with Mariana Alfaro

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wants the United States to follow Europe’s lead. That’s not something conservatives like him normally say, but he believes desperate times call for desperate measures.

The rising star on the right proposes that the federal government replicate what’s been working in the United Kingdom to keep layoffs limited and immediately begin covering 80 percent of worker wages at all private businesses, up to the national median wage, until the emergency caused by the novel coronavirus is over. He also advocates paying financial bonuses for businesses to rehire workers laid off over the past month.

As party leaders squabble over how best to expand the pool of money available for small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, what the freshman senator envisions in the fourth phase of congressional action is vastly more ambitious and costly than anything his Republican colleagues have outlined. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has cast doubt on the need for another gargantuan spending measure after the third phase cost $2 trillion. But Hawley is adamant that half measures won’t avert another Great Depression.

The Labor Department said Thursday that more than 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks, including 6.6 million last week. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell unveiled over $2 trillion in new loans in his latest bid to keep the economy afloat. JPMorgan Chase now predicts the unemployment rate will hit 20 percent, and the economy will shrink by 40 percent, in the second quarter.

“Events are overtaking us, and so now we’ve got to adapt. That's what I'm trying to do here,” Hawley said toward the end of a 35-minute phone interview from his house in Springfield, Mo. “I personally do not want to ride the roller coaster, not knowing where the bottom is, and that's what I'm afraid that we’re on right now. It's like, ‘Wow, we're going down, down, down, down, down, down, down.’ Nobody can see the bottom. I personally don't care to find out where the bottom might be!”

The Stanford-trained historian and Yale-educated lawyer has spoken at length with several economists, obsessively studied what other Western countries are doing to stanch their economic wounds and intensively read about what worked and what didn’t during the New Deal. “One of the things that I take away from that study – thinking back through our history, thinking back to the ‘20s and the ‘30s – is that one of the things you have to be willing to do is be adaptable,” Hawley said. “You can't get locked into the mentality that ‘this is the only way we have to deal with this situation.’ You've got to be willing to say, ‘if that's not working, let's try something else.’”

Hawley insists that his preferred approach, while unorthodox, is not inherently unconservative because government policies have effectively blocked people from working – for good public health reasons, he hastens to add. This makes it only fair to compensate workers for the duration of the crisis, he argues, adding that relief should focus more on helping people than corporations.

“The only reason that you deliver the money through the employer is the employer pays the wages,” he said. “My view is that the American worker shouldn't be asked to shoulder the burden of unemployment when they haven't done anything wrong. In these extraordinary times, I think the government ought to step forward and say we are going to protect as many jobs as we can. We ought to make it our goal to protect every job.”

I asked Hawley whether he worries that the federal government will accumulate too much power during this crisis and never give it back. “I guess, at the moment, I'm more concerned about chaos that leads to 20 and 30 percent unemployment,” he said.

Hawley, who defeated Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in the 2018 midterms, has been a vocal supporter of President Trump and consistently voted for his agenda. He has also emerged as an outspoken critic of corporate power, especially large technology companies, and emphasizes that the right needs to evolve to offer more help for those being left behind in the gig economy. Hawley is part of the small conservative clique in Congress that’s challenging what's increasingly being called free-market fundamentalism. His view is that Republicans have been too focused on promoting individualism and corporatism over the last generation at the expense of communities and churches. (I wrote last year on his brand of right-wing populism and emergence as a new variety of culture warrior.)

His broader proposal for the fourth phase of the congressional response is on brand in that regard. He wants to shore up the medical supply chain by requiring that certain products be produced in the United States. He calls for federally backed, low-interest financing for capital expenditures by firms that bring jobs “onshore” from overseas to manufacture products there have been shortages of during the pandemic. He wants to require that companies maintain “rainy day funds” so that they have liquidity cushions during future crises.

“Frankly, it's a little bit of a constraint on size because the larger the entity, the more cushion you have to have,” Hawley said. “It puts a curb on concentration. What we don't want to see coming out of this crisis is a further acceleration of our trend towards consolidation of the American economy. My nightmare scenario is that small businesses across the country fail in this crisis, and we come out of this further consolidated.”

The 40-year-old clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts, which is how he met his wife, Erin, a fellow clerk. She’s still practicing law and teaching, and worked to keep their kids, Elijah, 7, and Blaise, 5, occupied as we chatted. They moved to his home state a few years back so he could teach constitutional law at the University of Missouri. He was elected the state’s attorney general in 2016 and became the youngest member of the Senate in 2019. 

Hawley fears that small towns like the one he grew up in will not recover without dramatic government action. He’s worried that vultures will take advantage of the crisis to line their own pockets. That’s why the senator wants to strengthen disclosure requirements that would make it harder for activist investors and hedge funds to buy up companies and force layoffs and liquidations. 

“The number one thing is that this crisis should not be opportunity for profiteering by Wall Street,” Hawley said. “It should not be that a select few folks on Wall Street are able to make out like bandits from this while the rest of our nation suffers.”

Dispatches from the front lines

Cash-starved hospitals are cutting staff.

“Hospitals across the country have deferred or canceled non-urgent surgeries to free up bed space and equipment for covid-19 patients. But that triage maneuver cut off a main source of income, causing huge losses that have forced some hospitals to let go of health-care workers as they struggle to treat infected patients,” Shane Harris, Justin Sondel and Gregory Schneider report. “Hospital executives and analysts emphasize that not all the furloughed or fired workers are directly involved in treating covid-19 patients. Others say the furloughs help reduce the number of people in hospitals, slowing the spread of the virus. But the absences have put a strain on doctors, nurses and other health-care workers treating a surge of patients that has already stretched some health-care systems to the breaking point. Remaining front-line workers face longer hours, and some have seen their pay cut and benefits reduced. For hospitals already in bad financial shape before the outbreak, the loss of income has raised doubts about their ability to keep treating patients." 

  • As patients die in their hallways, Michigan hospitals are running out of body bags and staffers. (MLive)
  • The virus is the first big test for Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, which was built after Sept. 11, 2001, to handle mass casualty events. As the number of cases flew past 16,000 in Illinois, Rush has about 20 percent of the ventilated cases in the state. (Mark Guarino)
  • The Post assembled data to analyze the availability of the critical-care resources needed to treat severely ill patients who require extended hospitalization across the nation. We conducted a stress test of sorts on available resources, which revealed a patchwork of shortcomings in cities and towns where the full force of the virus has yet to hit and where people may not be following social distancing orders. (Amy Brittain, Ted Mellnik, Dan Keating and Joe Fox)
  • A rural hospital in Sweet Springs, Mo., shut down, forcing area residents to drive long distances if they're stricken. (News & Observer)
  • A 25-bed rural hospital in Louisiana has become the lifeline to a hot spot where 22,000 live. Previously battered by hurricanes and a flood, the facility is struggling to keep up with a crush of patients. It has just two ventilators. (Guardian)
The National Guard is retrieving dead bodies in New York. 

New York City has 87,725 confirmed cases of covid-19, including 21,571 hospitalizations and 4,778 deaths. “At a base down the road from Niagara Falls, a specialized unit from the New York Air National Guard had spent years preparing for one of the military’s grimmest missions: find and recover the bodies of those killed in a chemical attack, natural disaster or other mass tragedy,” Paul Sonne reports. “But when their deployment orders arrived March 21, they were sent to do a job their practice sessions didn’t foresee. … [New York City’s] medical examiners, who pick up the bodies of those who die unattended by a physician or in unexplained circumstances, were on the verge of being overwhelmed. … [So they] have been carrying body after body out of New York City homes and apartment buildings, in some cases winding 200 pounds down the narrow staircases of walk-ups without an elevator. … They are aiding the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, … which typically collects about 25 bodies for investigation in New York City on a normal day and now is retrieving as many as 150.”  

  • Frank Gabrin, a New York physician, became the first American ER doctor to die from the coronavirus. “I have to admit,” he wrote on Facebook as the virus spread, “I am having some anxiety.” He was 60. (Guardian)
  • Tasha Smith, a nurse for New York’s Mount Sinai Health System, was fired after complaining to her boss that she was uncomfortable treating coronavirus patients without proper equipment. The hospital says she was terminated because she walked off the job. Smith, who had worked there for three years, said her situation has frightened other nurses, who share her fears. “They’re afraid to speak up,” she said. “I was made an example of.” (NYT)
  • “This is worse than the Sept. 11 attacks,” Luis Lopez, a paramedic in the city, told the New York Post. “Sept. 11 was a tragedy that happened quick. This is different. This is unsettling. It’s an odd feeling. You think it’s the flu. People are just dropping.”
  • The city’s plan for the continuing surge in bodies is still unclear. While the medical examiner’s office told the New York Daily News that the city’s morgues don’t "currently anticipate reaching capacity,” the mayor’s office said unclaimed coronavirus victims could soon be buried on Hart Island, a public cemetery.
Parties went on as the coronavirus spread. Now comes the pain.

“In the early days of the United States’ struggle with the coronavirus pandemic — and even well beyond — birthdays, weddings, dances, club meetings, concerts, and other large get-togethers continued more or less as normal. The virus was here, but the party went on,” Griff Witte and Chelsea Janes report

  • The virus is ripping through the Navajo Nation, killing 20 people so far on the reservation, compared with 16 in the entire state of New Mexico, which has a population 13 times larger. (NYT)
  • A man in Florida was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges after he allegedly plotted to obscure his wife’s disappearance by pretending she was in the hospital with a severe coronavirus case. (Katie Shepherd)
  • A dying coronavirus patient asked Alexa for help. After Lou Ann Dagen, 66, became one of six residents at a nursing home in Cedar Springs, Mich., to die of covid-19, her sister discovered voice recordings on an Echo device as she pleaded for help while her condition deteriorated. “How do I get help?” she asked in the recording. “How do I get to the police?” (NYT)
  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) will allow mail-in voting in November because of the outbreak. Sununu said the state is considering other voting alternatives, too, including “drive-up voting." (Colby Itkowitz and Amy Gardner)
Some cities and counties are making masks mandatory. 

Governments in Los Angeles, Miami and Montgomery County in the D.C. suburbs enacted measures that order residents to wear face coverings when visiting grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses. The CDC only recommends doing so. (Rebecca Tan)

Alabama will no longer enforce its anti-masking law. In the 1940s, as the state tried to distance itself from the Ku Klux Klan, lawmakers banned anyone from wearing a mask in public. The only previous exception was for revelers wearing decorative eyewear during Mardi Gras celebrations. (Teo Armus)

“I spent six days on a ventilator with covid-19. It saved me, but my life is not the same.”

“Many patients who come off ventilators suffer lasting physical, mental and emotional issues, including cognitive deficits, lost jobs and psychological issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” writes David Lat, founding editor of Above the Law. "I used to run marathons; now I can’t walk across a room or up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I can’t go around the block for fresh air unless my husband pushes me in a wheelchair. … Being on the ventilator for almost a week damaged my vocal cords, and now my voice is extremely hoarse. My speech pathologist expressed optimism that the damage is not permanent. Only time will tell. I’m not complaining. I am incredibly grateful to be alive. And for that, I have the ventilator to thank.”

Coronavirus deaths hit a new high in the D.C. region.

“The District, Maryland and Virginia on Thursday reported 53 additional coronavirus fatalities combined, another single-day record, as the region’s leaders braced for the death toll to continue rising and confronted the disproportionate impact the pandemic was having on the area’s black residents,” Fenit Nirappil, Ovetta Wiggins and John Harden report. “The three jurisdictions now have a combined 11,766 confirmed coronavirus cases and 280 deaths. … Virginia reported 34 fatalities Thursday morning — more than the previous six days combined. Officials said the single-day jump is partially because of delays in adding deaths at a Richmond-area long-term care facility to the state tally. … The District reported five new deaths and Maryland reported 14 new fatalities. Neither marked a significant increase.” 

  • Maryland for the first time also released racial demographics of its cases and fatalities, confirming that black residents are disproportionately affected in all three jurisdictions. Maryland is about 30 percent black, but African Americans made up half of the deaths and cases where race is known. In the District, all five of the new victims disclosed on Thursday were black. In a city that is less than 50 percent black, more than 60 percent of the 33 fatalities are African American.
  • D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said the District would launch a hotline to deliver essential items, including groceries, at no-cost to those under self-quarantine or unable to leave their homes.
  • A surge of spring cleaning, inspired by people stuck at home because of the the virus, is leaving residential garbage cans overflowing, putting stress on suburban trash collection systems. Jurisdictions are collecting up to 40 percent more residential trash, even as they encourage residents to forgo yard waste disposal or tidying up. (Justin Moyer and Jahi Chikwendiu)

More on the federal response

Trump is pushing to reopen much of the country next month.

“Behind closed doors, Trump — concerned with the sagging economy — has sought a strategy for resuming business activity by May 1,” Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Jose Del Real and William Wan report. “In phone calls with outside advisers, Trump has even floated trying to reopen much of the country before the end of this month, when the current federal recommendations to avoid social gatherings and work from home expire … Trump regularly looks at unemployment and stock market numbers, complaining that they are hurting his presidency and reelection prospects … The president … asks regularly: ‘When can we reopen?’ …  

"There have already been vigorous debates, with public-health experts and some presidential advisers warning against reopening too soon, while key members of the president’s economic team — and some conservatives in the vice president’s orbit — push for a quicker return to normality. Among those pushing to reopen the economy … is Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff and a top adviser to Trump. Short has argued there will be fewer deaths than the models show and that the country has already overreacted … Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases, said Thursday that some places might reopen sooner than others, and that hard-hit New York, for example, shouldn’t loosen its restrictions until there was a ‘very steep decline’ in infections. ‘It’s not going to be one size fits all,’ he said.

"New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said Thursday that hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions in the state have fallen, suggesting progress. But he stressed that he did not know when New Yorkers would be able to begin a return to normal life. ‘We’re not going to go from red to green; we’re going to go from red to yellow,’ Cuomo said. … [Jerome] Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, notably did not advocate a May reopening, saying such steps were more likely after July. And even some close to Trump seemed wary of supporting an early date.” 

History is at risk of repeating itself: A 2007 study funded by the CDC examined the fate of several U.S. cities after they eased restrictions too soon during the 1918 flu pandemic. Those cities believed they were on the other side of the peak, and, like today, had residents and business leaders worried about the economy. Once these cities lifted the restrictions, however, their trajectory soon turned into a double-humped curve with two peaks instead of one. In many cases, the second outbreak was worse than the first.

Ohio's early intervention is paying off. With about 5,100 cases, it has fewer than a third the number of people with the coronavirus as three comparably sized states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois. And Ohio, under the leadership of Gov. Mike DeWine (R), has just a small fraction of the deaths reported in those states, Lenny Bernstein reports.

Washington state is flattening the curve: The Seattle region’s use of early intervention policies, and its expansion of widespread testing, has helped the region begin to bring the virus to heel. Although King County was the site of the nation's first deadly outbreak, the latest data shows the rate of infection slowing and hospitalizations dropping. The numbers of deaths and new cases are expected to peak this week, Robert Klemko reports.

But eight Republican governors still refuse to issue stay-at-home orders.

The leaders of Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming have yet to impose stay-at-home orders for everyone in their states, despite some being urged to do so this week by Surgeon General Jerome Adams and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, per Bloomberg News.

  • Nebraska Gov. Pete Rickets issued a proclamation urging residents to stay home for the next three weeks, but he explicitly said it is not a shelter-in-place order. (KCAU9)
  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt argued that his safer-at-home order is essentially the same as shelter-in-place orders issued elsewhere, but the directive only says that people over 65 or who have serious underlying medical conditions should stay home. (Oklahoman)
  • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ordered nonessential businesses to close, said the virus is not poised to affect Iowa’s June primary election. The state’s public health director said Iowa is “starting to see our curve kind of flatten out.” There are 1,270 cases in the state, with 29 deaths. (Des Moines Register)
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum cited low case numbers – 251 total – as the reason why he’s not ordering people to stay home. The state does have a self-quarantine order that asks people to stay at home for 14 days after returning from about three dozen states, including neighboring Minnesota. (CBS Minnesota)
  • Meanwhile, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) sued the state’s Republican-controlled legislative council after it revoked her executive order that limits church gatherings before Easter. Kelly said the “purely political move” put Kansans at risk. (Meagan Flynn and Isaac Stanley-Becker)

Quote of the day

“Everybody is assuming, well, once we get through this, we’re done. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that," said New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D). "This virus has been ahead of us from Day One. We’ve underestimated the enemy, and that is always dangerous, my friends. We should not do that again.” (Heather Long, Matt Zapotosky and David Fahrenthold)

Senators clashed over how best to help small businesses.

“Competing proposals for coronavirus relief failed in the Senate on Thursday morning, as Democrats objected to a proposed $250 billion increase in a small business program and Republicans shot down the counter-offer,” Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of treating ‘working Americans as political hostages’ by refusing to add more money to the ‘Paycheck Protection Program,’ a new $350 billion small business loan program that is being overwhelmed by demand. … Democrats disputed that the program was in immediate need of more funds, saying they wanted changes to ensure fairness and transparency. They are also seeking major funding increases for hospitals and health systems and cities and states, along with a 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits. … Democrats’ proposal would allocate the additional $250 billion for small businesses, but specify that only half of that would go to the Paycheck Protection Program. The other half would include $60 billion for community-based lenders, and $65 billion for disaster loans and disaster grants, among other items."

  • About 70 percent of small businesses have applied for an emergency loan. It’s unclear how many have received them. (Renae Merle)

Trump has used emergency public health powers to expel 10,000 migrants at the border.

The administration is using the contagion to give Customs and Border Protection broad authority to bypass immigration laws, Nick Miroff reports. “The measures have allowed the agency to quickly turn away most unauthorized migrants — sending them back across the U.S.-Mexico border. The moves have dramatically slashed the number of detainees held in border stations, where they fear the coronavirus could spread … CBP has fewer than 100 detainees in custody, down from nearly 20,000 at this time last year during the border crisis … Since the implementation of the rapid expulsions, migration levels have fallen to near their lowest point in decades, with unlawful border crossings down 56 percent, said acting CBP commissioner Mark Morgan. He also acknowledged that the United States has all but closed its borders to asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution, including those who attempt to enter legally at U.S. ports of entry.” 

  • A federal judge ordered ICE to disclose how many detained migrants are being released in five southern states under expanded coronavirus medical reviews. (Spencer Hsu)

The foreign fallout

The E.U. reached a deal to help its hardest-hit countries.

“In Italy, nationalist politicians for years have bashed the European Union, but this time it’s been the pro-E.U. establishment in Rome that wondered whether the bloc was failing one of its most critical tests,” Chico Harlan, Michael Birnbaum and Stefano Pitrelli report. “The frustration in Italy started building after E.U. countries last month were slow to come to Italy’s aid with medical supplies. The E.U. belatedly stepped up its efforts, but resentment crested as leaders bickered over how to support the bloc’s stricken economies. A Thursday meeting of E.U. finance ministers ended with a $590 billion compromise after days of bitterness, but it was clear that tough discussions would continue over future rounds of rescue efforts. … The deal — which still needs to be signed off by national leaders — would use the euro zone’s bailout fund to offer up to $262 billion in credit lines to struggling countries. In a nod to Italy’s concerns, the demands placed on countries that sought the money would be minimal. An additional $109 billion would go toward support for employment programs that aim to avoid layoffs. Other programs would support struggling businesses and help fund medical relief efforts. And the agreement left open the possibility that euro zone countries eventually share borrowing costs.”

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson left the intensive care unit but remains hospitalized in London. (Reuters)
The virus may “reactivate” in cured patients, the South Korean CDC warned.

“About 51 patients [classified] as having been cured in South Korea have tested positive again … Rather than being infected again, the virus may have been reactivated in these people, given they tested positive again shortly after being released from quarantine,” Bloomberg News reports. “A patient is deemed fully recovered when two tests conducted with a 24-hour interval show negative results. The Korean CDC will conduct an epidemiological probe into the cases … Fear of re-infection in recovered patients is also growing in [China] after reports that some tested positive again -- and even died from the disease -- after supposedly recovering and leaving the hospital. There’s little understanding of why this happens, although some believe that the problem may lie in inconsistencies in test results.” 

  • Tens of millions who carry HIV and tuberculosis in the developing world are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. The countries most at risk include South Africa, home to the world’s largest number of HIV-positive people, and India, which has the highest number of tuberculosis cases in the world. (Max Bearak and Joanna Slater)
  • Fifteen passengers from the Ruby Princess cruise ship have died, and about 660 have been infected, making it the deadliest known outbreak on any ship and the biggest individual contributor to cases in Australia. The Australian police have assembled a team under the leadership of a homicide detective to investigate the ship and its owner, Carnival, the world’s largest vacation travel company. (A. Odysseus Patrick)
  • Russia and the Saudis agreed on some cuts in oil production to end the current price war. Analysts cautioned that the cuts are probably too little to make much difference as the global economy fizzles. (Will Englund, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Dino Grandoni)
  • “World of Warcraft” experienced a pandemic in 2005 when a damaging effect called “Corrupted Blood” spread through the video-game world, forcing players to search frantically for news about what was going on. The incident has shaped one epidemiologist's understanding of human behavior during a crisis like the one we're living through now. (Jhaan Elker)

Social media speed read

Trump once again tweeted about the ratings for his briefings, even as hundreds of Americans died. This drew criticism from some voices on the right:

Many on the left are saying the crisis shows why a new era of big government is needed:

A Times reporter who was in Wuhan left the city now that the travel ban has been lifted:

A new Trump campaign attack ad against Joe Biden, trying to link him to China, appeared to suggest than an Asian American politician is not American:

The top of One World Trade Center shines blue in honor of all the health-care workers on the front lines:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert, who has performed without an audience for weeks, shared tips for priests who plan on performing Easter services in empty churches:

Seth Meyers doesn’t think Trump's coronavirus failures will be quickly forgotten:

And the “Daily Show” rounded up the do’s and don’ts of video chatting: