with Mariana Alfaro

The coronavirus contagion threatens to unravel prison sentences for President Trump’s former associates that career prosecutors fought hard to secure.

Considering the sprawling nature of former special counsel Bob Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the voluminous evidence of criminal conduct presented during multiple trials, this is a jarring prospect.

The pandemic could also help Trump justify issuing pardons for a trio of men who have stayed loyal to him.

Federal prosecutors did not oppose a request Sunday by former deputy Trump campaign chairman Rick Gates to serve the remainder of his prison term in home confinement because of the novel coronavirus. “The massive societal disruptions caused by this pandemic are tragic, and the burdens they have placed on Mr. Gates and his family warrant a modification of the condition on his probation,” Gates attorney Thomas Green wrote in a four-page motion. Gates was already being allowed to serve his 45-day sentence on weekends, a reward for cooperating with Mueller. It is unknown how many days he has actually spent behind bars.

Gates’s former business partner Paul Manafort, the chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign, is still waiting on a response to his request last week to the Federal Bureau of Prisons for early release. His lawyers said Manafort would like to serve the remainder of his 7 ½-year sentence with his wife at their luxury condo in Alexandria “or, alternatively, for the duration of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.” Manafort’s lawyers claim that his high blood pressure and liver disease put him at “high risk” of contracting the disease. He is not due to be released from a minimum-security prison in Pennsylvania until Nov. 3, 2024. He was convicted of bank and tax fraud, witness tampering and conspiring to defraud the United States.

Trump kept the door wide open on Sunday night to pardoning Manafort, as well as his former political adviser Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Asked during his daily White House briefing whether he’s given additional thought to pardons, Trump claimed the three men were treated unfairly. He falsely claimed that the basis for the government’s investigation into Manafort “turned out to be a fraud” and then attacked Federal Bureau of Investigation officials who were involved in the probe of Flynn as “human scum.”

“Roger Stone was treated unfairly,” Trump said. “General Flynn was a highly respected person, and it turned out to be a scam on him. … Mueller’s people wanted him to go to jail, okay? So what am I going to do? You'll find out what I'm going to do. I'm not going to say what I'm going to do, but I will tell you, the whole thing turned out to be a scam, and it turned to be a disgrace to our country. And it was a takedown of a duly elected president. And these people suffered greatly.”

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI to avoid facing much more potentially perilous charges related to alleged work he did as an unregistered foreign agent. Stone was sentenced in February to 40 months in prison for lying under oath before the House Intelligence Committee to conceal his central role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to learn about computer files hacked by Russia and threatening another witness who was an associate of his in an attempt to prevent the man from cooperating with lawmakers. A federal judge last week rejected Stone’s demand for a new trial.

It’s not just Trump allies who are seizing on public health concerns to try getting out of jail. An administrative request was granted last week to allow Michael Cohen to go home so he can be confined there. Trump’s former consigliere and longtime personal attorney, who flipped on him, has served less than one full year of his three-year sentence. Cohen lawyer Roger Adler said he filed paperwork with prison officials seeking “compassionate release” because Cohen has “an underlying medical condition,” but prosecutors had objected on the grounds that the 53-year-old is “in good health.”

“At Attorney General William P. Barr’s direction, the Bureau of Prisons has been working in recent weeks to move more inmates to home confinement,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “According to information from the bureau’s website, nearly 1,200 inmates have been transferred to their homes. … Barr had directed prison officials to look at inmates’ vulnerability to covid-19, their conduct in prison and whether they would pose a danger to the community in deciding whether they should be let go. Such factors generally favor older, white-collar criminals.”

A judge allowed Michael Avenatti, a longtime Trump antagonist, to be temporarily freed from a federal jail in New York City on April 11 to stay at a friend’s mansion near Venice Beach in the Los Angeles area. The judge said he can stay there for 90 days amid the coronavirus crisis. Avenatti gained notoriety representing porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges that she carried on an extramarital affair with Trump. Avenatti was convicted of trying to extort $25 million from sportswear giant Nike, and he faces pending criminal trials related to allegations that he defrauded Daniels and that he cheated other former clients out of millions of dollars. Avenatti claimed that he was at risk of getting coronavirus because he’s had pneumonia and his cellmate at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan was removed due to flu-like symptoms.

Other high-profile political figures are seeking a way out of prison amid public health fears about the virus. Former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos (R) is expected to be released soon from prison to home confinement after testing positive for covid-19. The 72-year-old has been at the same prison as Cohen. Skelos is serving a four-year prison term after he was convicted of extortion, wire fraud and bribery. “Evidence at a trial of Skelos and his son in 2018 convinced a jury that he pressured wealthy businessmen to give his son roughly $300,000 for no-show jobs,” the AP reports.

Disgraced ex-congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) has asked a federal judge to free her from prison so that she will not get infected. “So long as Brown remains in custody, her capacity to protect herself from a serious, or even fatal, infection will be compromised,” Brown attorney William Mallory Kent wrote in a motion. “The 73-year-old political veteran is scheduled to serve time for fraud convictions until May 2022,” according to the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville. “She’s serving a five-year sentence for a string of fraud convictions tied to a sham charity, One Door for Education, to which she asked supporters to make donations.” Brown’s lawyer told the judge that her request for early released was denied by the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, who leaked classified material, has asked to get out of a Texas prison a year-and-a-half before she’s otherwise eligible. Her defense lawyer Joe Whitley said in a Friday motion that the 28-year-old’s asthma and eating disorder make her more susceptible to the virus, and he likened the prison to a “petri dish,” according to the Daily Mail.

Celebrities are also making requests for what’s referred to as “compassionate release.” Bill Cosby’s team has been trying to use the virus to spring him, but Pennsylvania Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton told USA Today that he’s not eligible for a reprieve under an April 10 order by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) because he’s a convicted sex offender. The actor’s spokesman is calling on Wolf to give him special treatment.

Billy McFarland, the mastermind of the Fyre Festival debacle, has asked for compassionate release because he claims he has bad allergies that make him more susceptible to the coronavirus, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He’s serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud in 2018.

R&B musician R. Kelly, awaiting trial on a raft of serious charges related to alleged sex crimes with minors, made a second emergency request to be released from a Chicago jail last week after a federal judge rejected his first request. “Mr. Kelly is experiencing tremendous stress and anxiety in light of the recent COVID-19 developments,” Kelly attorney Michael Leonard said in the motion, according to Billboard.

The 23-year-old Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, was allowed to serve the remaining four months of his two-year racketeering sentence in home confinement because he has asthma, and he was once hospitalized for bronchitis. But TMZ reports today that the rapper is “throwing tons of money around” and “purchasing a fleet of luxury vehicles that includes a Ventadore, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes Benz G-Wagon and a Range Rover” while still technically under house arrest. The gossip site he also “splurged on 4 timepieces, including a Richard Mille watch, and dropped another $300,000 on a chain shaped like a shark.”

But there are warning signs about this approach: Several people who are not famous have allegedly committed crimes after being released. There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that releasing some convicts early due to fears of the virus is backfiring on authorities. The well-intentioned desire by government officials to protect at-risk inmates from exposure to the contagion has led to violent, even deadly, consequences. Today’s New York Post reports that at least 50 of the 1,500 inmates cut loose from New York City jails in recent weeks because of fears they were vulnerable to the coronavirus have already landed back in jail — and in some cases were set free yet again:

“The re-offenders — just over 3 percent of those released — include a Rikers Island inmate initially jailed for allegedly setting his girlfriend’s door on fire and choking her mother, who was released early only to return to the Bronx apartment and allegedly threaten to kill the whole family. Another prisoner who is accused of assaulting a Department of Homeless services officer and was later set free was arrested for punching an agency sergeant just two days after his release, records show. Yet another, who was serving a 60-day sentence for theft, was charged with burglarizing Queens’ Singh Farm grocery store to the tune of more than $9,000 three weeks after his early release.”

In California, a man released under an emergency court order to reduce jail overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic has been charged with allegedly carjacking someone and hitting someone else over the head with a hammer just days after his release, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

In Florida, one of the 164 inmates released from the Hillsborough County jail on March 19 under measures to contain the coronavirus allegedly killed someone on March 20. Joseph Edward Williams, 26, had been booked into jail on March 13 for possession of less than four grams of heroin, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor, the Tampa Bay Times reports, but his rap sheet included arrests on 35 previous charges.

In related local news: “Under pressure from civil rights advocates, public health experts and congressional Democrats, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced on Sunday that he signed an executive order to grant early release to hundreds of inmates to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox report. “About 720 prisoners — who are both nearing the end of their sentences and at high risk of coronavirus complications — have been identified for potential release, Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said. In addition, 110 inmates who are older than 60 have been identified for release, Ricci said. … Sex offenders are not eligible for early release.”

“A federal judge on Sunday ordered the D.C. jail to immediately overhaul health, sanitation and social distancing measures for 1,400 prisoners in the nation’s capital to combat climbing infection rates of the novel coronavirus, while stopping short of ordering further inmate releases,” Spencer Hsu and Keith Alexander report.

Testing, testing, testing

After governors blasted federal inaction, Trump said he will step up efforts to obtain vital supplies for testing.

“‘Testing is a local thing,’ Trump said at a White House briefing. He said that too many governors were relying on state government labs and should turn to commercial labs to help them process more tests. He didn’t name any particular states or officials. But earlier Sunday, Republican and Democratic governors were unanimous in putting the onus on the federal government to help secure vital testing components, including swabs and reagents, the chemical solutions required to run the tests, which the governors said have been in short supply,” Shane Harris, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report. “‘To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false,’ Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland told CNN. … Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, which is working closely with officials in neighboring Maryland and the District, called Trump administration claims of sufficient testing ‘delusional.’  … 

Trump, displaying a nasal swab to reporters, said the federal government was procuring millions more swabs, and then claimed some states had lost the ones they were already sent. … As of Sunday evening, there was no official paperwork released showing that the Defense Production Act had been invoked for swabs. Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also announced that nursing homes will be required to inform the CDC when they confirm a positive case of covid-19 in their facilities. … 

“The pushback from governors came on a day that the total number of confirmed U.S. deaths from covid-19 … passed 40,000. ... More than 749,000 confirmed infections have been reported as of Sunday night. … Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, said his state’s ‘big problem’ is that the federal Food and Drug Administration has not prioritized companies that are ‘putting a slightly different formula together’ for their testing kits. If the FDA would do that, DeWine told NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press,’ he could ‘probably double, maybe even triple testing in Ohio virtually overnight.’ Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on NBC that her state has ‘the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we are doing, but we need some of these supplies.’”

Dozens of antibody tests on the market were never vetted by the FDA, raising concerns about accuracy.

“The emergence of dozens of tests never reviewed by the FDA — many of which are being aggressively marketed — could confuse doctors, hospitals, employers and consumers clamoring for the products, according to critics who say the agency’s oversight of the tests has been lax,” Laurie McGinley reports. “Prodded by such concerns, the FDA recently stepped up warnings and is joining other agencies, including the National Cancer Institute, to try to determine whether the unvetted tests actually work … The FDA over the weekend said four tests have gotten such authorizations: Cellex, Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics and Mount Sinai Laboratory. … Meanwhile, the unreviewed tests remain on the market. In mid-March, the FDA, wanting to ensure quick access to serological tests, said manufacturers could sell them after validating results themselves and simply notifying the agency.”

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced sweeping plans to test “thousands” of residents at random for coronavirus antibodies. (New York Daily News)
Brett Giroir, Trump’s testing czar, was once forced out of a job developing vaccine projects.

Giroir “says that his experience working on vaccine development projects at Texas A&M University helped prepare him for this historic moment. … But after eight years of work on several vaccine projects, Giroir was told in 2015 he had 30 minutes to resign or he would be fired. His annual performance evaluation at Texas A&M … said he was ‘more interested in promoting yourself’ than the health science center where he worked,” Michael Kranish reports. “His years as director of the Texas vaccine project illustrate his operating style, which includes sweeping statements about the impact of his work, not all of which turned out as some had hoped… Giroir blamed his ouster on internal politics at the university, not on any problems with the project."

More on the federal response

Pro-gun activists are using Facebook groups to push anti-quarantine protests.

“A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm report. “The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called ‘Minnesota Gun Rights,’ and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should ‘liberate’ their states. The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising … The Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings."

  • Trump offered support for the protests during Sunday evening's briefing: “Some governors have gone too far," he said. “Some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate.”
  • Nearly 60 percent of Americans are concerned the country might move too fast to loosen restrictions aimed at slowing the outbreak, compared with about three in 10 who said the greater worry was the economic impact of waiting too long, according to a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. Views on when to reopen are split along partisan lines, with 77 percent of Democrats expressing concern about opening too quickly, compared with 39 percent of Republicans.
  • “More than any edict from a leader — from the president to the nation’s governors to local mayors — people must feel confident returning to their pre-coronavirus existence before the economy can truly recover, according to many politicians, business leaders and consumer experts,” Ashley Parker reports. 
A deal is near to give additional stimulus cash to small businesses. 

The Trump administration and congressional leaders are close to agreeing on the terms of a roughly $470 billion deal to renew funding for a small-business loan program that ran out of money under crushing demand, aiming to pass the agreement into law within days, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. "The deal would also boost spending for hospitals and coronavirus testing by about $100 billion. Trump expressed optimism Sunday evening about reaching an agreement by Monday. …  In a further sign of progress, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told representatives Sunday evening to be prepared to return to the Capitol on Wednesday to vote on an agreement. The deal would add about $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses … It also would add $60 billion to a separate emergency loan program for small businesses that is out of money, too, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said … The agreement would include $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing, which have been major Democratic demands. Some $60 billion in the new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program would be targeted specifically for smaller financial institutions to ensure loans for minority and lower-served areas … 

“If the changes are signed into law this week, Congress would have approved more than $700 billion in emergency assistance for small businesses alone in just one month. That would be more than the entire $700 billion in bailout money approved during the 2008 financial crisis. But that money had strict requirements regarding public disclosure of who received it. Under the current arrangement set up by Congress and the White House, it’s unclear whether the public will ever find out who received the new money." 

  • Neiman Marcus is preparing to file for bankruptcy as soon as this week, becoming the first major U.S. department store to succumb to the virus. (Reuters)
  • Shake Shack, a company with revenue of $100 million, will return the $10 million it received from the Paycheck Protection Program. The loans were not intended to be paid out to any restaurant chain with more than 500 employees, but Shake Shack said each of its 189 locations only employs about 45 people. (Allyson Chiu)
Americans at the WHO transmitted real-time information about the virus to the Trump administration.

“More than a dozen U.S. researchers, physicians and public health experts, many of them from the [CDC], were working full time at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization as the novel coronavirus emerged late last year and transmitted real-time information about its discovery and spread in China to the Trump administration,” Karen DeYoung, Lena Sun and Emily Rauhala report. “A number of CDC staff members are regularly detailed to work at the WHO in Geneva as part of a rotation that has operated for years. Senior Trump-appointed health officials also consulted regularly at the highest levels with the WHO as the crisis unfolded … The presence of so many U.S. officials undercuts Trump’s assertion that the WHO’s failure to communicate the extent of the threat, born of a desire to protect China, is largely responsible for the rapid spread of the virus in the United States." (Dana Milbank broke the story in his column.)

The U.S. alerted Israel and NATO in November of an outbreak in China, Israeli outlets say: “According to Channel 12 news, the US intelligence community became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of that month and drew up a classified document. Information on the disease outbreak was not in the public domain at that stage — and was known only apparently to the Chinese government. US intelligence informed the Trump administration, ‘which did not deem it of interest,’ but the report said the Americans also decided to update two allies with the classified document: NATO and Israel, specifically the IDF.”

Bigger picture, Americans are experiencing the biggest expansion of government authority in generations. 

“Despite a broad consensus behind this emergency surge in government spending and power, a huge debate over what government does and should do lies ahead,” writes Dan Balz. “That battle will be waged on terms that could be far different from those that existed before the pandemic … More spending could be required in the future to patch the holes the pandemic has revealed. The nation also is likely to need higher taxes — and not just on the wealthiest — to help repay the gigantic debt Washington is incurring to rescue the economy and workers. … The coming battle over the size and scope of government has not been fully joined, and its shape remains uncertain. The first engagement will come during this fall’s presidential election.” 

The domestic damage

“It was impossible. It’s still impossible.” 

Mikaela Sakal, an emergency room nurse at an overwhelmed hospital in Detroit, talked to Eli Saslow about the difficult decision she made to quit her job because of insufficient staffing and support. “Nothing went by the book. We did the best we could, and it was never close to enough. Every night, we had to come into work and rewrite the rules," she said. "I wish I could forget how bad it got. Like the night it was just Joey and me assigned to 26 critical patients. … This night we had eight on vents and the rest on supplemental oxygen. Some of the patients were awake and some were sedated. A few patients had been in there for 90 hours. The ICU was full and we didn’t have anywhere else to put people. … It hurt to do it. The alarms were going off and ambulances were coming in. We handed over our badges and walked out the door.” 

Patients with heart attacks, strokes and even appendicitis have vanished from hospitals. 

“Five weeks into the nationwide lockdown, many doctors believe the pandemic has produced a silent sub-epidemic of people who need care at hospitals but dare not come in. They include people with inflamed appendixes, infected gall bladders and bowel obstructions, and more ominously, chest pains and stroke symptoms, ” Lenny Bernstein and Frances Stead Sellers report. “Some doctors worry that illness and mortality from unaddressed health issues may rival the carnage produced by the virus in regions less affected by covid-19. And some expect they will soon see patients who have dangerously delayed seeking care as ongoing symptoms force them to overcome their fear.”

Faces of the fallen:
  • Skylar Herbert, a 5-year-old who tested positive for the virus and then developed meningoencephalitis, a rare complication, died in Detroit. She was the daughter of first responders. (Detroit News)
  • Bennie Adkins, who received a Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam, died in Alabama at 86. (Adam Bernstein)
  • Jerry Givens, a former Virginia executioner who became an activist against the death penalty, died in Richmond at 67. (Harrison Smith)
  • April Dunn, a fierce advocate for people with disabilities in Louisiana and the driving force behind a state bill that provided alternative graduation paths for them, died at 33. (Derek Hawkins)
  • Luis Arellano, a home attendant who took care of older people, went to three different New York City hospitals in search of medical attention. When he finally found one that had space for him, he died. He was 65. (NYT)
The D.C. region saw slight reductions in new cases from Saturday to Sunday.

The District, Virginia and Maryland have a combined total of 24,200 confirmed infections and 930 deaths from the virus, but there are glimmers of hope. “Virginia reported fewer new cases Saturday and Sunday compared with Friday, when it reported 602 new cases, the highest single-day increase. The state reported 8,567 confirmed cases Sunday, up 484 from Saturday,” Luz Lazo, Erin Cox and Hannah Natanson report. “There were 12,836 confirmed coronavirus cases in [Maryland], including 522 new cases. The state reported 736 new cases Saturday. … The District added 127 confirmed cases Sunday — 63 fewer than added Saturday, bringing its total to 2,797.” But the leaders of all three jurisdictions agree that they need to see at least 14 days of continuing declines in deaths and hospitalizations before considering whether to lift restrictions.

Quote of the day

Ben O’Donnell, a 38-year-old Ironman athlete, was Minnesota’s first confirmed coronavirus case. Doctors say he was close to death and placed on a ventilator and a heart-lung pump. As he successfully fought for survival, he repeated the mantra that fueled his Ironman finishes: “Don’t stop, don’t quit, keep moving forward.” (Star Tribune)

The foreign fallout

Stirrings of unrest around the world portend more turmoil.

“Tens of thousands of migrant laborers stranded without work or a way home staged demonstrations last week in the Indian city of Mumbai,” Liz Sly reports from Beirut. “In Kenya, as many people had died in police crackdowns on citizens defying curfew as of covid-19 … In Italy’s relatively impoverished south, the lifting of restrictions earlier this month led to a crime wave that obliged police to guard supermarkets targeted for robberies by hungry citizens. … 

More than 2 billion people worldwide depend on daywork to survive … and for many of them, not working often means not eating. A recent study by a U.N. think tank, the World Institute for Development Economics Research, warned that 500,000 people could slide into absolute poverty as a result of the pandemic’s restrictions. …

A second or third wave of coronavirus infections could rattle even authoritarian states such as China, where the ruling Communist Party has maintained a tight grip on its citizens for the past three decades by delivering soaring prosperity in return for political loyalty. … The social contract could be at risk … Dozens of people in the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, took to the streets to demand rent forgiveness after lockdown restrictions were lifted earlier this month. Violent clashes erupted between police and protesters on the border between the provinces of Hubei and Jiangxi after lockdown restrictions were lifted in Hubei and police in the neighboring province refused to allow Hubei residents to enter.”

  • “Concerns about a new wave of infections in the far northeastern province of Heilongjiang have prompted a lockdown near the Russia-China border, with checkpoints closed and enhanced restrictions on travel,” Antonia Farzan reports.
  • At least 20 staffers in the Afghan presidential palace have tested positive. This has prompted 70-year-old Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who suffers from pre-existing stomach ailments, “to limit most of his contact with staff to digital communication,” Reuters reports.
Brazil’s president spoke at an anti-quarantine protest.

Jair Bolsonaro “enthusiastically addressed demonstrators in Brasília who demanded an end to business shutdowns and quarantine guidelines imposed by governors around the country,” the Times reports. “The protest, one of several held across the country, included calls for the armed forces to shut down Congress and the Supreme Court and a return to military rule. Leaders in those branches of government have been highly critical of Mr. Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and broadly agree that quarantine measures are necessary to avert a public health calamity. … Brazil had 38,654 diagnosed coronavirus cases and 2,462 confirmed deaths.” 

  • More than 2,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to form an “emergency” government. The demonstrators wore masks and largely kept their distance from one another. (AP)
  • Outbreaks in Mexico’s hospitals sparked protests by nurses and doctors around the country. (Mary Beth Sheridan)
  • Australia will force Facebook and Google to pay for news as the virus hits media ad revenue. (Antonia Farzan)
Countries that acted more swiftly than the U.S. are relaxing restrictions. 

Denmark and the Czech Republic are preparing to reopen some businesses today, while Norway is allowing children back into kindergartens and Poland will make parks and forests accessible again. Germany is set to reopen many nonessential businesses, including car dealers and bookshops, but restaurants, bars and most larger stores will remain closed. (Rick Noack)

Other news that should be on your radar
  • At least 16 people were killed during a shooting rampage and manhunt in rural Nova Scotia, the deadliest such attack in Canadian history. (Amanda Coletta)
  • Ten years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Trump administration weakened safety regulations meant to prevent such a spill from happening again. The White House eliminated the requirement for independent inspectors set by the Obama administration, which was written to ensure that companies wouldn’t police themselves. (Steven Mufson)
  • For the second Sunday in a row and continuing into today, the South endured severe weather, including widespread tornadoes, hail and rainfall. Multiple waves of severe thunderstorms are anticipated today from Mississippi to the South Carolina coast. Tornado watches stretched from southern Mississippi and Alabama through the Florida Panhandle and into southwest Georgia. (Matthew Cappucci, Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman)

Social media speed read

A woman snatched a Confederate flag off a truck:

Russia cancelled its Victory Day parade and quarantined those who were set to participate in it:

A kangaroo was caught hopping through an empty business district in Australia:

Videos of the day

John Oliver covered the latest news about the contagion:

Trevor Noah focused on some good news: