with Mariana Alfaro
A draft national strategy to reopen the country in phases, developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasizes that even a cautious and phased approach “will entail a significant risk of resurgence of the virus.”
The internal document, obtained by The Washington Post, warns of a “large rebound curve” of novel coronavirus cases if mitigation efforts are relaxed too quickly before vaccines are developed and distributed or broad community immunity is achieved.
About 26,000 people have now died from the coronavirus in the United States, and more than 608,000 cases have been reported.
The framework lays out criteria that should be in place before a region can responsibly ease guidelines related to public gatherings: a “genuinely low” number of cases; a “well functioning” monitoring system capable of “promptly detecting” spikes of infections; a public health system able to react robustly to new cases and local health systems that have enough inpatient beds to rapidly scale up in the event of a surge in cases.
This would seem to necessitate ramping up testing and production of personal protective equipment at levels not currently being done.
This road map has been discussed at the White House.
President Trump said during Tuesday night’s briefing that “the plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized,” but he has not committed to following these or other recommendations, according to Lena Sun, Josh Dawsey and William Wan. Others involved in the administration’s response are apparently drafting their own plans, part of the patchwork of groups and task forces tackling what’s undeniably the biggest challenge facing the country right now.
Reading the 10-page executive summary of the proposed public health response offers a window into the discussions happening inside the government about how to practically and responsibly ease toward reopening. For example, the document says the first priority should be reopening places where children are cared for – including K-12 schools, day cares and summer camps – so parents can return to work.
The report outlines three levels of mitigation: low, moderate and significant.
In areas of moderate risks, for instance, schools would be advised not to hold assemblies or sporting events while staggering start times to minimize concentrations of people. Trump noted Tuesday that about 20 states have avoided the worst of the outbreaks and suggested that governors in these places may be able to restart parts of their economies even before May 1 – something the CDC-FEMA document does not appear to envision.
The CDC also wants to create a Covid-19 Response Corps.
The draft envisions hiring 670 people to help state and local health departments quickly scale up contact tracing. Tracking down people an infected patient interacted with, so that they can self-quarantine and thus not further transmit the disease, is a deeply labor-intensive process. Considering the large number of continuing infections expected, 670 people is a relatively small number. To augment that, CDC officials imagine using “app-based case and contact investigations.” Countries like South Korea have done that, by using someone’s cellphone to track their movements, in ways that would provoke high-stakes civil liberties debates in this country.
Immunity to the virus remains a big question mark amid these deliberations.
One idea being discussed at the highest levels of government is that people who appear to have recovered from covid-19 should be granted a certificate of immunity, which would give them clearance to work and do other activities. “But the proposal is mired in the slippery science of this new virus,” Joel Achenbach, Carolyn Johnson and Paige Winfield Cunningham report. “No one knows whether a recovered covid-19 patient is actually immune to a new infection — or if they are immune, how complete or long-lasting that might be. Some kind of immunity post-infection is the most plausible scenario for covid-19 patients. That’s the pattern with most infectious diseases. … Yet there are preliminary reports out of South Korea and China, not yet peer-reviewed but gaining broad attention, that have surprised and baffled scientists. Some survivors test positive after they’ve been officially cured. They also have widely varying amounts of antibodies — abundant in some survivors, undetectable in others.”
That’s why serology testing, which looks at blood serum to determine the presence or absence of certain blood proteins to show if a person has developed antibodies to the virus, is so important. This could help policymakers answer some of the questions that will determine the pace for reopening. Thousands of volunteers across Major League Baseball, including players, will participate in what’s believed to be the largest antibody study in the country.
The number of coronavirus tests being analyzed daily by commercial labs plummeted more than 30 percent over the last week. It’s not clear if the drop-off may be because of the narrow testing criteria that the CDC revised in March, prioritizing hospitalized patients, health-care workers and those thought to be vulnerable, Politico reports. But after being overwhelmed for weeks, commercial labs say they’re now sitting with unused testing capacity waiting for samples to arrive.
But Trump has become increasingly intent on reopening the country on May 1.
“Impatient with the economic devastation wrought by social distancing and other mitigation measures — and fearful of the potential damage to his reelection chances — Trump has been adamant in private discussions with advisers about reopening the country next month. Yet within Trump’s circle, officials say, there is acknowledgment that it will not be possible for the president to simply flip a switch,” per Phil Rucker, Bob Costa and Ashley Parker. “Inside the White House, it has been clear to officials since last week that there is no longer much of a debate — at least with the president — about starting the reopening process May 1 … Rather, the debate this week has been over how to implement the return, what data could be used to justify the decision, and how to build public support for it to provide the president maximum political cover …
“Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly.”
European borders remain closed, but countries are starting to walk the tightrope out of lockdowns.
“The first easing of restrictions began this week, with Austria reopening some nonessential businesses Tuesday. Denmark is expected to allow children to return to school this week. And Spain has allowed construction and factory workers to go back, though a national lockdown otherwise remains in effect,” Loveday Morris reports. "‘We have to play it by ear, because there is no gold standard on how to do it,’ said Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chair of the World Medical Association. … European Union leaders in Brussels plan to unveil suggestions on Wednesday for how to reopen the 27-nation bloc gradually in the coming months. They will advise countries to reopen economies in phases, with shops and schools given first priority, and restaurants and other social venues coming later.”
- India will start easing its nationwide lockdown in five days, an acknowledgment of its human and economic costs, especially for migrant workers. Fisheries, animal husbandry and coffee and tea plantations will be allowed to function, as will businesses related to agriculture, including farm machinery and fertilizers. Construction activities, government-funded employment projects and industries in rural areas can also resume. (Joanna Slater)
- With no income coming in, the Neumünster Zoo in Germany is preparing to take extraordinary measures: feeding some animals to each other. Animals that aren’t in danger of going extinct, and that can be used as sources of meat for humans, would be the first to go. (Antonia Farzan)
More on the federal response
Trump’s name will be printed on stimulus checks.
“The Treasury Department has ordered Trump’s name be printed on stimulus checks the Internal Revenue Service is rushing to send to tens of millions of Americans, a process that could slow their delivery by a few days, senior IRS officials said,” Lisa Rein reports. “The unprecedented decision, finalized late Monday, means that when recipients open the $1,200 paper checks the IRS is scheduled to begin sending to 70 million Americans in coming days, ‘President Donald J. Trump’ will appear on the left side of the payment. It will be the first time a president’s name appears on an IRS disbursement, whether a routine refund or one of the handful of checks the government has issued to taxpayers in recent decades either to stimulate a down economy or share the dividends of a strong one. …
“The decision is another sign of Trump’s effort to cast his response to the pandemic in political terms. Trump had privately suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the IRS, to allow the president to formally sign the checks, according to three administration officials … But the president is not an authorized signer for legal disbursements by the U.S. Treasury. It is standard practice for a civil servant to sign checks issued by the Treasury Department to ensure that government payments are nonpartisan. … Computer code must be changed to include the president’s name, and the system must be tested … ‘Any last minute request like this will create a downstream snarl that will result in a delay,’ said Chad Hooper, a quality-control manager who serves as national president of the IRS’s Professional Managers Association.”
- Retail sales plunged 8.7 percent in March, the largest monthly decline ever. (Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath)
- About 80 million people who filed their tax returns with direct deposit last year will see money appear in their bank accounts today. “Early evidence indicates Americans are using the money to buy the basics, including food and gas,” Heather Long reports. “Although the government sent the money out Friday, many banks needed three business days to process the checks."
- More than 80 percent of the benefits of a tax-code change tucked into the stimulus package will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually, according to a report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. The provision, inserted by Senate Republicans, temporarily suspends a limitation on how much owners of businesses formed as “pass-through” entities can deduct against their nonbusiness income, such as capital gains, to reduce tax liability. (Jeff Stein)
Ten U.S. airlines reached an agreement to accept $25 billion in “grants” from the government.
Under the terms of the deal, which is still in principle, 70 percent of the money would be given to airlines outright and 30 percent would have to be paid back to the government. (Lori Aratani and Ian Duncan)
- The Federal Aviation Administration barred active pilots from taking chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – the two drugs Trump again touted on Tuesday as a treatment against the virus. "Use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus infection is disqualifying while on the medication and for 48 hours after the last dose before reporting for flight or other safety related duties," a new directive says. (CNN)
- Airlines are failing to refund passengers as required, according to a growing number of lawsuits. The Transportation Department said it might issue warning letters or fines “as necessary.” But, for now, the administration will give airlines "an opportunity to come into compliance.” (Michael Laris)
- Some hotel owners say they won’t be able to use stimulus funds unless changes are made, including to a provision requiring hotels to rehire their staff by the end of June. But workers and unions say altering that goal would allow large chains to prioritize payments to shareholders and Wall Street over their own workers. (Jonathan O’Connell)
- The Trump administration rejected stricter national air quality standards, despite a growing body of evidence linking air pollution and lethal outcomes to diseases such as covid-19. (Juliet Eilperin, Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis)
- Trump’s preference for putting “acting” officials in charge of agencies instead of appointing leaders who require Senate confirmation might be hobbling the administration’s response to the pandemic. At the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, 22 percent of key positions don’t have a confirmed appointee, while FEMA is missing a deputy administrator and a deputy administrator for resilience, per Joe Davidson.
- Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, asked to be released from prison to home confinement to serve the remainder of his 7½-year sentence, saying his age and health put him at a higher risk of death from the virus. (Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu)
Trump said he will suspend U.S. support for the World Health Organization.
“Trump’s announcement was expected, as he seeks to deflect blame for his early dismissal of the virus as a threat to Americans and the U.S. economy. It is not yet clear how the United States will cut off money to the main international organization focused on fighting the pandemic, or whether Trump is setting conditions for a resumption of U.S. payments,” Anne Gearan reports. “‘We have not been treated properly,’ Trump said, as he announced a suspension period of 60 to 90 days for U.S. funding. Conservative allies of the president have begun focusing on the WHO as complicit in a Chinese coverup of the outbreak in late 2019 and early 2020, before Trump moved to respond. The finger-pointing allows Trump to deflect blame from his own initial reaction to the outbreak as of no consequence to the United States. Trump also resents the WHO for opposing his decision, in late January, to block most air travel from China. …
"Trump said the halt in funding will continue ‘while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role and severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.’ After Trump spoke, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres defended the health body without directly criticizing its largest donor. He said it is ‘not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.’ … Trump stopped short Tuesday of calling for the resignation of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.”
“Trump’s threat to withhold money from the World Health Organization stems from an ongoing discussion inside the administration to link the $12 billion the U.S. spends on international organizations to the number of American citizens hired by the groups,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The effort has been part of a broader push to curtail China’s growing global influence but was delayed by turnover inside the White House and the State Department, according to current and former administration officials. … About 3% of all jobs at the WHO are filled by Americans…"
The Supreme Court avoided one abortion battle, but more lawsuits are coming up.
“Abortion providers in Texas withdrew their request that the Supreme Court step in to stop the state’s effort to restrict the procedure during the coronavirus pandemic, but new legal battles began Tuesday in Louisiana and Tennessee,” Robert Barnes reports. “The Louisiana Department of Health last month issued an order that said medical and surgical procedures should be postponed except in emergencies or to prevent further harm caused by underlying conditions. It told health-care providers to postpone in-person services for 30 days, but left the decision up to the provider’s ‘best medical judgment.’ … In Tennessee, an order from Gov. Bill Lee (R) has the effect of banning most surgical abortions, although patients less than 11 weeks pregnant are still allowed to obtain medication abortions, which involve a patient taking pills that end the pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are jointly challenging the restrictions in most of the states, saying it denies a woman’s right to a pre-viability abortion established in Roe v. Wade.”
- The Justice Department appeared to back a Mississippi church’s lawsuit over a city’s efforts to shut down drive-in religious services. The feds told a judge that Greenville, Miss., officials possibly violated the Constitution in their bid to stem the virus’s spread. (Matt Zapotosky)
- Alaska will allow elective medical procedures to restart. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) lifted an earlier ban on them, marking his first move to restart normal business. (Teo Armus)
The domestic damage
The death toll in New York City soared past 10,000 under a revised count.
The city “sharply increased its death toll by more than 3,700 victims on Tuesday, after officials said they were now including people who had never tested positive for the virus but were presumed to have died of it,” the New York Times reports. The new number “appeared to increase the overall United States death count by 17 percent to more than 26,000. … Far more people have died in New York City, on a per-capita basis, than in Italy … Top health officials said they had identified another grim reality: The outbreak is likely to have also led indirectly to a spike in deaths of New Yorkers who may never have been infected. Three thousand more people died in New York City between March 11 and April 13 than would have been expected during the same time period in an ordinary year, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the city Health Department, said. … While these so-called excess deaths were not explicitly linked to the virus, they might not have happened had the outbreak not occurred, in part because it overwhelmed the normal health care system. … New York City is among a handful of places in the country, including Connecticut, Ohio and Delaware, that are beginning to disclose cases where infection is presumed but not confirmed.”
More than 9,000 U.S. health-care workers have been infected.
The CDC released that tally on Tuesday. It’s as of April 9, six days ago, and experts agree it is probably a major undercount, especially because many health workers are not getting priority for new tests. “They are mostly white, female and in their 40s,” Ariana Eunjung Cha reports. “Although most were not sick enough to be hospitalized, 27 died, the CDC said. As with the rest of the U.S. population, most of the deaths occurred among those age 65 or older.”
- Danielle DiCenso, a traveling Florida nurse was found dead at home after being exposed to the virus without wearing proper gear, her husband said, adding that she had no underlying health issues. She was 33. (New York Post)
- Pamela Hughes, an employee at a Kentucky nursing home that’s experienced a surge of cases, died at 50. (Herald Leader)
- A respiratory therapist who got the virus in Washington state gave birth to a baby girl after being put into a medically induced coma. Angela Primachenko’s doctors induced labor to give her lungs more space as her condition deteriorated. She woke up when her daughter was 5 days old. The baby has been named Ava, which means “breath of life.” (CNN)
Coronavirus checkpoints targeting out-of-state residents are drawing legal scrutiny.
“In Florida and Texas, state troopers are requiring motorists from out of state and their passengers to sign forms promising to self-quarantine for 14 days. Florida, Rhode Island and Texas also require travelers to provide an address where they plan to shelter — and advise them to be prepared for a follow-up call or unannounced visit from public health officials,” Luz Lazo and Katherine Shaver report. "While the efforts initially targeted residents of New York, which has the most coronavirus cases, they quickly expanded … Singling out motorists with out-of-state license plates as a public health measure is irrational, some legal experts say. Doing so assumes that those drivers and passengers are at higher risk of carrying the virus than residents — even if they’re coming from the same covid-19 hot spot. It’s also unconstitutional, some legal experts say, to impede citizens’ travel based on their license plate, even if they’re eventually allowed across a border. …
“Delaware State Police recently set up checkpoints on roads leading to Rehoboth and Bethany Beach. An emergency order by the governor authorizes all police in the state to stop any vehicle ‘simply because it is displaying an out-of-state tag,’ the agency said. The state police also have been seeing and stopping residents from Pennsylvania — which has closed its liquor stores — who are crossing the state line to buy alcohol. … Up to 16 state troopers guard the borders along Interstates 95 and 10 in Florida. … By late March, checkpoints had turned the Florida Keys into a gated community. More than 4,000 cars have been turned around since March 27, when local authorities set up checkpoints on Route 1 and County Route 905 — the only ways into the Keys…"
- A judge in Broward County, Fla., asked lawyers to get out of bed and wear a shirt for Zoom hearings after one male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared in bed, still under the covers. (Miami Herald)
- Another judge in Florida rejected former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s emergency lawsuit to use the beach behind his luxury home. Last week, Huckabee and 14 others with beachfront homes alleged that Walton County’s decision to close beaches amounted to an unconstitutional seizure of private property. (Antonia Farzan)
- A 26-year-old man released from a Florida jail due to concerns about the spread of the virus allegedly killed someone the next day. The incident did not appear to be random. (Teo Armus)
A spike in people dying at home nationwide suggests covid-19 deaths are higher than reported.
“In recent weeks, residents outside Boston have died at home much more often than usual. In Detroit, authorities are responding to nearly four times the number of reports of dead bodies,” ProPublica reports. “Experts say it’s possible that some of the jump in at-home death stems from people infected by the virus who either didn’t seek treatment or did but were instructed to shelter in place, and that the undercount is exacerbated by lack of comprehensive testing. It’s also possible that the increase in at-home deaths reflects people dying from other ailments like heart attacks because they couldn’t get to a hospital or refused to go, fearful they’d contract COVID-19."
Coronavirus deaths passed 500 in the D.C. region.
“D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said hospitalizations in the nation’s capital could peak in late May, a month earlier than previously projected, if area residents continue to stay at home and avoid large groups,” Antonio Olivo, Fenit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins report. “On Tuesday, 61 more covid-19 fatalities were disclosed, for a total of 526 coronavirus deaths in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Many of the patients were probably infected several weeks ago, before the implementation of strict stay-home orders that have stalled the local economy and are aimed at limiting the virus’s spread. The total number of known coronavirus infections in the greater Washington area climbed to 17,735.”
Bowser plans to announce Friday whether she will extend school and business closures beyond the current end date of April 24. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is expected to announce Wednesday how much longer nonessential businesses will remain closed after his initial order expires on April 23. A separate stay-at-home order for Virginia residents extends through June 10. Metro is encouraging transit riders to wear face coverings. But the agency said customers will not be denied transportation if they don’t.
- Hospitals in Prince George’s County have been inundated with critically ill coronavirus patients. The majority-black suburb of 900,000 residents had 72 covid-19 deaths and 2,356 confirmed cases — more than the District or any other county in Maryland. (Rachel Chason)
- At least 142 assisted-living communities and nursing homes in the region have reported two or more people infected by the virus.
- Seven more D.C. police officers tested positive, bringing the total number of infections in the department to 58.
Putting faces on our fallen:
- Thomas Martins, a New Jersey man with Down syndrome, died on his 30th birthday, nine days after the pandemic claimed his mother. (New York Post)
- Brian Miller, whose blindness inspired a career helping disabled students, died in Alexandria, Va., of complications from the virus. He was 52 and otherwise healthy, his mother said. (Hannah Natanson)
- Lila Fenwick, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School and went on to a distinguished career at the United Nations, died at 87. (NYT)
Hotels sit vacant during the pandemic, but locals don’t want the homeless moving in.
“In San Francisco, where Mayor London Breed initially pushed back against the idea of moving homeless people into hotels and instead proposed housing them in the massive Moscone Center, at least 70 people in the city’s largest shelter have tested positive for covid-19,” Tracy Jan and Jenna Johnson report. “Housing advocates in Connecticut trying to move 1,100 people from 60 homeless shelters — about half their population — into 800 to 900 hotel rooms also encountered resistance from West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi. … Pushback against housing homeless people in hotels also occurred in Plymouth, Mass., where a hotel owner and town officials opposed plans to quarantine homeless people who fell ill with the coronavirus in a Best Western.”
- One in three people in Boston’s homeless community have tested positive. (WGBH)
Food supply chains are getting overwhelmed.
“Experts agree there is no aggregate shortage of food or other retail items offered at the supermarket. But many factors are causing product deficits in particular regions and in particular stores,” Laura Reiley reports. “The biggest is that while about half of American expenditures for food used to be at restaurants and other such establishments, now almost all meals are being made in the home kitchen, so a distribution system that was built to supply restaurants with bulk items is struggling to adapt to far smaller packaging for home use. In addition, while supermarkets and food companies have based their business model in the past on offering a wide variety (grocery stores often have 40,000 items), now most consumers focus on a smaller sliver of products, so supply chains are overwhelmed.”
Workers at a toilet paper factory continue delivering, even as the virus strikes their town.
“Almost every day an employee at Procter & Gamble Co.’s plant in Albany, Ga., a town with one of the nation’s highest rates of coronavirus, learns that someone close has become seriously ill or died of Covid-19. There is little time for consolation between co-workers. They are all racing to churn out one of the most in-demand products in America: toilet paper,” the Journal reports. “The sprawling Albany factory, one of six that make toilet paper, is P&G’s second-largest U.S. plant. … The factory has ramped up production by 20% of both toilet paper and paper towels, even as it revamps its operations to keep its roughly 600 workers healthy. Among other measures, it has instituted pre-shift temperature checks and staggered start times. … The plant sits in a midsize town of 75,000 people ravaged by the new coronavirus. More than 1,020 people have tested positive in Dougherty County, which includes Albany, and 62 have died.”
The San Francisco 49ers losing the Super Bowl may have saved lives.
Hundreds of thousands of fans would have gathered for a parade just as the coronavirus was beginning to spread in the Bay Area, the WSJ notes. Kansas City, home of the winning Chiefs, was one of the last NFL cities to detect its first case on March 18. By then, Bay Area residents had been ordered to shelter-in-place.
- U.S. Olympians have found creative ways to train at home. Open water swimmer Haley Anderson, for example, doesn’t have access to a pool anymore, so she’s using beer and wine bottles as weights. Meanwhile, the world’s artistic swimmers are training together online by setting up video group calls. (Rick Maese and Emily Giambalvo)
- “Beer has vitamins in it, it’s good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it,” said a 93-year-old Pittsburgh-area woman who gained Internet fame after posting a picture asking for more beer. Coors Light took notice and sent her 150 cans. (Penn Live)
The foreign fallout
The world’s armed rebels, drug cartels and gangs have joined the fight against the virus.
“In Afghanistan, the Taliban has dispatched health teams to far-flung provinces to confront the coronavirus. In Mexico, drug cartels are offering aid packages to those feeling its economic impact. In Brazil and El Salvador, gangs enforce curfews to prevent its spread,” Kevin Sieff, Susannah George and Kareem Fahim report. “As governments around the world have responded to the coronavirus, so too have armed insurgents and terrorist groups and drug cartels and gangs, a parallel underworld of public health policy and strategic messaging. … Some groups have attempted to weave governments’ failures to control the virus into their own propaganda narratives. In Somalia, al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab fighters say the pandemic was spread ‘by the crusader forces who have invaded the country.’ The Islamic State has told followers to prepare to exploit their enemies while they are overwhelmed by outbreaks. … Some governments have acknowledged that armed groups could exploit their weaknesses after the virus fades, seizing on the aftermath of economic dislocation. … Italian officials have suggested that the mafia could provide its own loans or cash handouts to undermine the government. …
"Last month, as the Salvadoran government was enforcing one of Latin America’s earliest and most stringent lockdowns, leaders of MS-13 decided that they would institute their own curfew. … [It] reflected a reality in much of El Salvador: The police have limited access in neighborhoods under criminal control, and in those places, only a gang-enforced curfew would be observed. MS-13 explained its reasoning to the San Salvador newspaper El Faro: The policy was about protecting its own members, who probably wouldn’t have access to medical treatment if they were infected.”
State Department cables warned of safety issues at a Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses.
“Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge,” scoops columnist Josh Rogin. “What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable … also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic. … As many have pointed out, there is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn’t come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals, said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley.”
“China’s leaders waited six days after determining a new coronavirus was breaking out in Wuhan before warning citizens of the potential for infection," the Associated Press reports, citing internal documents. “The head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, told health officials in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, in a teleconference on Jan. 14 that they were facing a major challenge. ‘The epidemic situation is still severe and complex, the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003, and is likely to develop into a major public health event,’ a memo about the call cites Ma as saying.”
“Separately, the former head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, said Wednesday that China should have to answer for its delay and deceit about the virus,” Anna Fifield reports. “There is deep anger in America at what they see as having been inflicted on us all by China and China is evading a good deal of responsibility for the origin of the virus, for failing to deal with it initially," said John Sawers, who led Britain’s foreign intelligence service for five years until 2014.
- The U.S. military declared a public health emergency for all its bases in Japan. The order will apply to 50,000 military personnel, as well as tens of thousands of family members and civilian contractors, mostly concentrated on Okinawa. (Teo Armus)
- South Korea is holding an election even as it rebounds from the pandemic. An extensive package of safety measures were put into place to ensure citizens could leave their homes: Officials took the temperature of voters, and people were also given a plastic glove before entering the polling booth. (Min Joo Kim)
- The International Monetary Fund predicts a 3 percent economic pullback this year, the worst since the Great Depression. “World output over the next two years will fall $9 trillion short of what was expected before the crisis, akin to having both the German and Japanese economies vanish, said Gita Gopinath, the fund’s chief economist," per David Lynch.
The pandemic is bringing out the best in some people.
Tom Moore, a 99-year-old British World War II veteran, raised $6 million for the National Health System by walking 100 laps of his 27-yard garden. (Jennifer Hassan)
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she and other top officials will take a 20 percent pay cut for the next six months as a display of solidarity with people who are losing their jobs because of the contagion. Although the money saved will have a minimal impact on the government’s fiscal health, “it’s about leadership,” Ardern explained. (Antonia Farzan)
- Actress Rita Wilson, who along with her husband, Tom Hanks, has recovered from the virus, donated blood to aid research and said she’s helping the MusicCares relief fund by recording a remix of Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray.” (CNN)
- With humans indoors, wild animals are taking back what was once theirs. Hundreds of baby turtles have made their way toward the water along Brazil’s northeast coast, unmolested by people or pets. Wild boar have descended onto the streets of Barcelona. Mountain goats overtook a town in Wales. And whales are chugging into Mediterranean shipping lanes. (Terrence McCoy)
Social media speed read
The White House’s former senior director for global health security and biodefense criticized Trump's WHO announcement:
We're in the middle of a goddamn pandemic. It is ill-considered, irresponsible, and wrong to remove our support for the firefighters who are on the front lines of the 6 alarm blaze while we're fighting it. It hurts everyone, everywhere. This is not who we are @WHO.— Beth Cameron (@BethCameron_DC) April 14, 2020
Bill Gates also warned against the suspension of the funds. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the next biggest donor to the WHO after the United States, accounting for close to 10 percent of the agency’s funding:
Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.— Bill Gates (@BillGates) April 15, 2020
Nancy Pelosi’s freezer has all the essentials:
The tornado that hit Missouri earlier this week moved a picture 121 miles to Alabama:
This picture has been identified. It was lofted by an EF-4 at Moss, Mississippi. Traveled 121 miles to Tuscaloosa County Alabama. One of those that lived in the home is in critical condition. pic.twitter.com/ZFneQzQfuU— James Spann (@spann) April 14, 2020
Quote of the day
“I believe that it’s irresponsible for anybody to say, ‘Well, I disagree with Joe Biden -- I disagree with Joe Biden! -- and therefore I’m not going to be involved,'" said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as he encouraged supporters to vote for his former rival during an interview with the Associated Press.
Videos of the day
Elizabeth Warren endorsed Biden this morning. And Hillary Clinton plans to throw her support behind him soon, Sean Sullivan, Annie Linskey and Michael Scherer report. Barack Obama endorsed his former vice president with this 12-minute video:
Trevor Noah looked at the reopening debate:
And “Late Night with Seth Meyers” writer Amber Ruffin lashed out against U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams: