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The Daily 202: Trump's new guidance makes lack of national coronavirus testing strategy more glaring

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with Mariana Alfaro

The vague guidelines unveiled Thursday evening by President Trump for how governors can reopen local economies do not include any implementation dates, but they do say states should first have a “robust testing system in place for at-risk health care workers.” Yet there remains no national testing strategy for the coronavirus, only a patchwork of programs being administered with limited guidance.

Trump put the onus on local governments to figure it out. “We're going to be helping with testing,” the president said during his news conference. “They’re going to be doing the testing. It’s got to be a localized thing, and it really has been since I’ve been involved.”

Diagnostic testing is important for deciding when to lift stay-at-home orders because it helps policymakers understand how widespread the contagion is in their communities and employers decide whether the risk is sufficiently low to bring people back to work.

Testing capacity has improved significantly since early stumbles, but tests are still not being conducted at the levels federal officials previously said they would by now and that they thought would be necessary for easing restrictions. About 3.3 million people have been tested in the United States, according to the Covid Tracking Project, but that’s only about 1 percent of the American population.

President Trump on April 16 issued new standards for state leaders to use when deciding to reopen the country. (Video: The Washington Post)

Federal officials are still getting requests from private laboratories for help obtaining the necessary reagents to conduct tests,” Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb report. “Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association has raised concerns with the administration about a lack of testing supplies. There also is no single administration official working on testing. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, has been communicating with hospitals and states about testing protocols, while Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been running point with industry. 

“The government has been unable to compel test manufacturers to dramatically increase the number of tests produced, and Trump has been unwilling to invoke the Defense Production Act for that purpose. States are also still struggling with acute supply shortages for tests, including swabs and reagents, that Washington has not addressed. The lack of a federal strategy could mean jurisdictions with greater access to supplies and tests could reopen first, as opposed to areas with the lowest risk … 

“Trump has heralded a new rapid-response test from Abbott Laboratories that can deliver results in as few as five minutes, and has taken pride in his administration’s role helping distribute the machines nationwide. But when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) said they got the ‘great Abbott machines’ two weeks ago but still don’t have testing kits required to use them, Trump replied that the states are ‘going to lead the testing.’ Only a fraction of the Abbott tests are being used right now because there are not enough skilled technicians around the country to operate them — a challenge officials know will continue to persist as testing ramps up.”

Quote of the day

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors on their conference call, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post.

Trump also spoke on Thursday with senators. “During the call, the president largely held back and listened … as both Democrats and Republicans alike pressed him on the need for more broad testing availability,” Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz report. “Democrats in particular expressed wariness to the president about reopening the economy until the testing was robust enough. … Trump predicted there are 29 states that can begin the opening soon and several that could start the process right away, though he didn’t name them.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the reopening plan is “a little more measured” than he expected, but that the lack of a testing plan is a problem. “If we don’t have a strong, adequate testing regime, we’re going to have real trouble,” Schumer said. “The testing regime is scattershot and totally inadequate for what’s needed to get the country back to work. Each state can’t come up with its own test.”

At least 33,288 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus, and at least 671,000 cases have been reported. 

About 146,000 people per day are being tested now. Analysts say the United States needs to perform closer to 1 million tests per day to reach a level comparable to South Korea, which has set the gold standard for containing the virus’s spread, Paige Winfield Cunningham reported earlier this week in The Health 202: “To screen the United States’s entire population of 330 million, capacity would need to reach 22 million tests per day, according to economist Paul Romer, a Nobel laureate. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, [said] the United States should be testing between 750,000 and 1 million people a week.”

NBC News quotes other public health experts in a story that published this morning saying testing needs to be at least doubled or tripled from current levels to safely allow for even a partial reopening of America's economy.

Birx maintains that there’s enough testing capacity to track the spread of the virus. During Thursday’s news conference, she said hospitals and clinics have moved more toward point-of-care tests that do not need to be sent to labs for processing. (Here’s the 18-slide PowerPoint deck that she went through during the briefing.)

“We have tests sitting there and equipment sitting there, and now we have to really deal with each single lab to really figure out what they need,” Birx explained. “We’re committed to work with laboratories to answer every one of their issues with the state and local governments. Frankly, in every conversation I have, the governors will say, ‘I need 5,000 people tested.’ And I say, ‘Well, at the University of X, there are 6,700 tests waiting for you.’ So it’s more of making sure that every governor and every public health official knows exactly where every lab is and where the tests are so we can create with them a real understanding so all these tests can be run.”

Tony Fauci, the top infectious-disease specialist in the government, told the Associated Press earlier this week that “we’re not there yet” on having the testing capabilities necessary to send people back to work. While expressing support for Trump’s new guidelines during the briefing, he also emphasized the importance of testing. “Remember, there's two types of things: antibody tests and tests for the diagnosis of who has the disease. One you need for contact tracing; the other you need for finding out what's in society,” Fauci said. “We're going to have both of those much, much better as we go in the next weeks and months. And by the time we get into the fall, I think we're going to be in pretty good shape.”

The new White House guidelines suggest that, before reopening, states should see a decrease in confirmed coronavirus cases over a 14-day period, as well as that hospitals should be able to “treat all patients without crisis care.” The guidance that was released lays out three phases for slowly easing back restriction but includes fewer details about each step than the internal report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Emergency Management Agency that we wrote about in Wednesday's edition.

The lack of a cohesive testing strategy has fueled long-standing frustration among governors. “It is the single best tool to inform decisions and to calibrate all of this,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said of testing at his daily briefing. “This has to be figured out. I understand that this is a problematic area and the federal government’s not eager to get involved in testing. I get that, but the plain reality here is we have to do it in partnership with the federal government.”

Cuomo has hired the McKinsey consulting firm to create models on testing to assist the governors in the Northeast who are working together, Reuters reports. “The goal is to ‘Trump-proof’ the plan, said an adviser to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.”

Fauci repeated his caution on Thursday of the risk that there will be a second, and possibly third, wave of infections if restrictions are eased too fast. This happened during the influenza pandemic in 1918. Fuaci emphasized that everyone, from governments to civilians, needs to stay flexible. “Let's face it,” he said. “There may be some setbacks, and we may have to pull back a little and then go forward.”

Domestic damage

Early results from a drug trial caused cautious optimism.

A Chicago hospital treating covid-19 patients with Gilead Science’s antiviral medicine remdesivir reported seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms. Remdesivir is one of the first drugs identified as having the potential to impact the virus in lab tests, Stat reports

  • The Dow Jones industrial average surged roughly 600 points, or 2.5 percent, at Friday’s open because investors were excited about a glimmer of good news. (Rachel Siegel and Thomas Heath)
  • But, but, but: “It’s not a slam dunk by any means. I don’t think it’s a cure for the virus,” said Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, on CNBC. “I don’t think this is going to be the one-drug answer. But it can change the contours of the disease and mitigate the worst outcomes for some patients.”
States are counting deaths differently. 

“In Alabama, officials have ruled that one of every 10 people who died with covid-19 did not die of covid-19. Among those excluded from the numbers reported to the federal government were a bedbound patient with aspiration pneumonia in one lung and a person with a buildup of fluid and partial collapse of one lung,” Emma Brown, Beth Reinhard and Reis Thebault report. “Colorado, by contrast, has included some deaths where the disease caused by the novel coronavirus was deemed probable — based on symptoms and possible exposure — but not confirmed through a test. Health officials in both states say their approach is more accurate. Their divergent methods reflect a national debate over how to count the dead. … The [CDC] updated its website this week to explicitly say that cases where the infection was not confirmed by a test may now be counted. But attributing a death to the virus can be a judgment call, experts say, and potentially a vexing one as indications emerge that the disease damages not just the lungs but also the heart, kidneys and other organs. As a result, the overall tally — a benchmark broadcast constantly on cable news and elsewhere — is a less concrete figure than it appears. The inconsistent counting methods also raise questions about the ability to draw comparisons from state to state, and they play into a political debate about the reliability of the numbers.”

Even with the lower count, covid-19 is quickly becoming America’s leading cause of death.

“The U.S. surgeon general had warned that last week would be like Pearl Harbor as he attempted to create context for the threat — but it turned out that more than five times as many Americans died from covid-19 last week than were killed in the World War II raid,” Dan Keating and Chiqui Esteban report. “In early and mid-March, when America began widespread closures, quarantines and social distancing, covid-19 caused many fewer deaths than other common causes — fewer in a week than chronic liver disease or high blood pressure, and far fewer than suicide or the common flu. By the end of March, the toll was closer to the average weekly deaths from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Into April, weekly covid-19 deaths climbed past those from accidents and chronic lower respiratory disease. And last week, covid-19 killed more people than normally die of cancer in this country in a week. Only heart disease was likely to kill more people that week. All of those comparisons include only confirmed cases. … Some experts had predicted that the deaths could peak last week, but this week is shaping up to be no better, with new high death tolls Tuesday (2,369) and Wednesday (2,441). Covid-19 is on pace to be the largest single killer of Americans this week, given the normal number of deaths in an April week.”

More than 3,000 people have filed coronavirus-related OSHA complaints.

“The employee complaints offer a snapshot of the fear experienced by the Americans compelled to work while the majority have been urged to stay at home, and they arise from an array of workplaces: hospitals, airlines, construction companies, call centers, grocery stores, beauty spas, pharmacies and shipping companies, among others,” Peter Whoriskey, Jeff Stein and Nate Jones report. “The records show worker concerns about shortages of masks and gloves, of being forced to work with people who appear sick, and of operating in cramped work areas that prevent them from standing six feet from one another. ‘The call center with over 400 people is unsanitary,’ one complaint reads. ‘Employees have to share desks and people are within 2 feet from each other.’ ‘In the behavioral unit, employees are not allowed to wear surgical masks because ‘it hurts patient’s feelings,’ despite the fact that patients come in with fevers,’ says another from a California hospital. … The largest share of complaints come from health-care workers: Some have been given ‘plastic ponchos’ and masks made out of paper towels, they say; others report a lack of hand sanitizer or soap. … The records do not state what actions were taken as a result.”

  • Mexican workers at U.S.-owned plants along the border erupted in protests this week, demanding their factories close. They pointed to poor health conditions inside these “maquiladoras” and a spate of employee deaths. None of the companies directly attributed these fatalities to the virus, though demonstrators insist otherwise. (Teo Armus)
  • In contrast, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook will cancel all planned events involving 50 or more people until June 2021. Additionally, most of Facebook’s employees will be required to keep working from home through at least the end of May. (Allyson Chiu)
More meat processing plants are closing because of outbreaks. Shortages may follow. 

“There are enough cows in the food supply. The bottleneck may be the vulnerable people who work the processing plants,” Laura Reiley reports. “The coronavirus has sickened workers and forced slowdowns and closures of some of the country’s biggest meat processing plants, reducing production by as much as 25 percent, industry officials say, and sparking fears of a further round of hoarding. Several of the country’s largest beef-packing companies have announced plant closures. … Two of the seven largest U.S. facilities — those with the capacity to process 5,000 beef cattle daily — are closed because of the pandemic. Absenteeism, fewer employees and spreading out those remaining employees to maintain social distance are all also contributing to the slowdown. National Beef Packing Co. announced Monday the closure of its Tama, Iowa, facility. And Cargill shuttered production at its Hazleton, Pa., ground beef and pork processing plant, and then reduced production at one of Canada’s biggest beef-packing plants after dozens of workers became infected. The meat supply chain is especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus since processing is increasingly done at a handful of massive plants.”

“In the poultry industry, a sickened workforce is threatening to create an imbalance between the number of chickens on the farm and the number processed into meat for sale at the store,” USA Today reports. “About 2 million chickens owned by a company on the Delmarva Peninsula, which includes southern Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Eastern Shore of Virginia, will be killed at the farms where they were raised. … But their meat will not make it to market due to an insufficient number of workers to keep up with production. … 

Dairy farmers are dumping excess raw milk. … The sudden closure of schools and restaurants has thrust farmers into crisis mode. Milk consumed there, including milk used to make cheese and butter at restaurants, is suddenly going to waste. Brian Rexing, a dairy farmer in Indiana’s southwest corner, said he was forced to dispose of nearly 30,000 gallons of milk in the fields on his farm last week. There was nowhere for the milk to go.”

Burials on Hart Island, where New York’s unclaimed corpses lie in mass graves, have risen fivefold. 

“Desolate Hart Island, a mile-long stretch of dirt off the Bronx, has taken New York City's unclaimed dead for 151 years: Civil War soldiers, stillborn babies, the homeless and AIDS patients, who were confined to the island's southernmost tip for fear that their little-understood virus might spread from their corpses,” Jada Yuan reports. “During the coronavirus pandemic, the mass-grave burials of indigent New Yorkers whose families could not be found or who could not afford a private funeral have quintupled, officials said, growing from an average of 25 per week to 120. They’re happening five days a week now instead of one. … Drone videos of Hart Island have shown fresh trenches dug with backhoes, and people wearing white hazmat suits lifting coffins from forklifts and stacking them in two long rows, three coffins atop one another. The caskets are the same as they’ve been for decades — simple pine boxes unadorned but for a name or ‘unknown’ written in permanent marker and a grave number carved on the lid. The bodies are unembalmed, often buried with personal effects they had when they died. As usual, each plot contains around 150 coffins.” 

  • New York recorded its fewest deaths in 10 days as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the state’s shutdown order to May 15. The state reached a total of 12,192 deaths after 606 were recorded yesterday. The three-day average number of hospitalized virus patients is down 2 percent, the second straight daily decline. (NYT)
  • The family of a New York woman blames hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic for the heart attack that killed her. The 65-year-old, who was not tested for the virus but showed symptoms, died last week after a doctor prescribed her the combo. (NBC News)
Nurses and doctors are taking extreme precautions to avoid infecting their family members.

“Across the country, exhausted health-care workers have changed the rhythms of their daily lives — sleeping away from their families and performing meticulous cleansing rituals — to protect family members and roommates and keep the pathogen contained behind hospital doors,” Ben Guarino reports. “Some avoid going home altogether because they live with elderly or immunity-compromised relatives. About 200 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are staying at the Four Seasons Hotel New York, for instance, which has pared down its thousand-dollar-a-night rooms to function as a medical dorm, said a spokesman. Hotel staffers check the temperature of each clinician entering the hotel. Instead of dining on room service, guests take boxed meals to their rooms. Bathrobes, extra pillows and throw blankets were removed to reduce the number of items that could be touched."

The D.C. region’s death toll reached 750, with 20,064 confirmed infections.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that he’s working on a plan to reopen the state but that now is the “worst possible time” to lift restrictions, Joe Heim and Dana Hedgpeth report. Meanwhile, Virginia’s shutdown of nonessential businesses will extend until at least May 8. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) extended a public health emergency until May 15 that had been set to expire after April 24. 

  • More than 177,000 residents of the Washington region filed jobless claims last week, slightly down from the week before, as D.C. business leaders warn of bankruptcies and permanent closures. (Steve Thompson)
  • The D.C. jail said 61 inmates have tested positive for the virus, but 40 have recovered and returned to the general population.
  • Loudoun County emptied its juvenile jail — briefly. The holding facility for teens charged with serious crimes had no residents earlier this week, but one teen returned Wednesday. In Louisiana, the virus has been spreading among kids in detention, per David Montgomery and Richard Webster.

More on the federal response

The Post's Ashley Parker discusses how President Trump struggles to be the "consoler in chief" and puts his ego "front and center" in the pandemic response. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Glitches are preventing millions from receiving their stimulus checks. 

“Many Americans woke up Wednesday expecting to find a payment of $1,200 or more from the U.S. government in their bank account, but instead they realized nothing had arrived yet — or the wrong amount was deposited. Parents of young children complained they did not receive the promised $500 check for their dependent children,” Heather Long and Michelle Singletary report. “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instructed the [IRS] to get payments out as fast as possible to help offset the pain of losing jobs and shutting down businesses, but numerous glitches — affecting filers who used tax preparers, parents of dependent children and people with 2019 tax returns still to be processed — are delaying payments and causing confusion. Several million people who filed their taxes via H&R Block, TurboTax and other services were unable to get their payments because the IRS did not have their direct deposit information on file. …  A Treasury spokeswoman noted the IRS processed nearly 80 million payments in less than three weeks. That’s just over half the 150 million payments expected to go out under the Economic Impact Payment program.”

Trump said negotiations are underway to revive the Paycheck Protection Program.

“A new lending program for small businesses maxed out Thursday morning and stopped accepting claims, but negotiations picked up between Democrats and the Trump administration to address that growing problem,” Erica Werner, Aaron Gregg and Renae Merle report. “The Small Business Administration said on its website that the agency ‘is unable to accept new applications … based on available appropriations funding.’ The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program was a central piece of the massive $2 trillion economic rescue law passed just three weeks ago. Republicans and Democrats say more action is needed to build on the law, but they have not been able to agree on what to do." 

Hospital relief money has been slow in reaching the places that need it the most.

“The $100 billion Congress allocated for hospitals and health-care providers in its $2 trillion coronavirus rescue bill has been slow to go out and has shortchanged some of the places that need it most, lawmakers and industry groups say. They also say the total sum is woefully inadequate to address the needs created by the virus,” Erica Werner, Shane Harris and Amy Goldstein report. “Some $30 billion of the money has been distributed thus far, under a formula that sent it to hospitals based on the services they provided last year to Medicare patients. … Now, officials say it will be targeted based on need and toward hospitals in cities that have seen large numbers of covid-19 patients, such as New York and Detroit. But lawmakers and aides say they are in the dark about how much money will be in the next disbursement and who will get it. Answers from Trump administration officials have been confusing and at times misleading, they say.”

Americans are much more worried about scaling back social distancing too early than too late. 

“New polling from Pew Research Center suggests that Americans are more likely to side with the experts than with Trump,” Philip Bump reports. “By a 2-to-1 margin, they are more concerned that distancing measures will be rescinded too quickly than too slowly. There’s a partisan split on the question, but not as big as you might think. Among conservative Republicans, views are about split. Among moderate Republicans, a large majority is more worried about moving too quickly than too slowly. The partisan divide narrows when you overlay income. Wealthier Democrats are much more worried about rescinding the orders too soon than are lower-income Democrats. Lower-income Republicans, on the other hand, are more worried than wealthier ones about moving too quickly."

  • Trump’s job approval rating dropped six percentage points, to 43 percent. The six-point decline is the sharpest drop Gallup has recorded for the Trump presidency so far. Congress, meanwhile, may be enjoying a rally of its own. Currently, 30 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, up from 22 percent in early March.
  • Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator left out of Trump’s coronavirus response group. The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who voted to remove Trump from office earlier this year for abuse of power, was snubbed, even though more than 20 congressional Democrats were tapped to serve on the task force, including liberal senators who voted to convict the president. (NBC News)
  • The host committee for this summer’s Democratic National Convention announced that it cut staff by more than half. Former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe said Milwaukee is “unlikely” to host the convention, adding that it’s become a “very, very difficult environment” for Democrats to raise the money required to hold the event. McAuliffe urged Democrats to look at contingency plans for their convention. (Journal Sentinel)
Mark Meadows is finding the transition from Trump confidant to chief of staff a hard one.  

“Administration officials say he has been overwhelmed at times by a permanent culture at the White House that revolves around the president’s moods, his desire to present a veneer of strength and his need for a sense of control,” the Times reports. “It has not helped him with his White House colleagues that the former North Carolina congressman, who has a reputation for showing his emotions, cried while meeting with members of the White House staff on at least two occasions. One instance was in the presence of a young West Wing aide; another time was with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. On both occasions, Mr. Meadows was discussing staffing changes. … 

“In the middle of the crisis, Mr. Meadows is trying to reorganize the White House staff. People close to him insisted Mr. Meadows’s nature was not to fire people willy-nilly, but they said that was what he was doing nevertheless. He is also talking about … reorganizing the speech-writing team — currently a stand-alone office led by Stephen Miller — under the umbrella of the communications department. That discussion has met with some resistance. … At the same time, his grip on the White House is hardly tight. Mr. Meadows was caught off guard when the press office on Tuesday night blasted out a lengthy list of people who had been selected to be part of one of the groups advising Mr. Trump on reopening the country. … That had happened at the direction of Mr. Kushner.”

  • Former Trump consigliere and personal attorney Michael Cohen will get released from prison early because of the pandemic. Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for various crimes, including lying to Congress about negotiations to open a Trump Tower in Moscow, at the federal prison camp in Otisville, N.Y., where 14 inmates and seven staff members at the complex have tested positive for the coronavirus. He was scheduled for release in November 2021, but he will be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence from “home confinement.” (CNN)
  • U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected the demand for a new trial by Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political Svengali and dirty trickster, ruling that the jury forewoman in the trial was not biased against him. (Spencer Hsu and Matt Zapotosky)
The FBI charged a medical supply company’s former executive with delaying shipments of protective equipment. 

“Christopher Dobbins, who an online résumé lists as the former vice president of finance at Stradis Healthcare, was charged in federal court in Atlanta this week with making a computer intrusion that authorities allege had significant ramifications in the fight against the coronavirus,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “After Dobbins edited 115,000 records and deleted more than 2,300, the company’s shipments of personal protective equipment — such as gloves, masks and gowns — had to be delayed for between 24 and 72 hours, according to an FBI affidavit.”

In the middle of the crisis, the Army gave a Montana firm half a billion dollars to build 17 miles of Trump’s wall.

“On Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it awarded BFBC, an affiliate of Barnard Construction, $569 million in contract modifications for building ‘17.17 miles’ of the wall in two California locations, El Centro and San Diego. That works out to over $33 million per mile—steeply above the $20 million-per-mile average that the Trump administration is already doling out for the wall,” the Daily Beast reports. “And it’s only the latest wall contract the firm has gotten. BFBC, a reliable contributor to Republican politicians, has gotten over $1 billion in taxpayer money in less than a year to build a mere 37 miles worth of wall.” 

  • Laredo, a key Texas border crossing, has implemented some of the strictest control measures in America to slow the spread. The city is using curfews, anti-gathering orders and a mask requirement as it has become one of the first lines of defense in protecting the nation’s most important commercial corridor. (Arelis Hernández)
  • Trump's push to deconstruct the regulatory state continues full speed ahead. The president's people at the Environmental Protection Agency declared Thursday that it is no longer “appropriate and necessary” for the government to limit mercury and other harmful pollutants from power plants, even though every utility in America has complied with standards put in place in 2011, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin note. Meanwhile, a vast region of the western United States is in the grips of the first climate-change-induced mega-drought observed in the past 1,200 years, according to a new study published in the journal Science.
The Navy captain who sounded the alarm about coronavirus on his ship knew it could destroy his career.

“Capt. Brett Crozier opened his March 30 message to three admirals by saying he would ‘gladly’ follow them ‘into battle whenever needed.’ But the skipper of the USS Theodore Roosevelt shifted to his concern that the Navy was not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus, and acknowledged being a part of the sluggish response,” Dan Lamothe and Shawn Boburg report. “‘I fully realize that I bear responsibility for not demanding more decisive action the moment we pulled in, but at this point my only priority is the continued well-being of the crew and embarked staff,’ Crozier wrote in previously unreported comments obtained by The Post. ‘I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.’ The email, copied to a handful of Navy captains, is at the heart of a crisis that erupted into public view after a four-page memo attached to it was published in the news media. … While the attachment circulated widely, Crozier’s email did not. The email shows that [then-acting Navy secretary Thomas] Modly mischaracterized the message, accusing Crozier of sending it to 20 or 30 people, as he cited it as justification for removing him from command.” 

Remembering the fallen
  • Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr. was the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who died from the virus this week, two weeks after testing positive. His wife, also in the service, was flown to Guam. He died by her side. He was 41. (Dan Lamothe)
  • Letty Ramirez, 54, and her mom, Carolina Tovar, 86, were inseparable in life, but they died in separate hospitals just hours apart. Both California women began showing symptoms on the same day. (New York Post)
  • Hailey Herrera, a therapy student who was dedicated to working with Latino patients, died in the Bronx. She was 25. (NYT)
  • Nathel Burtley, the first black superintendent in Flint, Mich., died six days short of his 80th birthday. His work empowered minority students, and he helped guide desegregation efforts in Grand Rapids. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
  • Michael Miller, 60, a bus fleet manager for Montgomery County, Md., became the first county employee to die from the virus. (Rebecca Tan)
  • Allen Daviau, a five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer who worked for Steven Spielberg and Barry Levinson, died of complications from the virus. He was 77. (Hollywood Reporter)
  • Margit Buchhalter Feldman, a Holocaust survivor, died from the virus just one day before the 75th anniversary of her liberation. Feldman, who was born on the same day as Anne Frank, spent her life ensuring that the world would never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. She was 90. (Timothy Bella)

Foreign fallout

In Kenya, the virus’s ripple effects are proving deadlier than the disease itself. 

“Police have killed at least 12 people while enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew that began more than two weeks ago, making Kenya’s lockdown one of the deadliest in the world. But the true death toll is higher still: An untold number of others have died because of the curfew itself and the fear prompted by police batons and bullets,” Rael Ombuor and Max Bearak report. 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired his health minister over coronavirus response differences.

“Bolsonaro fired Luiz Henrique Mandetta as minister of health Thursday, after the two officials sparred publicly over the need for social distancing to fight Latin America’s largest coronavirus outbreak,” Marina Lopes reports. “Given Brazil’s sharply limited testing, actual cases and deaths are believed to be significant undercounts. … The move comes as hospitals and clinics teeter on the brink of collapse. Emergency rooms in Amazonas state are running at capacity, with 95 percent of intensive care beds and ventilators occupied."

Britain extended its lockdown as Boris Johnson recovers in the countryside.

“Britain announced Thursday that it will continue its lockdown for at least three weeks — a decision that affects the lives and incomes of millions, and a decision made without [the] prime minister,” William Booth, Karla Adam and Christine Spolar report. “Hospital admissions have just begun to plateau in Britain, but the daily death toll continues to soar and infection rates in nursing homes are high.”

  • German hospitals are considering cutting working hours, as tens of thousands of beds remain empty despite the crisis. More extensive testing and earlier mitigation efforts reduced the burden on the country's health system. (Rick Noack)
  • New Zealand’s new cases yesterday dropped to single digits amid its strict nationwide lockdown, from 15 to eight. (Allyson Chiu)
  • The U.S. donated $5 million to Palestinian hospitals and households in an effort to combat the virus, as part of a $508 million foreign aid commitment to help with the pandemic. (Sarah Dadouch)
Chinese authorities admitted that Wuhan’s death toll was almost 50 percent higher than they said.

The official reported death toll in the city now stands at 3,869. The figure was previously 2,579. The communist regime said the discrepancy in Wuhan’s fatality figures was the result of many patients dying at home in the early stages of the epidemic rather than being treated in hospitals. (Anna Fifield

  • China’s gross domestic product fell at an annual rate of 6.8 percent in the first quarter, the first contraction since the country began releasing figures in 1992. (David Crawshaw and Fifield)
  • Chinese authorities are cracking down on fraudulent activity involving face masks, arresting dozens of people for hoarding materials and driving up prices. The country also shut down a factory accused of making substandard masks. (Fifield)

Social media speed read

Several Midwestern governors, plus Kentucky, formed their own bloc to collaborate on when to reopen, similar to the ones on the East and West coasts:

A New York City hospital plays Jay-Z and Alicia Keys's “Empire State of Mind” every time a coronavirus patient is released:

A group of nuns in Seville, Spain, have stopped producing yemas — their renowned candies — to instead make face masks. A Spanish reporter caught them playing basketball while on a break:

“I knew I was going to get better, that was just it,” said Nancy Garrett, an 88-year-old Florida woman who was hospitalized for 23 days with the virus:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert said it might be a good idea to give Trump a radio show if it will keep him from spreading falsehoods in his briefings:

Seth Meyers decried Trump’s decision to pull funding from the World Health Organization:

And nature is sure taking over while we humans stay inside:

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