Hi, hello, hey there, Friday the 13th. It's day two of working from home and I managed to procure the last tub of cookie dough at the grocery store last night. Huzzah. Tips, comments, social distancing techniques? Reach out and sign up. See you on Monday.
Bonus: Like Chrissy Teigen, we also felt compelled to check in with resident TikTok star Dave Jorgenson who offered us these tips on working from home:
- Take up a healthy habit. “Like flossing. Boy, do I floss now. It’s gross to do at work, but in the privacy of your home? Floss away! If anything comes out of this, it’s going to be an impressed dentist at my next appointment.”
- Change outfits every few hours. “Another luxury one cannot afford at work. This puts me in a new, fresh headspace, and bonus - I found a cool Ninja Turtles shirt I forgot about!”
- Call someone. “Your parents, for example. Turns out mine are pretty nice and have a lot of questions about what my actual job is.”
At The White House
BEING PRESIDENT IN A PANDEMIC: President Trump, who has been downplaying the severity of the coronavirus, has insisted he doesn't want to stop holding rallies, shaking hands, or otherwise modify his behavior. Now that coronavirus has penetrated his orbit, the pressure is on.
Trump had his first and closest known contact with someone who was infected with the highly communicable disease that's ravaging markets, sparking school cancellations and containment zones to stop its spread.
- Fabio Wajngarten, the communications secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who tested positive for coronavirus, dined and was photographed with Trump and Vice President Pence at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, our colleagues Anne Gearan, Josh Dawsey, and Terrence McCoy report.
The guy standing to Trump’s left just tested positive for coronavirus, according to Brazilian media. Fabio Wajngarten posted this photo, taken during meetings at Mar-a-Lago, five days ago. pic.twitter.com/qioU4qIlxl— Gabriel Stargardter (@gabstargardter) March 12, 2020
Trump's reaction: “Let’s put it this way: I’m not concerned,” he said after the news broke. The White House issued a statement that Trump and Vice Pence “had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”
But Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who were also in the room with Wanjgarten, announced that they'd self-quarantine until it was clear they were not infected. And Bolsonaro himself opted to take a test and is waiting on the results.
- “After consulting with the Senate’s attending physician and my personal doctor, I have been told that my risk is low, and I don’t need to take a test or quarantine,” Scott said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of the American people is my focus and I have made the decision to self-quarantine in an abundance of caution.”
It's not Trump's first potential close call with coronavirus — nor the first time he's decided not to get tested. White House officials were concerned about his personal exposure after Trump was photographed shaking hands with political activist Matt Schlapp, who was direct contact with an infected person during the Conservative Political Action Conference. And Trump also spent time with members of Congress — Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) — who also had contact with that attendee before they too self-quarantined.
The continued exposure illustrates the risks of being a president during a pandemic, both political and in terms of personal health. Trump is under pressure to project a strong face during the crisis — but also set an example for the public of taking public health recommendations seriously. And his apparently dismissive attitude about his own risks – and apparent lack of precautions – can be seen as an extension of his administration's lagging and chaotic response to the pandemic.
It's now abundantly clear that not even some of the most world's most powerful people will be spared from the global pandemic.
- Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Attorney General Bill Barr and others were spotted standing next to Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton last week in a photo op in the White House. This morning, Dutton confirmed that he's tested positive for coronavirus, per ABC News's Peter Worthington.
- This is sure to raise further questions about testing and quarantines in the White House.
- And Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for the coronavirus, per our colleague Emily Rauhala in our live blog. “In a statement released Thursday night, the prime minister’s office said she was tested at the advice of doctors after a trip to Britain. The test came back positive.”
- As for Justin: “The prime minister is not showing symptoms, according to his office, but he will self-isolate for 14 days,” Emily reports.
Trump's status as a world leader means he meets many other people — which experts told the New York Times's Annie Karni should lower the bar for testing.
- But health officials would recommend anyone with Trump's exposure to stay home: Dr. Thomas File, the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told Annie “that anyone within five feet of an infected individual for five minutes or more had potential exposure to the virus. The recommendation for someone who had exposure would be to ‘stay home and monitor themselves’ for 14 days … If they develop symptoms, they would be tested.'”
Yet none of this stopped Trump from limiting his contact with people, including other world leaders — until yesterday, when he met with visiting Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar at the White House.
- “Well, we didn’t shake hands today. And we looked at each other. We said, ‘What are we going to do?’ You know, it’s sort of a weird feeling,” Trump said on Thursday, seated next to Varadkar.
- “Varadkar said that the two leaders had opted for clasping their own hands together in front of their chests. He demonstrated, with a small tilt of the head,” Anne, Josh, and Terrence report.
- “It’s a very strange feeling,” Trump added. “You know, I was never a big hand-shaker, as you probably heard. But once you become a politician, shaking hands is very normal.”
FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Our colleague Gillian Brockell wrote an entire recap on the lessons to be learned from the 1918 pandemic. President Woodrow Wilson famously caught influenza while he was in Paris trying to help negotiate the end of World War I.
- Wilson did recover quickly, but historians debate whether the illness affected his abilities at a critical moment: “Influenza did weaken him physically, and — precisely at the most critical point of the negotiations — influenza did at the least drain from him the stamina and the ability to concentrate. That much is certain. And it is almost certain that influenza affected his mind in other, deeper ways,” historian John M. Barry wrote in his best-selling book ‘The Great Influenza’, The Post reported in 2018.
- We'll point out that experts say the novel coronavirus, while pervasive right now, is not expected to have anywhere near the total devastation of that pandemic.
Another lesson from, Barry told our colleague recently, was about the need for truth during a public health crisis: “Wilson released no public statements. Surgeon General Rupert Blue said, ‘There is no cause for alarm if proper precautions are observed,'" our colleague writes. "Another top health official, Barry told our colleague, dismissed it as ‘ordinary influenza by another name.’”
- “I think the No. 1 lesson that came out of the experience is that if you want to prevent panic, you tell the truth,” Barry said.
TRUMP UNDER FIRE FOR VIRUS CLAIMS: Trump continued to publicly contradict statements from his administration's public health experts.
- The claims: Trump claimed that testing for the virus “has been going very smooth. If you go to the right agency, if you go to the right area, you get the test.”
- But…: “So far, in the United States, only about 11,000 people have been tested, according to figures shared with members of Congress on Thursday,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim report.
- Health officials explained why more Americans couldn't get tested: “The system is not geared toward what we need right now, what you are asking for,” Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said at a hearing. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”
- “At a time when U.S. fatalities from the virus have risen, there remain limited numbers of tests and the capacity of laboratories is under strain," our colleagues Shawn Boburg, Emma Brown, Derek Hawkins and Amy Goldstein report.
Even GOP allies called Trump out: “After a Senate briefing with Fauci and other officials, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) acknowledged that Trump’s recent statement that anyone who wants to get tested can get tested is ‘not consistent right now’ with what is actually happening,” per Mike, Erica, and Seung Min.
- “South Korea is able to process tests in an hour, and in the U.S. it takes more than two days — that’s not adequate,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), calling on officials to “get to the bottom of why those problems are there.”
Trump this morning tweeted that “changes have been made” at the Centers for Disease Control “and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis”:
.... Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
On The Hill
NO DEAL YET, BUT THEY'RE CLOSE: “The Trump administration and congressional Democrats neared agreement on an economic relief package to help people impacted by the coronavirus, with both sides under enormous pressure to act to address the spiraling crisis,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expects a vote today “one way or another”: “The legislation will include measures to boost paid family leave and unemployment insurance, ensure free coronavirus testing, and strengthen nutritional aid like food stamps,” our colleagues write. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked throughout the day as the two sides searched for an agreement that could win bipartisan backing.
- Whatever happens, the Senate is not expected to act until next week: “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled his chamber’s planned recess next week but allowed senators to leave Washington for the weekend."
WALL STREET'S WORST DAY IN 30 YEARS: “The stock market crashed to its worst day since 1987, shrugging off dramatic intervention by two central banks and a prime-time address by [Trump] as Americans realized the coronavirus will impose new limits on their daily lives,” our colleagues David J. Lynch, Thomas Heath, Taylor Telford and Heather Long report.
- The Dow Jones industrial average posted its largest one-day point loss in history: It dropped 2,353 points to close at 21,200.62. In percentage terms, the 10 percent loss marked the Dow’s worst day since the infamous October day known as ‘Black Monday.’”
Today might be a little better: “As of 6:25 a.m. ET Friday, Dow futures implied an opening gain of more than 700 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures also turned around, pointing to solid opening gains," CNBC's Yun Li and Eustance Huang report. “Earlier in after-hours trading, Dow futures had indicated an opening loss of 700 points.”
- This week has also been terrible for markets worldwide:
Outside the Beltway
MASS CANCELLATIONS CONTINUE: “Disneyland and Walt Disney World are closing. Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico and Ohio announced statewide school closures to slow the rate of infections. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it is indefinitely suspending all public gatherings, including worship services, worldwide,” our Post colleagues report.
The virus has spread to nearly every single state:
Other major changes:
- The sports calendar is almost entirely bare: All four major sports leagues in season are on hiatus and the NCAA canceling March Madness entirely along with all other remaining winter and spring championships for college sports, our Jacob Bogage reports.
- Broadway's lights will dim: “For decades, through wars and recessions and all forms of darkness, Broadway, the heart of America’s theater industry and an economic lifeblood for many artists, has kept its curtains up and its footlights on,” the New York Times's Michael Paulson reports. Now, all plays and musicals are suspended for 32 days.
- More major movie releases have been postponed: “A dizzying array of cancellations and postponements began to fly,” our colleague Steven Zeitchik reports of the entertainment industry.
BIDEN, SANDERS OFFER THEIR OWN RESPONSE: “Trump’s response gave Biden, Sanders and other Democrats a chance to turn those conventions upside down, asking voters to envision them steering the country through troubled waters,” our colleagues Matt Viser and and Jenna Johnson report.
- Key quotes: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared the crisis was “on the scale of a major war,” and added, “The number of casualties may actually be even higher than what the Armed Forces experienced in World War II.”
- Former vice president Joe Biden promised, “when I’m president, we will prepare better, respond better and recover better.” He added: “I will always, always tell you the truth.”
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the race: “The Biden and Sanders campaigns both told staffers to work from home. Biden’s headquarters and field offices will be closed to the public, making door-knocking and grass-roots organizing that much harder, with four more states voting on Tuesday,” our colleagues write.
- Sunday’s debate has been moved to D.C.: There will be no live audience and “one of the moderators, Univision’s Jorge Ramos, is dropping out because he recently came into proximity with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.”