive but will continue broadcasting from his home basement because he feels okay.
  • ESPN broadcaster Patrick McEnroe, 53, the 16-time men’s tennis doubles champion, said he's recovering from mild symptoms. (CNN)
  • Twenty-eight University of Texas students tested positive after returning to Austin from a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Health officials say dozens more are being monitored. (Austin American-Statesman)
Some people continue to ignore the warnings of experts. 
  • Churchgoers flocked to a Louisiana church parking lot on Tuesday to hear pastor Tony Spell, who faces misdemeanor charges for holding services despite a ban on gatherings. Spell said he’s going to keep his doors open, saying his church is at least as essential as Walmart. (AP)
  • Epidemiologists have advised Florida to issue a stay-at-home order, but Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continues to insists it's unnecessary. (Miami Herald)
  • Hobby Lobby quietly reopened nearly all of its stores in Wisconsin and Ohio, defying state-mandated lockdowns. At least one store was forcibly shuttered by police in Wisconsin. A similar incident was reported in Indiana. (Business Insider)
  • A rural county in Minnesota, home to 20,000, is becoming a hot spot. A local public health official suggested conservative media downplaying the danger was a factor. “It's hard to prove that. I don't want to get political. But there were outlets saying it's a hoax, it's no worse than a cold, and those are things people listen to,” said Tim Langer, a public health sanitarian with Martin County Human Services. (Grand Forks Herald)
  • Bill Gates calls for a more “consistent nationwide approach to shutting down” in an op-ed for today’s paper.
The D.C. region reported 477 new cases.

A day after District, Maryland and Virginia officials ordered residents to stay home, the region's number of confirmed cases rose to 3,411. Virginia reported 230 new infections and Maryland 247 — each number a one-day record. D.C. didn’t report new overall coronavirus cases Tuesday because it is shifting the release of data from evenings to mornings. But it announced a dozen new cases among D.C. first responders. 

The number of virus-related fatalities in the region grew to 63. Maryland and Virginia officials said they are consulting various computer models to figure out when the outbreak might peak. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said the city will release a projection this week. (Gregory Schneider, Rebecca Tan, Rachel Chason and Erin Cox)

  • George Washington University Hospital is preparing to offer drive-through coronavirus testing. (Kyle Swenson)
  • The sale of Trump’s D.C. hotel was put on ice as the commercial real-estate industry reels. (Jonathan O’Connell and David Fahrenthold)
  • A Maryland man who allegedly refused to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order was pepper-sprayed and arrested by police. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  • The Kennedy Center furloughed 250 workers for five weeks, less than a week after being awarded a $25 million grant from the federal stimulus package. (Peggy McGlone)
  • Rats in D.C. are likely to go into “panic mode” as businesses shut down, and the vermin are expected to begin scouring for food in the streets. Bowser said pest control workers are therefore considered essential and staying on the job. (WUSA9)
Joe Biden said “it's hard to envision” Democrats will hold their convention in July.

“The likely presidential nominee [suggested] that the party’s major gathering, slated for Milwaukee, may need to be altered or postponed," Matt Viser reports

But Wisconsin is going forward with its primary next week. “In Tuesday’s Wisconsin elections, more than 100 municipalities will not have enough poll workers to open a single voting location,” Amy Gardner reports. “Across Wisconsin, voters, election officials and civil rights leaders are angry that the state legislature is going forward with the April 7 presidential primary and local elections ... The public-health risk is too high, and asking voters to venture out of their homes directly contradicts state and local emergency orders to shelter in place, they say.”

Biden and Bernie Sanders have become amateur online video hosts as they campaign amid the pandemic, but few are watching. “The new style of campaigning comes as the contest is in a state of suspended animation. Without primaries, debates or crowds, it is difficult to gauge momentum or trajectory,” Annie Linskey and Matt report. 

Barack Obama is trying to inform and reassure the public about the crisis while avoiding a confrontation with Trump. (David Nakamura

The contagion is bringing out the worst in some people.

Online trolls have been breaking into multiple Alcoholic Anonymous meetings being held via Zoom video conferences to harass recovering addicts with slurs and encouragement to drink. (Business Insider)

Some profiteers are price-gouging and selling low-quality masks at high mark-ups. The frenzy has broken down standard quality controls, opening the market to an influx of masks of uncertain origin and effectiveness, Reuters reports.

But it's also bringing out inspiring acts of kindness and selflessness.

“Studies have revealed that human connection — something as simple as getting an offer of help from a stranger or looking at a picture of someone you love — can ease pain and reduce physical symptoms of stress. People who feel supported by their social networks are more likely to live longer. … For everyone quarantined in solitude, aching and afraid for far-flung family and friends, this science can provide some solace. A supportive phone call, an empathetic ear, an expression of love — these things can bolster the immune system on a molecular level. Whether you are the recipient or the giver, kindness is good for your health,” Sarah Kaplan reports

  • A newspaper deliveryman in New Jersey is bringing groceries to his older customers on his morning route at no extra charge. (Cathy Free)
  • A Minnesota state trooper pulled over a doctor for speeding on Interstate 35. But instead of giving her a ticket, he gave her a fistful of N95 masks that has been issued for his own protection, the Star Tribune reports. “I burst into tears,” Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a cardiologist, wrote on Facebook. “The veil of civilization may be thin, but not all that lies behind it is savage. We are going to be OK.”
  • A 30-year-old man from England with terminal leukemia passed away after testing positive but telling doctors to use their limited resources to “save someone else.” (Daily News)

Quote of the day

Suzanne Hoylaerts, 90, died from the virus in Belgium after refusing a ventilator. “I had a good life, keep this for the younger,” she reportedly told doctors.

Other news that shouldn't be overlooked

Problems with the FBI’s surveillance powers extended far beyond the probe of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“The Justice Department inspector general [Michael Horowitz] revealed Tuesday that his investigators found errors in every FBI application to a secret surveillance court examined as part of an ongoing review,” Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima report. “Trump has long decried the FBI investigation of him and his campaign’s contacts with Russians as a politically motivated ‘witch hunt’ aimed at wrecking his candidacy and his presidency … Tuesday’s findings suggest, however, that the bureau may be suffering instead from broad, institutional weaknesses more than political bias, as problems were found in an array of cases managed by FBI field offices around the country." 

The U.S. proposed a transitional government for Venezuela. 

“The Trump administration said it would lift tough sanctions against Venezuela if both President Nicolás Maduro and his political nemesis, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, step aside and agree to a transitional government guided by both the ruling socialists and opposition lawmakers,” Anthony Faiola and Carol Morello report. “The deal, announced as Venezuelans confront grave danger from the global coronavirus pandemic, is the first road map to relief from some of the harshest sanctions ever imposed by Washington. Described by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a news conference in Washington, it amounts to a power-sharing arrangement that would guarantee Maduro’s socialists — if not Maduro himself — a seat at the table of a transitional government. U.S. officials insisted Tuesday they did not support any particular political party in Venezuela. But the move nevertheless appeared to be an attempt to set up new elections in which U.S.-backed Guaidó could run.”

Social media speed read

A doctor treating covid-19 patients paused his rounds to help a 100-year-old receive a final blessing:

May her memory be a blessing.

Florida is already seeing the effects of allowing visitors during spring break:

In a light-hearted PSA, Larry David urged everyone to stay home:

Videos of the day

New York's mayor regularly sought to downplay the danger, even as his city became the world's biggest hot spot. This is a very bad look for Bill de Blasio:

Seth Meyers said that, upon seeing the founder of My Pillow speak during a Trump news conference, he reached for his pillow to scream into: 

Stephen Colbert asked folks not to celebrate April Fools' Day:

Trevor Noah went through some of the ways world leaders have screwed up during the pandemic: