with Mariana Alfaro
The U.N. Children’s Fund has issued a warning that the diversion of health-care resources from existing health programs in order to combat the novel coronavirus could lead to as many as 1.2 million extra deaths among kids under 5 over the next six months. That would average out to 6,000 kids dying every day of preventable causes.
This staggering number is the worst-case scenario in a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal this week by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. These deaths are in addition to the 2.5 million children who already die every six months before their fifth birthdays across the 118 countries analyzed in the study. Experts fear this could be the first time in decades that the number of children dying before their fifth birthday will increase.
Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has mostly spared young people, with some alarming exceptions that the medical establishment is scrambling to better understand. But that does not mean that kids are safe or insulated from grave suffering as a result of the worst public health crisis since the 1910s and the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.
The study suggests that up to 56,700 more maternal deaths could also occur in the next six months, in addition to the 144,000 moms who already normally die over a six-month period in those 118 countries. “We must not let mothers and children become collateral damage in the fight against the virus,” said Henrietta Fore, the executive director of UNICEF. “And we must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths be lost.”
There have now been 302,658 reported deaths from the coronavirus worldwide, with 4.4 million infections. The United States has reported more than 85,000 coronavirus deaths, with at least 1.4 million confirmed cases, and these are probably significant undercounts.
In addition to the body counts, and daily dispatches from hot spots about loved ones who have succumbed, this week has brought a deluge of stomach-churning numbers that illustrate the cascading economic and humanitarian fallout from the contagion. In many cases, shutdown orders are spawning unintended consequences that are causing the world’s poorest communities to careen deeper into deprivation.
The International Labour Organization calculates nearly half the people in the global workforce have already lost their jobs, including 1.6 billion of the world’s 2 billion informal workers.
The World Bank estimates that the loss of income for people already living close to the margins of survival will propel up to 50 million people into abject poverty this year.
The United Nations says 580 million could become impoverished as a result of the crisis.
“And as incomes are lost, a ‘hunger pandemic’ could eclipse the coronavirus, the World Food Program has warned; 130 million people are expected to join the ranks of the 135 million who were expected to suffer from acute hunger this year, the agency says, bringing to 265 million the number of those at risk of starvation,” Liz Sly reports from Beirut.
The hunt for a hospital bed in Brazil can last hours, and some patients don’t live to see one.
“Brazil’s failure to provide enough hospital beds for the surging number of critical coronavirus patients is yielding increasingly grim results across the country, but particularly in Manaus, a city of 2 million people on the Amazon River deep in the rainforest,” Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano report. “More than 2,000 people died in Manaus in April, more than four times the monthly average. Now, the city is running out of coffins. Hundreds are dying at home, either because they can’t get treatment at the hospitals or because they fear they won’t. Ambulances race down streets with no clear destination, waiting for someone to die and relinquish a hospital bed. … As the pandemic moves into its next phase, pushing into the poorer nations of Africa and Latin America, the possibility of expansion has been far more limited. … In Brazil, which has registered more than 196,000 coronavirus cases and more than 13,000 deaths — by far the most in the Southern Hemisphere — coronavirus patients are spending their final days waiting in chairs.”
- Haiti, which has been spared from a major outbreak so far, is now a tinderbox set to explode as thousands of workers return from the Dominican Republic, many bringing the virus with them. This is expected to spark a flare-up that the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will be unable to handle. (Kevin Sieff)
- Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pushed back yesterday on an independent report from his own government indicating that the pandemic could drag 6.1 million to 10.7 million of his countrymen into extreme poverty. Meanwhile, authorities postponed restarting the country’s auto and mining industries by two weeks. (Teo Armus)
- In Yemen, the number of people dying with coronavirus symptoms is spiking as hospitals shut down. Only 803 tests have been conducted so far in the country, even though at least 385 people died over the last week with what appeared to be covid-19. (Sudarsan Raghavan)
Here in the United States, the economic outlook is stark.
A Federal Reserve survey found that 39 percent of Americans with household incomes below $40,000 lost a job in March, compared to 13 percent of Americans earning over $100,000. “A huge issue is that only certain types of work can be done from home. Sixty-three percent of workers with a college degree could fully work from home in March, the Fed found, versus only 20 percent of workers with a high school degree or less,” Andrew Van Dam and Heather Long report. “Over a third of people who were laid off couldn’t pay their bills in April. … A third of renters have not paid their May rent at all or in full, according to a survey by Apartment List, an online rental marketplace.”
A Census Bureau survey found that 7 percent of small-business owners said in late April and early May that they had no cash on hand, and another 9.5 percent say they cannot cover more than a week of operations. About half would be out of cash within a month, and only 17 percent said they could last three months or longer without revenue. “Already, 11.5 percent of small businesses — including 29.5 percent of accommodation and food-services operations — reported missing loan payments,” per Andrew and Heather. “And 24 percent reported missing other bills or scheduled payments. That number soars to 51 percent for food services and accommodation.”
Seventy-five percent of small businesses requested loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the Census Bureau survey, which was sent to 100,000 firms. Only 17 percent of businesses reported seeking no assistance at all.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that roughly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, contributing to the total 36.5 million workers who have sought to receive weekly unemployment checks in the past eight weeks. The official unemployment rate in April was 14.7 percent.
Studies show rising unemployment is connected to deaths of despair. A report released last Friday by the Well Being Trust estimated that as many as an additional 75,000 Americans could die from drugs, alcohol or suicide as a result of the dislocation caused by the contagion. “Heightened anxiety is a near-universal trigger for drug use, and it is difficult to think of a more stressful event — for all of us — than this pandemic,” said Peter Grinspoon, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
More on the federal response
Ousted official Rick Bright testified that it might take years to develop a vaccine ready for widespread distribution.
Bright, “who filed a whistleblower complaint after he was removed from a senior post at the Department of Health and Human Services last month, said his superiors dismissed urgent warnings in January and early February about an impending shortage of N95 respirator masks. Bright also said the administration delayed potential work on a U.S.-made vaccine by not acting fast enough or forcefully enough to press China for samples of the virus. And Bright said his removal showcased how, generally, politics overtook science as Trump took center stage in responding to the U.S. crisis,” Aaron Davis, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report. “Bright alleged he was reassigned to a lesser post and locked out of his email account as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after pushing back against plans for the government to invest in unproven covid-19 treatments such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. …
“Bright also went further, painting a bleak picture of the U.S. government’s ability going forward to manage a second wave of the virus if one coincides with the country’s winter flu season. Bright said there is still ‘no master plan’ for assessing the need for and distribution of masks, testing swabs and other medical equipment. Bright also said the government was doing a disservice to Americans by playing down the possibility that it could take years to develop a vaccine that could be ready for mass distribution. The United States faces the ‘darkest winter in modern history’ if it does not develop a more coordinated national response, he said. ‘Our window of opportunity is closing.’ …
“Mike Bowen, co-owner of Prestige Ameritech, the country’s last full-line medical mask manufacturer, took his place at the witness table and recounted how he had offered to HHS to ramp up production of N95 masks in January, but his plan was cast aside. … Under questioning, Bowen said that if HHS had taken him up on his offer, he could have been producing an additional 7 million N95 respirators a month by now. … Asked later if he was troubled by the administration’s response to the pandemic, including reassigning Bright, Bowen said he had been. ‘I’m a lifelong Republican, and I’m embarrassed by how that’s been handled,’ Bowen said. ‘Like Rick Bright said, it’s the scientists we need to be listening to, and we’re not.’”
Trump announced an effort to expand the national stockpile of emergency gear.
“Neither the president nor senior administration officials who briefed reporters before his remarks addressed the effort’s cost,” Amy Goldstein reports. ”They did not say whether building up the supplies would affect the administration’s method for allotting the materials, which has been relatively opaque. And they did not say whether the plan would alter Trump’s stance that the stockpile should be a resource of last resort and that states and hospitals should buy whatever protective gear they can on their own.”
- The French government said it would be “unacceptable” for French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to give the U.S. first access to its potential coronavirus vaccine. The pushback came after comments by Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, who said the U.S. would get access to the largest preorder “because it’s invested in taking the risk.” (James McAuley)
- The administration is drafting a “Made in the U.S.” order requiring vital drugs and medical treatments to be produced here. It's being reviewed by lawyers at the Pentagon and HHS. (Bloomberg News)
- DHS began collecting DNA from arrested undocumented immigrants. (Politico)
The CDC offered short reopening checklists after OMB blocked the release of substantive guidance.
The agency released the guidelines for child-care centers, schools, youth camps, restaurants and bars, workplaces and mass transit systems in separate, one-page PDFs. "The six checklists … come days, and in some cases weeks, after many states have begun to lift restrictions on their own. The advice is less detailed than [the 63-page] draft recommendations the agency sent to the White House for review last month,” Lenny Bernstein, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Holly Bailey report. “The nation is still awaiting that detailed technical guidance, which the White House has held up and not shared publicly. The delay has left the responsibility for decision-making about reopening to states and localities. It has also left many health experts clamoring for greater transparency. … A CDC spokesman said additional recommendations may still come from the agency. … But with many states already moving on, it is unclear what impact any additional recommendations might have. …
"Trump has been pushing for states to reopen, and on Thursday he traveled to Pennsylvania to urge its leadership to loosen its coronavirus restrictions … His visit to the swing state — during which he attacked its Democratic governor, whom Trump views as moving too slowly to reopen — came on the same day that he cheered a ‘win’ in Wisconsin, where a court ruling against stay-at-home orders issued by another Democratic governor led to chaos and scenes of bars packed with people. Trump’s us-against-them language underscored the rift with federal scientists who continue to warn against lifting coronavirus restrictions too swiftly amid fears of the potential for a new wave of infections and fatalities. … Trump also called testing ‘overrated’ as a tool to track and control the virus, even though the White House has moved to a protocol of testing all visitors and requiring most employees to wear masks. …
“The documents released Thursday were reviewed extensively by White House Office of Management and Budget officials who were concerned the initial draft was too burdensome on churches and restaurants, among others. The CDC removed from an earlier draft a recommendation that no facility open in an area where spread of the virus requires 'significant mitigation.' … No decision tree for faith communities was released. Telling houses of worship how to operate stirred controversy when the CDC’s original draft instructions were leaked last month."
Meanwhile, Trump made this bizarre statement in the Keystone State that suggested a lack of understanding of how the virus works or the proportional scale of testing: “Don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world," he said. “But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases." People still get the virus whether they're tested or not — and the United States does not lead the world in per capita testing.
In contrast to the U.S. government, McDonald’s gave its franchisees a 59-page guide on how to reopen their dining rooms, suggesting dozens of changes, including commitments to clean the bathrooms every half-hour and either closing down the public soda fountains or having someone monitor it. The illustrated guide also includes social distancing measures and new purchasing recommendations, including foot-pulls to allow customers to open doors without using their hands, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Quote of the day
“They’re running into death just like soldiers run into bullets, in a true sense,” Trump said of health-care workers in Pennsylvania. “It’s incredible to see. It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Sen. Richard Burr is stepping aside as Intelligence Committee chairman while the FBI investigates his stock sales.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that Burr, a North Carolina Republican, informed him Thursday morning of his decision to step aside as committee chairman ‘during the pendency of the investigation.’ The two agreed, McConnell added, ‘that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee’ and was to take effect Friday,” Devlin Barrett, Seung Min Kim, Spencer Hsu and Katie Shepherd report. “Also Thursday, aides to Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) acknowledged that the senators had been in contact with federal law enforcement. Feinstein had been questioned by FBI agents about stock sales, which she has said were done by her husband and without her knowledge, a spokesperson said. Loeffler’s office acknowledged she had turned over documents related to stock sales she says she did not actively participate in. … Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) also has faced public scrutiny over his stock moves before the pandemic. His office did not respond to requests for comment Thursday."
"The shake-up will force McConnell to reconfigure the Intelligence Committee’s Republican side. Aides to the majority leader declined to comment Thursday afternoon when asked whom he might install as chairman. Burr is expected to remain on the committee even though he will not be chairman. … If McConnell chooses to go by seniority, Sen. James E. Risch (Idaho), would be next in line to chair the committee, but he already leads the Foreign Relations Committee. After Risch is Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), a national security hawk who had been widely expected to take over the committee once Burr retires. But Rubio currently leads the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, a once-sleepy panel now suddenly relevant with a small-business lending program at the center of a $2 trillion coronavirus pandemic rescue package passed by Congress. Risch and Rubio declined to comment at the Capitol, as did their offices.”
Democrats are scrutinizing a State Department plan to overhaul Social Security.
“The policy proposal, known as the ‘Eagle Plan,’ is one of the options that have circulated in the Trump administration to address concerns about the ballooning national debt due to massive federal spending to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak,” John Hudson reports. “Reps. Joaquin Castro (Tex.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and John B. Larson (Conn.), the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, sent a letter to a State Department official on Thursday asking for the ‘complete and unredacted’ version of the plan, a list of the individuals who contributed to it and any other related documents. The proposal, first reported by The Post, calls for giving Americans $10,000 upfront in exchange for curbing their federal retirement benefits, such as Social Security.”
- The Aspen Institute will return the $8 million it accepted through the Paycheck Protection Program a day after saying it needed the federal money to fill budget shortfalls. (Jonathan O’Connell)
Dispatches from the front lines
“We’re the Wild West,” Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said after crowds rushed to reopened bars.
“It was sometime after 10 p.m. when ‘Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress’ by the Hollies came over the sound system and a bartender took out his camera. In a Twitter broadcast, he surveyed the room of maskless patrons crammed together, partying like it was 2019. A few were pounding on the bar to the beat. Some were clapping their hands in the air and some were fist-pumping, a scene so joyous they could have been celebrating the end of the worst pandemic in a century,” Meagan Flynn reports. “Evers (D) knew, they were just celebrating the apparent end of his power over them — at least for now. ‘We’re the Wild West,’ Evers told [MSNBC] … There are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin. … So at this point in time … there is nothing that’s compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here.’ Chaos it was.”
- Michigan closed down its Lansing capitol and canceled its legislative session to avoid more armed protests and to protect Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who has been deluged by death threats. (Bloomberg News)
- Anti-lockdown protesters are ramping up violent rhetoric. Video from outside Michigan's capitol shows people struggling over an ax while surrounded by others carrying firearms. At a protest in Long Island, N.Y., people carried signs with messages like: “Hang Fauci. Hang Gates. Open all our states.” (Katie Shepherd and Moriah Balingit)
- Airlines have instructed flight crews to avoid escalating a situation once airborne if a passenger refuses to follow the rule to wear a mask. (Hannah Sampson)
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) put the head of the city’s public hospitals in charge of contact tracing, despite this being the same aide who pushed to keep the city open in March. (NYT)
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended his state disaster emergency until June 13, although some Upstate regions may still begin the first phase of reopening if they meet certain criteria. (Pix11)
- A New York barber who continued to illicitly cut hair in defiance of stay-at-home rules tested positive for the virus and may have infected customers. (Antonia Farzan)
- An Arkansas concert venue that planned to defy Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) stay-at-home order by holding a Travis McCready concert backed down after having its liquor license suspended. (Farzan)
- The NFL is hoping for a full season this fall, but state-by-state issues could complicate things. Some teams might have to be relocated, either for training camp or for the season, and some games may have to be rescheduled. This was underscored this week by the news that the Los Angeles County could extend the safer-at-home measures for three months, which would affect both the Rams and the Chargers. (Mark Maske)
- Disney put its Broadway show “Frozen” permanently on ice, making it the first musical that will not return to Times Square after the restrictions ease. (Peter Marks)
“I wish I could do something for you,” a doctor told a New York Times writer who fell ill with the virus.
“I worry for Americans elsewhere. When I see photographs of crowds packing into a newly reopened big-box store in Arkansas or scores of people jammed into a Colorado restaurant without masks, it’s clear too many Americans still don’t grasp the power of this disease,” writes the Times’s Mara Gay. “The second day I was sick, I woke up to what felt like hot tar buried deep in my chest. I could not get a deep breath unless I was on all fours. I’m healthy. I’m a runner. I’m 33 years old. In the emergency room an hour later, I sat on a hospital bed, alone and terrified, my finger hooked to a pulse-oxygen machine. To my right lay a man who could barely speak but coughed constantly. To my left was an older man who said that he had been sick for a month and had a pacemaker. He kept apologizing to the doctors for making so much trouble, and thanking them for taking such good care of him. I can’t stop thinking about him even now. Finally, Dr. Audrey Tan walked toward me, her kind eyes meeting mine from behind a mask, goggles and a face shield. ‘Any asthma?’ she asked. ‘Do you smoke? Any pre-existing conditions?’ ‘No, no, none,’ I replied. Dr. Tan smiled, then shook her head, almost imperceptibly. ‘I wish I could do something for you,’ she said.”
- Virologist and epidemiologist Joseph Fair, who’s been hospitalized with the virus, said he believes he contracted it through his eyes on a crowded flight. “I had a mask on, I had gloves on, I did my normal wipes routine,” the 42-year-old told NBC News. “But obviously, you can still get it through your eyes. And, of course, I wasn’t wearing goggles on the flight.” Eyes are “one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we just don’t pay a lot of attention to," Fair said. “Droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious.”
- Michael Rhodes, an Ohio father who went to D.C. to help fight the virus as a nurse is now sick on a ventilator “far away from home.” Rhodes, 46, initially traveled from Columbus, Ohio, after the pandemic forced his nonessential business to close and he forfeited his salary to his workers, his fiancée said. (People)
- “It’s not the flu,” said Marianna Harrison, a 41-year-old Chicagoan who got sick with the virus. “I try to describe it to people — it feels like an alien has taken over your body. It doesn’t feel like anything you’ve ever had. … You just don’t feel right. You can feel that there is something different and you can’t explain how it feels. You’re just so tired, your whole body aches. … You’re not hungry but you know you have to eat.” (Block Club)
A majority of Americans going to work fear exposing their household to the coronavirus.
A Washington Post-Ipsos poll of more than 8,000 adults in late April and early May found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside of their homes were concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect other members of their household. Those concerns were even higher for some: About 7 in 10 black and Hispanic respondents said they were worried about getting a household member sick if they are exposed at work. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans -- and over half of those with jobs -- have continued to leave the house for work at least once a week as the virus spread and states issued stay-at-home orders in March and April, the poll found. More than one-third of people still going to work said they or a household member have a serious chronic illness, and 13 percent said they lack health insurance themselves. Look at the stark racial divide:
Talk less. Smile more.
“Ordinary speech can emit small respiratory droplets that linger in the air for at least eight minutes and potentially much longer, according to a study published Wednesday that could help explain why infections of the coronavirus so often cluster in nursing homes, households, conferences, cruise ships and other confined spaces with limited air circulation,” Joel Achenbach reports. “The report, from researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the University of Pennsylvania, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. It is based on an experiment that used laser light to study the number of small respiratory droplets emitted through human speech. The answer: a lot. ‘Highly sensitive laser light scattering observations have revealed that loud speech can emit thousands of oral fluid droplets per second,’ the report states. Louder speech produces more droplets, they note.”
- Areas with no social distancing could see 35 times the amount of coronavirus spread, according to a new study in the journal Health Affairs. The study found that the longer the social distancing policy was in effect, the slower the growth rate was for the virus. (NBC News)
- The Navy said five sailors who returned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the stricken aircraft carrier, tested positive for the virus. (CNN)
Easier coronavirus tests may be within spitting distance.
RUCDR Infinite Biologics said it had won emergency use authorization from the FDA for saliva tests that people can perform at home. “Unlike tests conducted with nasal swabs, the saliva test does not require travel to a testing center,” Steven Mufson reports. "And there’s no need for the swabs that have also been in short supply. It’s just spit and mail to the Rutgers clinical genomics laboratory, with results within 48 hours … Major research universities and their private-sector partners are trying to leapfrog ahead to the next generation of tests. … Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder have launched a firm called Darwin Biosciences and are developing the ‘SickStick,’ a device to measure the presence of the virus in saliva. Oklahoma State University, while awaiting FDA approval, is using saliva to test thousands of nursing home patients. And in Connecticut, scientists are working on a test strip that could be taken at home for immediate results, without having to ship it to a lab — akin to a home pregnancy test.”
Colleges are pushing for testing and other methods for a fall reopening, but some worry about worsening the crisis.
“The movement to resume higher education in person, after a rocky spring term of remote teaching and canceled commencements, is colliding with concerns that schools could deepen the health crisis if they act too quickly,” Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga report. “Getting schools at all levels back to normal operations, or close to it, is viewed as crucial not only for education but also for the staggering economy. Colleges also sorely need tuition dollars to continue operating. But there are clear trade-offs. Gathering students in classrooms and residence halls could accelerate transmission of the novel coronavirus even if schools can persuade students to wear masks and maintain a protective distance from faculty and classmates. Health experts fear some schools may be moving too fast to reopen."
Small medical practices are struggling to survive.
“Although they’re still ministering to patients amid a health crisis, they’ve been unable to get loans under the Paycheck Protection Act, passed as part of the coronavirus relief package in late March,” Rachel Weiner reports. “A survey done by a Richmond-based advocacy group for primary care doctors, called the Larry A. Green Center, found that half the doctors who sought such loans were unsuccessful. Of 2,774 doctors who responded to the survey, 19 percent said they had to temporarily close their practices because of financial problems; 42 percent had to lay off or furlough staff. About 10 percent say they will have to close in the next month because of financial shortfalls.”
Small businesses in high-rent cities are facing disaster. Urban life will change forever.
“The coronavirus is threatening the survival of independently operated stores, restaurants, bars and other enterprises in cities with vibrant, walkable neighborhoods and soaring commercial rents. In the District alone, there are an estimated 38,000 small businesses, according to the D.C. Policy Institute. Some were already being pushed out by corporate chains before the pandemic brought the nation’s economy to a halt,” Ian Shapira reports. “‘I hate to be bleak, but we’re certainly going to see independent small businesses go quickly,’ said Amanda Ballantyne, the Seattle-based executive director of Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group for small businesses. ‘When the economy recovers, it won’t recover with the same level of diversity.’ … In the District, thriving commercial corridors from U Street to H Street and from Connecticut Avenue to Maine Avenue could lose some of the businesses that fueled the city’s renaissance and made the surrounding residential communities so appealing.”
- UBS estimates that roughly 100,000 stores nationally will close over the next five years, which is more than triple the number that shut during the previous recession. (WSJ)
Top Maryland Democrats say it’s too soon for the state to begin reopening.
“Across the region, there were 93 new coronavirus deaths and 2,310 new infections reported on Thursday,” Michael Rosenwald, Ovetta Wiggins and Emily Davies report. "Maryland accounted for nearly 1,100 of those new infections, versus the state’s 751 new infections the day before. … Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who exempted Northern Virginia from the reopening several days ago, announced Thursday that he would also delay the change for Richmond, at the city’s request, and for Accomack County on the Eastern Shore, where there are several poultry processing facilities that have experienced outbreaks. In Maryland, Baltimore City joined Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in opting out of [Republican Gov. Larry] Hogan’s reopening.”
- Virginia’s monthly tax receipts dived by 26.2 percent in April, compared with the previous year, according to the first monthly revenue report, while Maryland expects to lose at least $925 million in tax revenue by the end of June. It is expected to balloon to $1.2 billion if Congress doesn’t pass another rescue package. (Erin Cox)
- Metro and Metrobus will require that all passengers wear masks starting Monday. (Justin George)
- Chinese American novelist Yu Lihua, the author of more than two dozen books that guided her mostly Chinese-speaking readers through topics including heartbreak, divorce and identity struggles, died from the virus at 90 in a Maryland retirement complex. She was the mother of Washington Post reporter Lena Sun, who has helped lead our coverage of the contagion. (Michael Laris)
The Trump presidency
The EPA will not limit perchlorate.
The chemical is “linked to potential brain damage in fetuses and newborns and thyroid problems in adults,” Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report. “The move, which comes despite the fact that the EPA faces a court order to establish a national standard for the chemical compound by the end of June, marks the latest shift in a long-running fight over whether to curb the chemical used in rocket fuel. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA had announced in 2011 that it planned to set the first enforceable limits on perchlorate because of its potential health impacts.”
Trump is pushing the “Obamagate” conspiracy theory in a bid to distract, deflect and muddy his challenger.
“The practice, known as unmasking, is commonplace in government. But in the case of Flynn, Trump and his allies used the list of names to claim Barack Obama, [Joe] Biden and their appointees deliberately sought to sabotage the incoming Trump administration as part of a long-running conspiracy they have dubbed ‘Obamagate,'” Philip Rucker, Matt Zapotosky, Robert Costa and Shane Harris report. “With Trump suffering political damage for his management of the coronavirus pandemic less than six months before the election, the president’s government appointees and allies in Congress are using their powers to generate a political storm aimed at engulfing Biden … and Obama, who polls show is the nation’s most popular political figure, making him a potent threat to Trump as a Biden surrogate. Another objective is to rewrite the history of the Russia investigation as Trump has long sought, by casting Flynn as a martyr wronged by nefarious bureaucratic elites. … In a remarkable turn Thursday, Trump urged Congress to call Obama to testify and even suggested those involved — including Biden and two longtime Trump antagonists, former FBI director James B. Comey and former CIA director John Brennan — go to prison. … The document does not make clear why Biden or any other official had requested the unmasking in the first place, nor does it indicate that Flynn had engaged in communications that alerted intelligence officials to investigate his contacts with foreigners.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) rejected Trump’s call to summon Obama to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- McConnell said he was wrong to claim that the Obama administration didn’t leave behind a pandemic playbook. “They did leave behind a plan,” he told Fox News, in a rare backtrack. “I clearly made a mistake in that regard.” (Politico)
- Biden said on MSNBC that he doesn’t remember Tara Reade, the former aide who accused him of sexually assaulting her. (Annie Linskey)
Former Obama aides are angry over Ronny Jackson’s embrace of Trump’s conspiracy theories.
“The retired Navy admiral, who served as the physician to the president under George W. Bush, Obama and Trump, released a lengthy statement Thursday doubling down on a tweet he’d sent the day before calling Obama, and people who worked for him, ‘a Deep State traitor’ who ‘deserves to be brought to justice for their heinous actions,’” Colby Itkowitz reports. “‘I will never apologize for standing up to protect America’s national security interests and constitutional freedoms, even if that means triggering liberals and the ‘mainstream media,'’ Jackson said in his statement. Former Obama officials who worked with Jackson in the White House reacted with surprise and hurt that their former colleague was embracing Trump’s conspiracy theory … ‘During my time in the White House Ronny L. Jackson was my colleague, my friend and my doctor. I thanked him in my book for his good care,’ tweeted Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama’s onetime deputy chief of staff. ‘His comments yesterday and today leave me confused, angry, and heartbroken. I don’t recognize this version of Ronny at all.’”
Trump’s company has received at least $970,000 from taxpayers for room rentals.
“The U.S. government has paid at least $970,000 to Trump’s company since Trump took office — including payments for more than 1,600 nightly room rentals at Trump’s hotels and clubs, according to federal records obtained by The Post,” David Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow report. “Since March, The Post has catalogued an additional $340,000 in such payments. They were almost all related to trips taken by Trump, his family and his top officials. The government is not known to have paid for the rooms for Trump and his family members at his properties but it has paid for staffers and Secret Service agents to accompany the president.”
A nonprofit run by Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media is under investigation.
“Michael Pack is a conservative filmmaker with ties to Stephen K. Bannon,” Seung Min Kim reports. “The D.C. attorney general’s office is investigating whether Pack’s use of funds from his nonprofit, Public Media Lab, was ‘unlawful and whether he improperly used those funds to benefit himself,’ Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Thursday. Menendez said the D.C. attorney general’s office informed the committee of the active investigation earlier Thursday, the same day Pack was scheduled to face a key panel vote on his nomination, before that vote was postponed. Pack has been under scrutiny for tax issues since at least September, when CNBC reported that at least $1.6 million in donations from his nonprofit were sent to his independent production company, Manifold Productions.”
USPS will review package delivery fees as Trump’s influence over the agency grows.
“Weeks before a Republican donor and top White House ally becomes postmaster general, the U.S. Postal Service has begun a review of its package delivery contracts and lost its second-highest executive, [Democratic vice chairman David Williams], which will leave its board of governors without any officials who predate Trump,” Jacob Bogage and Josh Dawsey report. “Higher package rates would cost shippers and online retailers billions of dollars, potentially spurring them to invest in their own distribution networks instead of relying on the Postal Service. … The reevaluation of those bulk-discount contracts signals how swiftly the independent agency and its board of governors have fallen under the administration’s influence, say people familiar with the White House’s plans.”
Social media speed read
As the 73-year-old Trump struggles with seniors in the polls, his campaign is mocking the 77-year-old Biden for being too old:
New Trump Facebook ads go hard at Biden over his age: "Too old?" "Old & out of it"— Will Steakin (@wsteaks) May 14, 2020
One ad mockingly depicts Biden in what looks like a nursing home needing to be fed ...
What a time to use a nursing home to mock someone pic.twitter.com/uYxy1CbrDv
The president thanked all of those who promote his message online:
Thank you to all of my great Keyboard Warriors. You are better, and far more brilliant, than anyone on Madison Avenue (Ad Agencies). There is nobody like you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 15, 2020
Was Obama subtweeting Trump?
A tale of two presidential tweets pic.twitter.com/GXeHYKyGea— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) May 14, 2020
And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) was happy that his face mask got positive reviews from our fashion critic:
My mother will be shocked when she finds out the nicest thing the Washington Post has ever written about me appeared in the fashion section. https://t.co/1VXXaO7Xbw— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 14, 2020
Videos of the day
Seth Meyers doesn’t think Trump should keep claiming victory, particularly after Bright’s testimony:
Stephen Colbert said Trump threw shade at Bright:
Trevor Noah really wants to know what “Obamagate” is allegedly about: