What Now?! – March 16, 2020

New York Times: “The United States, a nation founded on the notion of individual rights and limited federal power, vests key decisions on public health in state and local government. The last week laid bare a dizzying patchwork of local decision-making, as the largest quarantine in recent American history occurred in a juddering, piecemeal fashion.”

“Limits on public gatherings are being decided by individual counties, school closures by individual school districts. Testing practices vary widely, with some states introducing curbside testing and private testing firms. Although this country has a central public authority for handling infectious disease — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the federal agency cannot get involved on the ground unless invited by states or municipalities.”

“Hospitals across the United States are erecting triage tents outside emergency rooms, squeezing extra beds into break rooms and physical therapy gyms, and recommending delays in elective surgery to free up capacity as they brace for an anticipated surge in coronavirus patients,” the Washington Post reports.

“No one can say if the preparations will be enough as the pandemic accelerates in the coming days and weeks. If the virus were to spread as rapidly in the United States as it has in China, Italy and Iran, hospital executives say the burden on the health-care system could be crippling, with demand for beds and some specialized equipment needed to treat patients and protect staff far exceeding supply.”

“The United States is suffering the most abrupt and widespread cessation of economic activity in its history, hurtling toward a recession that could mean lost jobs, income and wealth for millions of Americans,” the Washington Post reports.

“Across the country, consumer spending — which supports 70 percent of the economy — is grinding to a halt as fears of the escalating coronavirus pandemic keep people from stores, restaurants, movie theaters and workplaces.”

Mohamed El-Erian: “Think of what is happening as a huge paradigm shift for economies, institutions and social norms and practices that, critically, are not wired for such a phenomenon. It requires us to understand the dynamics, not only to navigate them well but also to avoid behaviors that make the situation a lot worse.”

“The bottom line is that the economic disruptions immediately ahead will be more severe and widespread than the ones experienced by the bulk of the population in advanced countries.”

“We live in a global economy wired for ever deepening interconnectivity; and we are living through a period in which the current phase of health policy — emphasizing social distancing, separation and isolation — runs counter to what drives economic growth, prosperity and financial stability. The effects of these two basic factors will be amplified by the economics of fear and uncertainty that tempt everyone not just to clear out supermarket shelves but sadly also reignite terrible conscious and unconscious biases.”

Despite forecasting an economic slowdown, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told ABC News that he does not think the coronavirus pandemic will cause a recession.

Said Mnuchin: “”I don’t think so. The real issue is not the economic situation today… This is a unique situation. We are going to have a slowdown. Later in the year economic activity will pick up as we confront this virus.”

“The Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero on Sunday and said it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in an aggressive bid to prevent market disruptions from aggravating what is likely to be a severe slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

New York Times: “Besides cutting its key interest rate by a full percentage point, returning it to a range of 0 to 0.25 percent, the Fed said that it would increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $500 billion and its holdings of government mortgage-backed securities by at least $200 billion ‘over coming months.’”

All pubs in Ireland, including hotel bars, have been asked to close from tonight until at least March 29in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, RTE reports. The Government has also strongly advised against house parties while the pubs are closed.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) told NBC News “we are certainly looking at” closing bars and restaurants in the state. Said DeWine: “We are inconveniencing people. It is making people’s lives change, but we have got to save lives. Everything we are doing is to save lives.”

“France is holding nationwide elections Sunday to choose all of its mayors and other local leaders despite a crackdown on public gatherings because of the new virus,” ABC News reports.

“Voting stations opened just as a drastic new order came into effect shutting down all of France’s restaurants, museums, and most stores to stem the spreading coronavirus. The country has some 4,500 cases, including 91 people who have died.”

“Italy has recorded 368 new coronavirus deaths – its largest number of fatalities in a day since the start of the outbreak,” Sky News reports.

“A total of 1,809 people with COVID-19 have now died in the country, which is the hardest-hit by the virus in Europe, as the number of cases rose to more than 24,700.”

“Our country is in a war-time scenario but we’re getting a Mar-a-Lago attitude from the federal government. We need testing, ventilators, surgical masks and we needed them weeks ago, when Trump was still calling this pandemic a hoax…” — New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, on Twitter.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged the Trump administration to “get its s@#t together” late Saturday after travelers passing through Chicago’s O’Hare airport suffered massive overcrowding a day after the new European travel ban took effect, WGN reports.

Photos taken inside the airport by a traveler showed lines so long they extended up over escalators, and people packed so tightly together that many questioned what effect this would have on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to go out and go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in easy. Let’s not hurt the working people in this country…go to your local pub.” — Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), on Fox News, telling people to ignore the advice of public health experts.

Devin Nunes has just committed murder. He should be arrested for the crime.

Washington Post: “President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction.”

“Kushner rushed to help write Trump’s widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law’s father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites — but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden.”

“Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump’s presidency — turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.”

“President Trump said on Saturday that he had the power to remove or demote Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, renewing a long-running threat against the central bank’s leader at a time when it could further roil volatile markets,” the New York Times reports.

“While it was a familiar threat from a president who has continually beaten up on Mr. Powell, it was made in the midst of growing concern that the spread of the coronavirus could tip the United States into a recession.”

“The mere hint that Mr. Trump could fire Mr. Powell, or demote him to a Fed governor, risks further destabilizing markets by worrying investors, who are already fretting over the economic fallout from shut-down businesses, quarantined workers and curtailed activity.”

“Vice President Mike Pence sent White House staff an email Saturday afternoon recommending ‘social distancing’ and to ‘avoid physical contact’ to keep themselves and their colleagues safe from the novel coronavirus,” Axios reports.

“This is the first staff-wide email Pence has sent across the complex during his time as vice president — and is the latest sign the White House is shifting its posture against the pandemic.”

“The aisles and aisles of empty store shelves give the appearance that the United States, improbably and alarmingly, is running out of food,” the New York Times reports.

“But the nation’s biggest retailers, dairy farmers and meat producers say that isn’t so. The food supply chain, they say, remains intact and has been ramping up to meet the unprecedented stockpiling brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.”

“President Trump said Sunday that he is considering pardoning former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election,” the Washington Post reports.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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