with Brent D. Griffiths
Programming note: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), President Trump's pick to be director of national intelligence, is appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee today for a confirmation hearing, the first Senate hearing held since members reconvened this week.
- Ratcliffe “is expected to face pointed questions Tuesday from Senate Democrats about his qualifications for the job and his willingness to provide candid intelligence free from political considerations,” our colleagues Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, and Seung Min Kim report.
- “Ratcliffe’s original nomination last summer was withdrawn after five days in the wake of criticism that the Texas Republican overstated his résumé and lacked the qualifications to serve as the nation’s top intelligence official.”
At The White House
UPWARD BOUND: President Trump has dramatically revised the expected American death toll and number of infections from the novel coronavirus, despite maintaining his administration's response to the disease has been a big success.
Trump said Sunday the death toll from the outbreak could reach 100,000 — nearly double the prediction he made two weeks ago of 50,000 or 60,000 deaths. And that number was well beyond the revised model on which the White House has relied and touted since early April from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME) that projected 60,400 deaths by the end of August.
- “Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That's a horrible thing. We shouldn't lose one person out of this,” Trump said, issuing his latest projecting during a Fox News town hall in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday night.
- So far, 68,172 Americans have died from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
In a New York Post interview yesterday, however, Trump boasted that Americans are “feeling good."
- “I think they’re starting to feel good now. The country’s opening again. We saved millions of lives, I think,” said Trump.
- “We’ll open it up and I think your fourth quarter is going to be very good,” he added. “We did the right thing and now we’re bringing the country back. And I think there’s a great optimism. I don’t know if you see it, but I think there’s a great optimism now.”
As a number of states are relaxing restrictions and reopening, updated and newly released models paint an even deadlier picture: The IHME now estimates here will be nearly 135,00 deaths from covid-19 through the beginning of August, “with a range of 95,092 to 242,890.”
The prediction, significantly higher than its April estimate, reflects “the effect of premature relaxation of restrictions,” IHME director Christopher Murray told our colleagues. “In this era where those mandates are being relaxed, people should be aware the risk of infection is still there,” Murray added.
- “In each state, the evolution of the epidemic depends on the balance between relaxed social distancing, increasing temperature, and rising rates of testing and contact tracing,” Murray said in a statement. “We expect that the epidemic in many states will now extend through the summer.”
- Notable: the IHME model is one of the more optimistic models.
A second model revealed on Monday was even grimmer: a draft government report obtained by our colleagues William Wan, Lenny Bernstein, Laurie McGinley and Josh Dawsey projects that covid-19 cases “will surge to about 200,000 per day by June 1, a staggering jump that would be accompanied by more than 3,000 deaths each day.”
- “The document predicts a sharp increase in both cases and deaths beginning about May 14, according to a copy shared with The Washington Post. The forecast stops at June 1, but shows both daily cases and deaths on an upward trajectory at that point,” per William, Lenny, Laurie and Josh.
The data, first reported by the New York Times, has been disavowed by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The White House issued a statement Monday that despite the White House and smattering of agency logos on the Power Point, “this is not a White House document, nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force, or data that the task force has analyzed.
Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who created the model, told our colleagues the modeling was incomplete nor intended to be a forecast but rather “presented as an FYI to CDC.”
- Still: “Lessler insisted, however, the numbers show how moving to reopen the country could spiral out of control. He said 100,000 cases per day by the end of the month is within the realm of possibility. Much depends on political decisions being made today,” our colleagues report.
The plateau: Even though a wave of states relaxed restrictions over the weekend and continue to slowly reopen, the death toll and case numbers that initially declined post-peak have plateaued — or even increased in some places.
- “While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected. We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point, and we’re just not seeing that,” Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday.
- “We saw a steady, exponential rise in confirmed cases and deaths each day for several weeks. But particularly with daily case totals, the period after the peak nationally has looked more like a plateau than a downward slide,” our colleague Philip Bump noted last week.
- “While the worst effects of the outbreak may be behind us, that doesn’t offer as much assurance as one might expect. A wildfire that’s 10 percent contained poses a very different risk than one that’s 90 percent contained. What’s more, in many states we’ve also seen declines from peaks followed by new increases,” per Bump.
- “The vast majority of Americans have not been exposed to the virus, there is not immunity, and the initial conditions that allowed this virus to spread really quickly across America haven’t really changed,” Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University, told the New York Times.
Guidelines released by the White House last month recommended that states wait to see a decline in cases over a two-week period before initiating a “Phase One” reopening. Some states opening their economies — with the encouragement of the president — have seen the an uptick in the number of people testing positive for the virus.
- “The first part of the criteria is sustained decline. And we don’t see that,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa, Griff Witte and Lenny Bernstein.
- Testing and contact tracing necessary for a safe economic restart still lags: “We don’t have the testing. We don’t have the contract tracing. We can’t detect a rebound. It’s a really problematic place to be. This is not where we want to be,” Jeffrey Shaman, one of the country’s leading epidemiologists at Columbia University, told William, Lenny, Laurie and Josh.
- But a possible increase in mortality with a restart of the economy doesn't seem to bother those who have influence in Trump's orbit. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told CNN's Dana Bast people “are gonna have to” accept the new CDC forecast that projects 3,000 daily deaths in the U.S. to salvage the economy.
- “We sacrificed those lives. We sent our young men during WWII over to Europe, out to the Pacific, knowing, knowing that many of them would not come home alive,” Christie said. “And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life.”
- The reality: “Politically, governors have come to learn they are more likely to be criticized by Trump for maintaining stay-at-home orders that comply with White House guidelines than they are for opening up their economies before meeting the Trump administration’s own criteria for doing so,” per Toluse, Griff, and Lenny.
BUT THE PUBLIC ISN'T GUNG HO ABOUT AN ECONOMIC RESTART: “Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll,” Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report this morning.
OTHER KEY FINDINGS, per our colleagues:
People are OK with going to grocery stores: “But 67 percent say they would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78 percent would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules,” our colleagues write.
There's a gender-gap: “Fifty-six percent of men oppose allowing gun shops to open, a view held by 82 percent of women. For restaurants and nail salons, only about a fifth of women say they should be open, compared with about one-third of men. About a quarter of women say retail shops, barber shops and hair salons should be opened, compared with 4 in 10 men.”
And a partisan split on whether the worst is over: “Republicans and those who are not worried about becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus are more likely than others to say the worst is behind their communities. Differences among age groups are particularly striking, with less than a quarter of 18- to 39-year-olds saying that the worst is behind their communities, compared with 40 percent of those 65 and older.”
Trump's response continues to get low marks: “Trump’s ratings are 44 percent positive and 56 percent negative, in line with where he was two weeks ago and only slightly worse than a week ago.”
- Governors continue to get more love: “Governors earn positive marks from 75 percent of Americans, about the same as a week ago. Partisan differences remain sizable, with nearly 8 in 10 Republicans but just about 2 in 10 Democrats rating Trump positively,” our colleagues write. “In contrast, governors earn big positive majorities across the parties.”
Twitter's #FireFauci is not real life: “Americans also overwhelmingly approve of the way federal public health scientists, including Anthony S. Fauci, have dealt with the challenges from the coronavirus. Fauci’s positive rating stands at 74 percent. He maintains wide bipartisan appeal, winning positive marks from more than two-thirds of Republicans and independents, and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats. Public health scientists in the federal government overall are rated 71 percent positive.”
On The Hill
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKS TASK FORCE MEMBERS FROM TESTIFYING: “The White House is barring members of its coronavirus task force from testifying on Capitol Hill this month without approval from chief of staff Mark Meadows — citing an ‘extraordinary’ demand on the administration’s resources as it continues to address the pandemic,” Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez report.
- Pelosi and Schumer slammed the decision: “The fact that they said we're too busy being on T.V. to come to the Capitol is, well, business as usual for them,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. “But it isn't business that will be helpful to addressing this … We must insist on the truth.” “The longer they don't admit the truth … and the longer they don't to listen to the scientists, the longer this crisis is going to last,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
The directive comes after Fauci was blocked from testifying this week in the House: A House subcommittee investigating the coronavirus outbreak and response had sought Fauci's testimony. But the White House deemed that request “counterproductive” and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said officials would not be party to “publicity stunts.” “But Fauci and other administration officials will still testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on May 12 for a hearing on testing after getting clearance from Meadows, according to a senior administration official,” our colleagues write.
Maybe this is why his appearances are getting vetted: Fauci shot down attention on whether virus escaped Wuhan lab, a favorite talking point of Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “But that means it was in the wild to begin with,” he told National Geographic of the theory Chinese scientists discovered the virus in the wild and then let it escape their laboratory. “That's why I don't get what they're talking about [and] why I don't spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument.”
- But: Trump and Pompeo have both claimed in recent days they have seen evidence the virus escaped the lab.
SENATE RETURNS AMID PANDEMIC: “In eerily quiet hallways, with masks and disinfectant wipes aplenty, the Senate started to forge its new normal Monday — assembling en masse in Washington for the first time in five weeks …,” Mike DeBonis reports.
A Senate official said it could not release any potential records about Joe Biden's alleged misconduct: “Responding to a letter Biden sent Friday, the office of the secretary of the Senate, on the advice of legal counsel, concluded that the ‘Secretary has no discretion to disclose any such information as requested.’ The office, which did not confirm or deny the complaint’s existence, based its decision in part on a review of confidentiality requirements,” Sean Sullivan and Matt Viser report.
- More details: “Tara Reade has accused Biden, who was then a senator from Delaware, of sexually assaulting her in 1993, although she has said a formal complaint she filed that year describes only harassment, not assault. Biden, who denies all the allegations, has responded in part by calling on the Senate to release all the documentation pertaining to the complaint that Reade says she filed.”
In the Media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Trump received special permission for his inside the Lincoln Memorial town hall: “On Sunday, when the president sat down with two Fox News anchors at Lincoln’s marbled feet during a coronavirus-focused virtual ‘town hall,’ it was because a directive issued by David
Making it work: “Fashion always finds a way. Human beings are undaunted in their search for ways to stand out, to communicate, to thrive in a treacherous environment. And so the face mask — once purely functional, once perceived as an exotic accessory — has evolved at breakneck speed into something more,” Robin Givhan reports this morning.
Remembering Don Shula: “Through the grief of the eulogy, we do not bury merely a winner now … not merely a leader of champions … not merely a warrior hero with more successful conquests than anyone in the forever of America’s gladiator game. No, we come with respect to bury a historic symbol … and a different time … in football, Miami, America,” the Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard writes of former Dolphins head coach Don Shula, the NFL's most successful coach and the only one to ever lead a team to a perfect season. Shula died on Monday; he was 90 years old. (The Post's obit)
Congrats to all the Pulitzer winners: Our colleagues won the Pulizter Prize for explanatory reporting for a detailed series about global warming. The New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones won for her essay in the groundbreaking 1619 project. (Her Twitter namesake, the iconic Ida B. Wells, received posthumous honor). A handful of local news organizations netted honors too, including the Anchorage Daily News for its partnership with ProPublica on sexual violence in Alaska. (Paul Farhi's write up of all the winners).
A small look at the incredible 2C project: