with Mariana Alfaro

Attorney General Bill Barr directed all 93 U.S. attorneys on Monday to “be on the lookout for state and local directives” that curtail individual rights in the name of containing the novel coronavirus. 

“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks,” Barr wrote in a two-page memo, “and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

President Trump has put the onus on governors to decide when to ease stay-at-home orders and reopen their states. While somewhat erratic and contradictory vis-a-vis Georgia’s policy to start reopening last week, Trump has made increasingly clear in public and private – including a conference call on Monday – that he wants the nation’s governors to open sooner than later.

This new declaration by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, who has heavily politicized the Justice Department during his tenure, should be read as a warning to governors and mayors that they may face challenges in federal court if they don’t move quick enough to relax restrictions.

It also foreshadows how litigious the reopening of the country could become, as individuals bring lawsuits against states – with possible assistance and support from the federal government. Judges in Illinois and Virginia issued rulings on Monday, for example, that undermined the orders by governors in those states.

Barr announced that his point men on “this important initiative” will be Matt Schneider, the Detroit-based U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general who is best known for service as one of Ken Starr’s lieutenants during the investigation of President Bill Clinton. This seems notable because Trump has specifically decried restrictions imposed on residents by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and leads a top battleground state in the presidential election. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!,” Trump tweeted on April 17.

Barr did not specify any policies in the memo, but he said the duo will review what’s going on and, “if necessary,” take corrective action. “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court,” the attorney general wrote.

During an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last week, Barr explained that the Justice Department can try to intimidate governors into backing away from policies the Trump administration opposes. “If we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them,” he said. “And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statements of interest and side with the plaintiffs.” He added: “The idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest.”

A few weeks ago, Barr told Laura Ingraham on Fox News that he considers some policies “draconian” and telegraphed that a hardball approach was coming. “When this period of time, at the end of April, expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have,” he said, “and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves.”

The Justice Department has thus far intervened in only a single lawsuit related to coronavirus restrictions, appearing to back a Greenville, Miss., church that had sued over the city’s efforts to shut down drive-in religious services, Matt Zapotosky reports: “Even in that instance, the department did not unequivocally support Temple Baptist Church in its legal statement of interest, though it said the circumstances the church described ‘suggest that the city singled out churches for distinctive treatment,’ which would be unconstitutional. … The city ultimately backed down in the suit.”

In his Monday memo, Barr wrote: “The legal restrictions on state and local authority are not limited to discrimination against religious institutions and religious believers. For example, the Constitution also forbids, in certain circumstances, discrimination against disfavored speech and undue interference with the national economy.”

Legal fights are bubbling up in courts across the country.

A judge in Illinois ruled on Monday that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker cannot enforce his stay-at-home order against Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey. Bailey, who represents a rural area that’s been spared from the contagion, argued that the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act restricts a governor’s emergency powers to 30 days from the day he declares a disaster, which was March 9. “The governor was just clearly overreaching his authority and his powers,” Bailey told Meagan Flynn

Pritzker promised to appeal. “Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try and dismantle public health directives designed to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this covid-19 crisis, and it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness,” the governor said in a statement. 

In Virginia, a circuit court judge ruled on Monday that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) exceeded his authority by forcing an indoor gun range to close as part of his stay-at-home order. This marks the first victory by a business challenging the commonwealth’s restrictions, and legal experts told Justin Jouvenal that the case will spur others.

Last week, Wisconsin state GOP lawmakers sued Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and asked the state’s supreme court to invalidate his stay-at-home order. They want rural counties to decide their own approaches, not the state, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.

Two California residents, including a GOP candidate for Congress, sued Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday, arguing that they were illegally denied permits to protest Newsom’s stay-at-home restrictions and the state’s slow processing of gun background checks. The lawsuit seeks an end to Newson’s restrictions, the Los Angeles Times reports.

For now, Americans overwhelmingly support state-imposed restrictions.

Fresh Washington Post-University of Maryland polling released this morning shows that Americans’ concerns about becoming seriously ill from the virus have not eased in the past week, and Americans continue to give their governors significantly higher ratings than they offer Trump, who still draws mostly negative reviews for his handling of the crisis. “Nearly 2 in 3 Americans say the restrictions on restaurants, stores and other businesses in their states are appropriate, with another 16 percent saying they are not tight enough. Just under 2 in 10, or 17 percent, call the limits on business activity too restrictive,” Dan Balz and Scott Clement report:

“About 7 in 10 (72 percent) Democrats and 6 in 10 (62 percent) Republicans say their state’s current restrictions on businesses are appropriate. Republicans are more likely to say their state is too restrictive on businesses, though fewer than 3 in 10 say this (27 percent), compared with 17 percent of independents and 8 percent of Democrats. Even in the dozen states that have begun to loosen restrictions or that had less restrictive orders in place, a majority of residents support their state’s limitations, with 59 percent calling them appropriate, 18 percent saying they are too restrictive and 22 percent calling them not restrictive enough — the last figure being eight points higher than in the states with more stringent orders in place.”

More on the federal response

The White House’s new testing guidance leaves states largely on their own. 

“Governors, congressional leaders and public health officials have pressed for a robust testing plan from the federal government, insisting that frequent and widespread testing is crucial to ending the stay-at-home orders that have idled businesses across much of the country. Trump responded Monday by announcing what the White House called a ‘blueprint’ for increasing testing capacity. But it leaves the onus on states to develop their own plans and rapid-response programs. A White House document said the federal role would include ‘strategic direction and technical assistance,’ as well as the ability to ‘align laboratory testing supplies and capacity with existing and anticipated laboratory needs.’ The federal government was described as the ‘supplier of last resort,’Mike DeBonis, Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin report. “Trump outlined the effort at a White House news conference where he was joined by some major retailers, who said they had ramped up the rate of testing and the production of medical supplies. They predicted that they would only accelerate in the month ahead, doubling their rate of testing and the number of sites that would be available to the public. The administration’s top testing official, meanwhile, promised that the United States would conduct at least 8 million tests a month by the end of May. But a previous high-profile public-private initiative announced by the president in March … has been slow to materialize." 

  • Trump said he takes no responsibility for the spike in people using disinfectants improperly in the aftermath of his dangerous suggestion that injecting or ingesting them might serve as an effective treatment. (CNN)
  • The FDA is begging manufacturers to make hand sanitizer taste worse so that kids and teens drink less of it. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Fox News cut ties with Diamond & Silk, two vloggers and Trump-boosting sisters who have promoted conspiracy theories about the virus. (Daily Beast)
  • Telluride, Colo., a small mountain town in a county of 8,000, tested nearly every resident. But the crisis in New York delayed getting the results, and their usefulness. Weeks later, the city found out that 26 out of 4,757 processed tests were positive. Residents have little idea what the situation is now. (Klemko)
  • More than half of U.S. states need to significantly step up their testing before even considering starting to relax their stay-at-home orders, according to a new analysis by Harvard researchers and Stat.
The CDC confirmed six new coronavirus symptoms.

The agency says these can appear two to 14 days after exposure: Chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. “Previously, the CDC listed just three known symptoms: shortness of breath, cough and fever,” Angela Fritz, Michael Brice-Saddler and Maura Judkis report. “Though not listed on the CDC website, fatigue also has been reported in people who have either tested positive or told to assume they have covid-19 when testing was not available. … During the past few weeks, health experts have noted how covid-19 attacks many organs in the body. In some patients, physicians are reporting a blood-clotting complication that does not respond to anticoagulants. Some patients’ lungs fill with hundreds of microclots, autopsies have shown, and larger clots can break off and travel to the brain or heart, causing a stroke or heart attack.”

Cancer patients — especially those with blood or lung malignancies, or tumors that have spread throughout the body — have a higher risk of death or other severe complications from covid-19.  That’s according to a study published this morning, which involved 14 hospitals in Hubei province in central China, where the pandemic emerged, included 105 cancer patients and 536 non-cancer patients of the same age — all of whom had covid-19, Laurie McGinley reports.

British authorities warned doctors of a rise in the number of children requiring ICU care.

“There’s new evidence the disease may be associated with surprising complications in a small number of children. [The National Health Service] issued an alert to physicians warning of an ‘apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions’ that may be related to covid-19,” Ariana Eunjung Cha and Chelsea Janes report. “The [NHS] said the cases, seen during the past three weeks, have ‘common overlapping features’ of toxic shock syndrome and another condition that results in dangerous blood vessel inflammation. The description of symptoms potentially could be related to blood clotting complications described in a small number of critically ill adults diagnosed with covid-19. British health authorities have declined to provide details, including the number of pediatric cases, other than to say serious complications related to the virus are ‘very rare’ but a growing concern.” Toxic shock syndrome is most often discussed in the context of tampon use and women who are menstruating.

In the race for the vaccine, a team of scientists at Oxford is sprinting the fastest. 

“Scientists at the university’s Jenner Institute had a head start on a vaccine, having proved in previous trials that similar inoculations — including one last year against an earlier coronavirus — were harmless to humans,” the Times reports. “That has enabled them to leap ahead and schedule tests of their new coronavirus vaccine involving more than 6,000 people by the end of next month, hoping to show not only that it is safe, but also that it works. The Oxford scientists now say that with an emergency approval from regulators, the first few million doses of their vaccine could be available by September — at least several months ahead of any of the other announced efforts — if it proves to be effective. Now, they have received promising news suggesting that it might. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana last month inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic — exposure that had consistently sickened other monkeys in the lab. But more than 28 days later all six were healthy, said Vincent Munster, the researcher who conducted the test.”

Hospitals plan to ration care differently when overwhelmed.

While hospitals have declined to talk on the record about how they’ve decided to ration care in an attempt to save as many lives as possible, a new paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine examines 29 resource allocation plans. They diverge significantly on multiple issues. Ten, for example, give preference for scarce ventilators to health-care workers. Half of the policies use age as a criterion for rationing ventilators. Four plans went in the opposite direction, prohibiting decisions based on age. Seventeen policies prohibit using criteria such as the ability to pay, race and citizenship to determine who gains access to ventilators. (Ariana Eunjung Cha)

There's also immense inequality across health networks: “Wealthy hospitals sitting on millions or even billions of dollars are in a competitive stampede against near-insolvent hospitals for the same limited pots of financial relief. Those include the $175 billion in relief funds Congress allotted for health-care providers as part of its two most recent coronavirus packages and loans from private banks,” Jordan Rau reports. “Unlike safety-net and smaller hospitals, many big health systems have the resources to stay afloat without financial assistance through the summer and beyond."

Trump’s PDB included more than a dozen classified updates about the contagion in January and February. 

“The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief,” Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima report. “For weeks, the PDB … traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences. But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week … U.S. officials emphasized that the PDB references to the virus included comprehensive articles on aspects of the global outbreak, but also smaller digest items meant to keep Trump and senior administration officials updated on the course of the contagion. Versions of the PDB are also shared with Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking U.S. officials."

The real coronavirus death toll in America is probably much higher than the official count.

“In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health,” Emma Brown, Andrew Ba Tran, Beth Reinhard and Monica Ulmanu report. “The excess deaths — the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year — occurred during March and through April 4, a time when 8,128 coronavirus deaths were reported. The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses, as well as some number of deaths that are part of the ordinary variation in the death rate. The count is also affected by increases or decreases in other categories of deaths, such as suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents. But in any pandemic, higher-than-normal mortality is a starting point for scientists seeking to understand the full impact of the disease."

  • Lorna Breen, the medical director in the emergency department at New York Presbyterian Hospital, died by suicide on Sunday. Breen’s father, also a physician, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the virus took on patients. “She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” Philip Breen said. She was 49. (NYT)
  • After 73 years together, including during World War II, Wilford and Mary Kepler died six hours apart in Wisconsin. Hospital staff moved their beds closer together so they could hold hands. He was 94. She was 92. Both tested positive for the coronavirus. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Antibody testing suggests the virus hit D.C. weeks earlier than thought. 

By the time the rector of a Georgetown church became the city’s patient zero on March 7, Woodley Park resident Kathy Hughes had already been feeling ill for three weeks, Tara Bahrampour reports. “On Feb. 16, a day after returning from a ski trip in northern Italy, the 54-year-old education researcher woke with a fever, chills, a headache and exhaustion. When the illness did not go away after a few days, she went to her doctor. … Her doctor told her the flu test must have been a false negative. It didn’t occur to them that it could be the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Hughes, now recovered from her illness, went to a doctor in Fairfax who administered a finger-prick serology test. Within 10 minutes it came back positive for coronavirus antibodies. If the result was accurate, it would mean the virus was likely present in the District at least three weeks earlier than believed.”

The Paycheck Protection Program reopened with glitches and growing scrutiny. 

“Small businesses must apply for the money through banks, but the SBA guarantees those loans and must approve each application. Shortly after the new round of money became available at 10:30 a.m., bankers around the country began reporting problems accessing the SBA’s Web portal, known as E-Tran, and expressed fury on social media over the faltering computer systems,” Renae Merle, Aaron Gregg and Ben Golliver report. “Adding to the urgency is the design of the program, which is supposed to dole out loans on a first-come, first-served basis. … Some analysts said the new round of funding may go even more quickly.  … The SBA acknowledged some problems with its systems but said that by 3:30 p.m. it had processed 100,000 loans submitted by 4,000 lenders. It did not say how much of the $310 billion had been allocated through those loans. Twice as many people attempted to access the program Monday as during any period in the initial phase of funding, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said … 

“The Los Angeles Lakers on Monday became the latest to say that it had applied and received money under the first round of funding. The NBA franchise pledged to return it, something several other companies and organizations have done after their participation was revealed. It was unclear if any other professional sports franchises received these loans. The NBA left the decision to apply for an SBA loan to its individual teams … At least $500 million went to large publicly held companies, according to a Post analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission records. … Nearly 80 percent of the small businesses that applied for a loan were still waiting for an answer when the first round of funding ran out, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.” 

  • A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order preventing $8 billion in emergency coronavirus aid intended to benefit Native American tribes from being distributed to for-profit corporations. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The government has granted $12.4 billion to 93 airlines and cargo carriers. (Lori Aratani)
  • The IRS called about 10,000 employees back to work, but they must bring their own facial masks. (Axios)
The House and the Senate are on a collision course over what will be in the next response bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “released a statement confirming his intention to bring the Senate back into session May 4 and said his top priority would be ‘strong protections from opportunistic lawsuits’ for health-care workers and businesses,” Erica Werner and John Wagner report. “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told Democrats on a conference call that the House, too, would be reconvening May 4. Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Congress might need to consider offering a guaranteed income to some Americans to help the country recover … The comments from McConnell and Pelosi [set] up an ideological and partisan clash … A number of Democrats in the House and Senate have advanced proposals that would ensure a guaranteed paycheck for workers impacted by the coronavirus. … McConnell’s statement, by contrast, endorsed some type of a ‘liability shield’ that would prevent businesses from being sued by customers who contract the coronavirus, an idea that has been under consideration at the White House.”

Updates from the front lines

Schools are plotting how they might reopen in the fall. 

“The new landscape could include one-way hallways, kids and teachers in masks, and lunch inside classrooms instead of cafeterias. Buses may run half empty, and students may have their temperatures read before entering the building. And in districts all over the country, officials are considering bringing half the students to school on certain days, with the rest learning from home. Then they would swap,” Laura Meckler, Valerie Strauss and Moriah Balingit report. "And while many parents are eager to end the national experiment in remote education, others are terrified that any return to school would expose their children to a deadly disease. But President Trump has pressed to reopen the economy, and one key to a functioning workforce is a school system that allows parents to do their jobs."

Experts warn that the United States could be just weeks away from severe meat shortages. 

The staggering acceleration of supply chain disruptions is raising expectations of looming global shortfalls. The U.S., Brazil and Canada, which account for about 65 percent of the world meat trade, have each closed major factories, Bloomberg News reports.

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new guidance to keep meatpacking workers safe. (Taylor Telford)
  • Belgians are being urged to eat fries at least twice a week to avoid food waste. The potato industry says around 750,000 tons of spuds would probably not be processed unless demand increases because processing is down and freezers are full. (CNBC)
Colorado and Texas began easing restrictions on businesses.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis “is one of three Democratic governors who this week are moving to reopen certain businesses. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock allowed houses of worship to open Sunday and retail stores Monday. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is allowing certain manufacturers and offices that do not have in-person interaction with clients to open,” Robert Klemko and Arelis Hernández report. “In Colorado, the state's stay-at-home order expired Monday, ceding to a tapered plan to reopen the state, beginning with curbside retail sales and elective surgeries Monday. … Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) has extended the city's stay-at-home order until May 8, and suburban counties have followed suit. … 

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) gave most retailers, movie theaters and restaurants the green light to reopen their businesses with limited capacity … The order supersedes local stay-at-home ordinances that are in place in most of the state's biggest cities. The move could set the stage for a clash between the governor and some leaders of Texas's largest metropolitan areas, where the virus's toll has been more acute, over how a gradual reopening will work. Abbott emphasized that as of May 1, business owners, not the government, will decide whether to reopen. … Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) said he worries that infections could spike if reopening moves too quickly and cities aren't able to try to control infection rates with local rules. … Texas has lagged in per capita testing but Abbott said the models he is consulting show the state's new infection rates have declined.”

  • Tennessee restaurants reopened as the state saw its biggest one-day jump in new cases, to 478, a 5.2 percent increase from the previous day. (NPR)
  • Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, told protesters demanding that governors reopen states to dress up as health-care workers to try tricking the media. (Daily Beast)
  • A leader of the ReOpen North Carolina group – which organized two protests calling for Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to lift his stay-at-home order – revealed that she tested positive for the virus. (CBS17)
  • A North Carolina pug became the first dog in America to test positive for the coronavirus. (Daily Beast)
New York is edging toward reopening parts of the state next month.

“‘We are turning the valves on reopening,’ New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said. … [He] wants to partially ‘unpause’ beginning May 15, when regulations expire statewide. Cuomo said he will extend restrictions in some areas of the state,” Anne Gearan and John Wagner report. “Cuomo said officials devising reopening measures should ensure that they meet the CDC’s guidelines, consider how industries and businesses permitted to reopen will physically distance and monitor workers, and evaluate the capacity their local health systems will have during the flu season. Local officials should also think about their testing, tracing and isolating facilities, Cuomo said.” 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) enlisted high-profile national figures to aid the city’s response. 

Michelle Obama has recorded robocalls and radio ads reminding residents to stay at home to limit the spread, while José Andrés is chairing the restaurant committee of the ReOpen D.C. Advisory Group. The group, which will recommend when it’s safe to reopen portions of society, will be led by Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who served as Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush. (Rachel Chason, Fenit Nirappil and Ovetta Wiggins)

The U.N. warned that the virus is being used as a pretext for police brutality and government crackdowns.

“In some countries, thousands have also been detained for curfew violations, a practice that is both unnecessary and unsafe,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “Jails and prisons are high risk environments, and states should focus on releasing whoever can be safely released, not detaining more people.” Photos released by the office of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, which show hundreds of inmates stripped to their shorts and jammed together with little protection against the virus, sparked concerns of human rights abuses. The government cracked down on jailed gang members after 60 people were killed over the weekend. (Mary Beth Sheridan and Anna-Catherine Brigida)

Hostess bars and cherry blossoms helped undermine Japan’s response. 

“Bars, clubs and gambling halls have become weak links in Japan’s efforts to control covid-19, but they are only one part of a much broader story — of a government reluctant to impose a blanket lockdown and desperate to minimize the economic pain of its virus response,” Simon Denyer reports. “Japan’s response to the coronavirus also has been limited by a lack of testing capacity, and the government’s initial reluctance to allow private-sector screening — making it hard to replicate South Korea’s success with mass testing. So an infection-control team headed by Hitoshi Oshitani of Tohoku University placed its bets on a cluster-based approach. … The strategy initially seemed successful: Working round-the-clock to track down the clusters, the team tamped down the first wave of infections from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship in February with little social disruption. But then the approach started to unravel as a new wave of infections entered Japan from Europe and the United States before tougher travel restrictions were put in place.” 

  • The head of the Japanese Medical Association said it will be difficult for Tokyo to host the Olympic Games in 2021 unless a vaccine has been developed by next summer. (Teo Armus)
  • Hundreds of thousands of workers returned to garment factories in Bangladesh, even as the rest of the country remains under lockdown. (Armus)
  • New Zealand reported just one new case on Monday, marking the end of a strict five-week lockdown and allowing nearly half a million people to return to work. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern placed the country under a Level 3 alert, which means New Zealanders will be able to hold small funerals and buy takeaway food. (CNN)
  • The World Health Organization is putting a stronger focus on shipping equipment for tests and protection for medical professionals to Latin America amid the threat of a bottleneck. (Rick Noack)
  • The British government failed to include crucial items of personal protective equipment including gowns, swabs, body bags and visors in its pandemic stockpile, the BBC found. (Jennifer Hassan)
  • Mexico cleared its migrant shelters by sending thousands back to their home countries. Across 65 migrant centers and shelters in the country, only 106 people are left, the government said. In March, those facilities were holding 3,759 migrants. (Antonia Farzan)
The pandemic, for many of us, sounds like a heartbreaking silence.

“In India, the incessant beep-beep of cars has disappeared. In New York, Harlem’s heart has stopped beating. In the suburbs of Detroit, the chatter of neighbors is muffled. In Toronto, the trains no longer whistle, and in Marseille, every day sounds like a holiday. All around the world, the silence rolls in and out like fog. It hangs in the air — there but not there. Impenetrable and fragile, weightless and smothering,” writes Robin Givhan. “Some people find the quiet calming. They feel closer to God. They give in to the stillness and consider their destiny. They have a silver-lining attitude: The air is cleaner; crimes rates have dropped; school shootings ceased in the United States. If you tilt your head and squint, the quieting of the world can be seen as a gift. But when we, the agitated, try to breathe deeply and locate our spiritual center, it’s elusive.”

Quote of the day

“I went to some very dark places,” CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin wrote in her coronavirus diary. “Under the influence of coronavirus, as each day came to a close, I would often cry, unable to stave off the sense of dread and isolation I felt about what was to come.” (Allyson Chiu)

Another story that should be on your radar

Trump allies highlighted new claims regarding allegations against Joe Biden.

“Apparent corroboration surfaced this week for elements of two accusations made by Biden’s former Senate aide Tara Reade, one involving harassment and the second a sexual assault,” Matt Viser reports. “Biden has not commented on the allegations, but his campaign has denied them and pointed to his record on women’s rights and promotion of women in his offices. Lynda LaCasse, who was one of Reade’s neighbors in California, where Reade moved after working for Biden, said in an interview with Business Insider published Monday that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that Biden had ‘put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her.’

“Lorraine Sanchez, a former colleague of Reade’s in the office of a California state senator, also told the news outlet that Reade told her in the mid-1990s that she ‘had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired.’ Sanchez did not recall whether Reade mentioned Biden specifically, or whether she provided further details about the allegation. In recent days, a 1993 call into Larry King’s CNN talk show also surfaced. In it, a woman whom Reade identified as her now-deceased mother called to report unspecified ‘problems’ her daughter was having with her employer, whom she called ‘a prominent senator.’ The caller said her daughter did not want to go public with her account ‘out of respect for’ the unnamed senator.”

  • Biden leads Trump by six points, 44 percent to 38 percent, in a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll. This is a shift from Trump’s three-point lead in the survey late last year. (USA Today)
  • The state of New York canceled its presidential primary, angering Bernie Sanders and his team. Despite being out of the race, the democratic socialist hopes to continue gathering delegates to the Democratic National Convention to gain leverage over the party's platform. (Sean Sullivan)

Social media speed read

Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) for reopening parts of the Hawkeye State:

And a former Senate majority leader reacted to some footage of UFOs:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert showed Trump that sarcasm can sometimes work: 

Seth Meyers reviewed Trump’s declining poll numbers: