What Now?! – April 12, 2020

New York Times: “Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action.”

“The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials.”

“Even after Mr. Trump took his first concrete action at the end of January — limiting travel from China — public health often had to compete with economic and political considerations in internal debates, slowing the path toward belated decisions to seek more money from Congress, obtain necessary supplies, address shortfalls in testing and ultimately move to keep much of the nation at home.”

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that during a Situation Room meeting on the pandemic in March, Trump asked White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, “Why don’t we let this wash over the country?” Two unnamed sources told the Post that Fauci was stunned by the question.

“Mr. President, many people would die,” the doctor reportedly told Trump. Other unnamed officials said that Trump has “repeatedly” (in the Post’s words) asked the same question in the Oval Office.

Trump reportedly began mulling over the idea after hearing about the United Kingdom’s now-abandoned “mitigation” strategy that would let COVID-19 spread throughout the country with few movement restrictions imposed on the population in the hopes of building a “herd immunity” against the virus.

However, a study by medical advisers to the British government found in mid-March that the strategy would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths,” prompting the U.K. to drop the plan.

Ezra Klein: “Over the past few days, I’ve been reading the major plans for what comes after social distancing. You can read them, too. There’s one from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Romer.”

“I thought, perhaps naively, that reading them would be a comfort — at least then I’d be able to imagine the path back to normal. But it wasn’t. In different ways, all of these plans say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the US either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness…”

“I’m not here to say that this, or anything else, is impossible. But it is light-years beyond the kind of political leadership and public-private coordination we’ve seen thus far.”VISIT 

New York Times: “Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has blamed travelers from New York, Europe and other places for seeding the virus in the state. But the reverse was also true: People got sick in Florida and took the infection back home.”

“The exact number of people who returned from leisure trips to Florida with the coronavirus may never be known. Cases as far away as California and Massachusetts have been linked to the Winter Party Festival, a beachside dance party and fund-raiser for the L.G.B.T.Q. community held March 4-10. Another California man died after going to Orlando for a conference and then to a packed Disney World. Two people went to Disney and later got relatives sick in Florida and Georgia.”

The U.S. reported the highest coronavirus death toll in the world as of Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. 18,860 Americans have now died from the virus.

As U.S. health officials anticipated an imminent peak in daily deaths from the novel coronavirus, the number of people confirmed dead in a single day topped 2,000 for the first time Friday, the Washington Post reports.

About 60 percent of the fatalities reported Friday were from three states: New York (777), New Jersey (232) and Michigan (205).

Kottke: “This week, Covid-19 passed heart disease and cancer as the leading cause of death per day in the United States.”

NBC News: “The U.S. has now passed the 20,000 mark in the number of coronavirus deaths and leads the world in this grim tally.”

“The numbers are somewhat stabilizing, but it is stabilizing at a horrific rate.” — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, quoted by CBS News, on the 783 deaths in New York yesterday from the coronavirus.

“The federal government’s budget deficit for the first half of this budget year totaled $743.6 billion, up 7.6% from last year, and well on its way to topping $1 trillion even before the impacts of the coronavirus were felt,” the AP reports.

“JPMorgan economists issued an even more dire forecast, now foreseeing a 40% decline in the nation’s gross domestic product for the second quarter and a surge in April’s unemployment rate to 20% with 25 million jobs lost,” CNBC reports.

“In an earlier forecast, they said second-quarter GDP would be down 25%.”

“A vaccine against coronavirus could be ready as soon as September, the British scientist leading one of the world’s most advanced efforts has said,” the Times of London reports.

“Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, told The Times she was ’80 per cent confident’ that the vaccine being developed by her team would work, with human trials due to begin in the next fortnight.”

Michael Grunwald: “The news out of Washington this week made it sound like Democrats are playing hardball on economic relief, blocking a Republican bill that didn’t include their top priorities. But the Democrats aren’t really playing hardball. They have the power to demand just about anything they want, and they’re demanding things that President Trump wants, too.”

“Just two weeks after the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history failed to arrest the economic collapse, Trump needs another rescue package far more than Democrats do. The economy he loves to brag about has shed more than 16 million jobs. The stock market that he obsessively tweets about has plunged 20 percent. Trump doesn’t want to run for reelection during a full-blown depression, so he desperately needs more legislation.”

“That gives congressional Democrats extraordinary leverage to dictate the terms.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed Saturday morning to refuse Democratic demands in the GOP’s push for more aid to small businesses,” Politico reports.

From a joint statement: “Republicans reject Democrats’ reckless threat to continue blocking job-saving funding unless we renegotiate unrelated programs which are not in similar peril.”

Playbook: “So, will there be a negotiation, or not? Will the small-business funding ride alone, or will it ride with a wagon of other spending priorities. The small-business program runs out of money April 17, and the two sides seem to be saying completely different things: Pelosi and Schumer want a bigger bill, McConnell wants a narrow one and the White House — led by Mnuchin — is caught in the middle, seeming to give different impressions to different sides.”

Peter Nichols: “I do not mean that Trump is the least religious among our presidents, though I have no doubt that he is; as the scholar Stephen Knott pointed out, Trump has shown ‘a complete lack of religious sensibility’ unique among American presidents. (Just recently he wished Americans a ‘Happy Good Friday,’ which suggests that he is unaware of the meaning of that day.) Nor do I mean that Trump is the least-moral president we’ve ever had, although again, I am certain that he is. John F. Kennedy was, in theory, a practicing Catholic, but he swam in a pool of barely concealed adultery in the White House. Richard Nixon was a Quaker, but one who attempted to subvert the Constitution. Andrew Johnson showed up pig-drunk to his inauguration. Trump’s manifest and immense moral failures—and the shameless pride he takes in them—make these men seem like amateurs by comparison.”

“And finally, I do not mean that Trump is the most unstable person ever to occupy the Oval Office, although he is almost certain to win that honor as well. As Peter Wehner has eloquently put it, Trump has an utterly disordered personality. Psychiatrists can’t help but diagnose Trump, even if it’s in defiance of the old Goldwater Rule against such practices. I know mental-health professionals who agree with George Conway and others that Trump is a malignant narcissist.”

“What I mean instead is that Trump is a spiritual black hole. He has no ability to transcend himself by so much as an emotional nanometer.”

“New York City’s public school system, the largest in the country, will remain closed for the rest of the school year as the city continues to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday morning that the schools, which have been closed since March 16, won’t reopen until September.”

“As he grapples simultaneously with the most devastating public health and economic crises of a lifetime, President Trump finds himself pulled in opposite directions on what to do next. The bankers, corporate executives and industrialists plead with him to reopen the country as soon as possible, while the medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus,” the New York Times reports.

“The phone calls from his business friends compete against the television images of overwhelmed hospitals. The public health experts tell him what he is doing is working, so he should not let up yet. The economic advisers and others in his White House tell him what he has done has worked, so he should begin to figure out how to ease up. Tens of thousands more could die. Millions more could lose their jobs.”

Said Trump: “I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has warned devout Christians that anyone attending Easter Sunday services will be forced to quarantine for 14 days after giving state police the mandate to take down attendees’ license plate numbers, CNN reports.

The state says around six churches are planning to hold in-person services despite a stay-at-home order.

“The coronavirus may be a defining experience for Generation Z that shapes its outlook for decades to come — disrupting its entry to adulthood and altering its earning potential, trust in institutions and views on family and sex,” Axios reports.

“Demographers have observed lasting impacts from national crises — like the AIDS epidemic, 9/11 and the Great Recession — on the political, economic, health and societal aspects of Americans who came of age at the time.”

Wall Street Journal: How coronavirus is sending millennials back to their childhood bedrooms.

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

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