Yet there's the looming specter of a “second wave” as the virus has killed more than 60,000 people in the U.S. over the course of three months. But it turns out that concerns about a second wave are somewhat in the eye of the beholder in Washington.
A VIRUS REBOUND: Public health experts are ramping up warnings about another surge in cases. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease doctor, warned that a second wave of the virus is “inevitable” as the country plunges forward with reopening.
- “It’s not going to disappear from the planet which means as we get into next season … in my mind, it’s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus or maybe it never even went away,” Fauci told the Economic Club of D.C. on Tuesday. “When it does, how we handle it, will determine our fate.”
- “If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well. If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter,” Fauci said.
- If states reopen too quickly, Fauci also predicts a rebound could “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago” and that there could be more deaths in the country than are currently forecast.
- Fauci did however confirm promising news yesterday about a drug treatment: An experimental antiviral drug, remdesivir, “has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery” in coronavirus patients, Fauci said alongside the president. A study conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which Fauci leads, “showed that patients treated with remdesivir were ready to be discharged from the hospital within 11 days, on average, compared with an average of 15 days for patients who had received a placebo,” our colleagues Anne Gearan, Christopher Rowland and Laurie McGinley report. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci said.
The president and his top lieutenants are eager to forecast an end to the economic pain and social distancing. Vice President Pence, who recently “we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us” by Memorial Day weekend, told business executives yesterday that the country was coming “to the end of the mitigation period.” And Trump, who said yesterday the federal government won't extend its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire today, has downplayed the risks of a second wave.
- “If it comes back … it won’t be coming back in the form that it was, it will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain,” Trump said earlier this month, stressing that “it’s also possible it doesn’t come back at all.”
A ‘LAWSUIT PANDEMIC’: On the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning about a second wave — of lawsuits. McConnell changed course to say he was open to sending aid to states that governors say they desperately need — but “said he will ‘insist’ Congress limit the liabilities of health care workers, business owners and employees from lawsuits” as Americans go back to work, per Politico's Burgess Everett.
- “The next pandemic coming will be the lawsuit pandemic in the wake of this one. So we need to prevent that now when we have the opportunity to do it,” McConnell said,
- Coming debate: “McConnell told Republican lawmakers on a private call that he wants to shield companies from liability over pandemic-related suits and doesn’t support including an infrastructure package in a coronavirus relief bill, according to people familiar with the call, despite [Trump’s] push for infrastructure investment,” the Wall Street Journal's Natalie Andrews reports.
- This may be a non-starter for Democrats: “That’s another example of the Republicans’ misplaced priorities,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a phone call with the AFSCME public service workers union, per Andrews. “During this global health crisis, [Republicans] are worried about protecting the companies … Democrats are worried about protecting the workers.”
MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS: Trump has said the toll social distancing can take on mental health is a reason for states not to keep their economies shuttered, warning about dangerous secondary effects of isolation and economic pain induced by the pandemic. “You're going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression.” Trump said in late March. “You're going to lose people. You're going to have suicides by the thousands.”
While at this point, mass social distancing is widely credited with sparing the U.S. from the worst-outcome death toll projections from the virus, mental health experts are worried about the coming aftershocks. Financial woes to prolonged social isolation could lead to an increase in suicide rates, they warn.
- The editorial board of The Oklahoman — as the Republican-led state begins to reopen — cited a study from the Tulsa-based nonprofit Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, which it says found that “roughly 92,000 more Oklahomans may experience suicidal thoughts during this crisis and 18,400 may attempt suicide. Researchers project 374 deaths from suicide and drug overdoses due to economic hardship.”
- More broadly: The latest Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll finds that over half of adults in the U.S. “report that worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to experience at least one negative effect on their mental health and well-being, such as problems with sleeping or eating, increased alcohol use, or worsening chronic conditions.”
Frontline workers may be even more at risk in a potential mental health fallout in the aftermath of the virus: “Stress and worry around the coronavirus also seems to be affecting larger shares of front line health care workers and their families (64%) as well as those who experienced an income loss (65%)," the KFF tracking poll finds.
- “Dr. Lorna Breen, chair of the emergency medicine department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died of self-inflicted injuries Sunday after being transported to UVA Hospital in Charlottesville, police said,” our colleagues Marisa Iati and Kim Bellware report. “Breen’s father, Philip C. Breen, told the New York Times that she had described coronavirus patients flooding her hospital and sometimes dying before they could be removed from the ambulances. She had no history of mental illness but seemed detached before she died, the Times reported.”
- “Breen’s suicide comes during a global pandemic that increasingly directs health-care workers’ attention toward the mental health risks faced by physicians, who die by suicide at twice the rate of the general population. Among doctors, women are the most vulnerable,” per Marisa and Kim.
- “I’m afraid we’re going to see more of this. And not just physicians,” Loice Swisher, an emergency room physician in Philadelphia and a member of the American Association of Suicidology, told Kim and Marisa. “People who are losing their jobs, who think all is lost and just don’t see an end to this.”
Remember you're not alone: If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
BIDEN FOCUSES ON THE FALL: His campaign announced this morning the “four co-chairs who will lead a committee to select his running mate, formalizing a process that will be one of the most critical decisions of his campaign,” Matt Viser reports.
- The members: “The committee will be led by a range of officials who have been close to Biden at various points during his career, including former senator Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former White House counsel Cynthia C. Hogan,” our colleague writes. “The vetting team will be led by former White House counsel Bob Bauer, campaign general counsel Dana Remus and former White House homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco.”
The former vice president also said he might announce some Cabinet picks: Biden pledged that his Cabinet will be a bipartisan group. “I think about maybe announcing, not the whole Cabinet, but some … so people will have a better idea of what my administration will look like,” he said during a fundraiser last night. “But I promise you, it’s going to look like the country.”
He also hired a new deputy campaign manager: “[Biden tapped] Rufus Gifford, a former top adviser to Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, as his new deputy campaign manager focused on finance, external outreach and coalition building, according to campaign officials familiar with the move,” Michael Scherer reports.
- That's the second major move by the newly promoted Jen O’Malley Dillon: “She replaced the chief executive at the Democratic National Committee Friday with Mary Beth Cahill, a party adviser and former campaign manager for the 2004 Democratic nominee, John F. Kerry,” our colleague writes of Biden's new campaign manager.
SO IS TRUMP: “Trump’s advisers presented him with the results of internal polling last week that showed him falling behind former vice president Joe Biden in key swing states in the presidential race, part of an effort by aides to curtail Trump’s freewheeling daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic, according to three people with knowledge of the conversations,” Josh Dawsey reports. “One call [last] Wednesday — with [campaign manager Brad] Parscale patched in from his home in Florida and [RNC Chair Ronna] McDaniel from hers in Michigan — was designed to present grim polling data to the president to encourage him to reduce the frequency of coronavirus briefings or to stop taking questions,” per Josh.
- “Trump resisted the pleas, saying people ‘love’ the briefings and think he is ‘fighting for them,’” a person with knowledge of the conversation told Josh.
- “Aides described Trump as in a particularly foul mood last week because of the polling data and news coverage of his administration’s response to the pandemic, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. In one call, he berated Parscale over the polling data, the two people said. At one point in that call, Trump said he might sue Parscale, though one of the people with knowledge of the comments said he made the remark in jest.”
FORMER NEIGHBOR OF BIDEN ACCUSER CONFIRMS REPORTS: “The former Senate aide who accused Joe Biden of sexual assault shared details of the alleged incident in a conversation in the mid-1990s, her former neighbor confirmed,” Amber Phillips and Matt Viser report.
- More details: “Lynda LaCasse told The Washington Post in a text message that while she lived near Tara Reade in 1995 and 1996, Reade told her that ‘Joe Biden sexually assaulted her,'” our colleagues write. "'She said that he had put her up against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and his fingers inside her,' LaCasse said.”
Biden has still not commented about the allegations: “Kate Bedingfield, his deputy campaign manager, denied Reade’s account,” our colleagues write. “'He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard — and heard respectfully,' she said. ‘Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: It is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.’”
At The White House
TOP WHITE HOUSE POLICY AIDE TO RESIGN: “Top White House policy adviser Joe Grogan is leaving his post, the latest sign of turnover as the administration grapples with a coronavirus pandemic,” the Wall Street Journal's Stephanie Armour and Rebecca Ballhaus report.
- Grogan said he's leaving on good terms with Trump: He also “has already stayed in the position longer than he’d planned. He said he would leave on May 24,” WSJ reports.
Outside the Beltway
ANOTHER GRIM MILESTONE: “Less than three months after the first case was confirmed on U.S. soil, more lives have now been lost in the United States from the pandemic than the 58,220 Americans who died over nearly two decades of fighting during the Vietnam War,” Adam Taylor reports.
- Jared Kushner declared mission accomplished earlier in the day: “We're on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we've achieved all the different milestones that are needed," Trump's son-in-law and adviser Kushner said on “Fox & Friends.” "The federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story. And I think that that's really, you know, what needs to be told.”
WORST CRISIS SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION: “The U.S. economy suffered its sharpest decline since the Great Recession — a 4.8 percent drop — from January through March, and the head of the Federal Reserve warned the second quarter would be even uglier …,” Heather Long reports.
- The Commerce Department released even more concerning data: “Consumer and business spending nose-dived in the first quarter, even with the economy shuttered for only half of March. Household spending tumbled 7.6 percent, and business investment sank 8.6 percent.”
The Federal Reserve Chair vows to do whatever it takes: “[Jerome H.] Powell vowed repeatedly Wednesday to use all of the Fed’s tools to keep U.S. businesses and households afloat during the crisis, but he warned that a recovery could take a while and that there is a significant risk of long-term damage if Congress and the central bank do not do enough to aid the economy,” our colleague writes.
- Attn Republican lawmakers: “This is the time to use the great fiscal power of the United States,” Powell told reporters, adding that “this is not the time” to be concerned about the national debt. Some GOP lawmakers have begun saying that the next phase of stimulus needs to be slimmed down rather than adding more to the deficit.
CO2 EMISSIONS HIT DECADE LOWS: “The wide-scale restriction of movement resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is driving down global carbon dioxide emissions to levels last seen 10 years ago, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency,” Steven Mufson reports.
- The world's emissions will plunge 8 percent this year: “[That's] a reduction six times as large as the previous global record set in 2009 when the financial crisis rocked the world economy, the IEA said in the report,” our colleague writes. “It would be an ‘unprecedented rate,’ the report said, noting that the drop would probably be twice as large as all declines in CO2 emissions since the end of World War II.”
But in the past these drops haven't lasted: “After previous crises, the rebounds in emissions were larger than the declines. The agency said the world needed a wave of investment to restart the economy with ‘cleaner and more resilient energy infrastructure.’”
In the Media
Iconic brands may soon disappear: Weeks-long lockdowns and deep economic unrest have disrupted consumer spending. Now, “the retail industry, rife with bankruptcies and shuttered stores long before the coronavirus, is facing its biggest test yet,” Daniela Santamariña, Abha Bhattarai and Kevin Uhrmacher report.