Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Wednesday, and March turned into April. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported this week: Monday, 2,513; Tuesday, 3,170; Wednesday, 4,081.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
— from “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot
It was one of the most chilling televised briefings ever held in the West Wing.
On Tuesday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it’s requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE, Vice President Pence and the nation’s leading federal immunologists told the country that under the best of circumstances, tens of thousands of Americans are expected to die from the coronavirus week after week this month and throughout May before an expected deluge of fatalities begins to slow in June and July, according to projections presented in colored charts.
Trump called the situation “life and death,” warning that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans are expected to succumb to respiratory illness in the next 13 or so weeks — and that’s if everything goes right. The United States this morning reports at least 189,633 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 911 additional deaths in the last 24 hours.
It’s a toll few Americans can imagine weathering, let alone in a compressed period of time. There is nothing in contemporary American experience — not wars, 9/11, natural disasters or global contagions — to prepare major cities, small towns, hospitals, state and local governments, and everyday families for what lies ahead.
The shape of the images shown in the White House briefing room mirrors the roller-coaster anxiety driving the economic shock as the nation tries to simultaneously survive a viral “plague,” as Trump called it, along with sudden and stratospheric unemployment, loss of wealth and displacement.
“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. It could be three weeks,” Trump said somberly, noting that the coronavirus, without the extraordinary lockdowns and other mitigation efforts now underway in most of the states and in Washington for at least another month, theoretically could kill 2.2 million Americans if nothing were done to try to stop its spread. The models on which the projections are built come from data pulled daily from coronavirus hot spots, including Italy, New York and New Jersey.
“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks and then hopefully, as the experts are predicting, as I think a lot of us are predicting … we’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel,” the president added.
Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of ‘painful’ weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms Good communication will help beat COVID-19 14 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said every effort is being made to push down the projected dramatic spike that foreshadows more than 100,000 casualties. “As sobering as that number is, we should be prepared for it,” he said. “But we don’t necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist and physician who is coordinating policy as a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said the majority of the tens of thousands of Americans expected to die each week this spring will be older than 50 or, as experts have said, vulnerable to the virus because of other conditions.
Birx used her hand to trace the relatively horizontal lines since January showing infection rates and deaths in California and Washington state to underscore the benefits of early intervention and mitigation to slow the spread of COVID-19. She compared those states, which experienced the first cases of transmission from China more than two months ago, with the catastrophic situations in the New York and New Jersey metro region, which is now the epicenter of the U.S. emergency.
In a measured voice, Birx described what’s ahead for doctors, nurses and respiratory technicians in that densely populated area, describing them as “soldiers on the front lines.” Mitigation efforts and adherence to federal guidelines to stay home, wash hands and steer clear of people who might be sick will help prevent Detroit, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans and Boston from mimicking the soaring contagion and death tolls experienced now, and soon to be worse, in and around New York City, Birx added.
Trump, who has vacillated between denial and acceptance of the U.S. risks of the pandemic, changed course again on Tuesday, presenting himself as a leader who recognized all along that COVID-19 is more severe than the flu. In fact, in March he repeatedly argued influenza killed far more people each year. “It’s not the flu. It is vicious,” he conceded during Tuesday’s presentation.
If Americans follow the federal advice and stay-at-home restrictions, “it’s inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint to go through this, but this is going to be the answer to our problems, so let’s all pull together and make sure as we look forward to the next 30 days we do it with all the intensity and force that we can,” Fauci said.
The Hill: The White House projects grim death toll from the coronavirus.
The Hill: Trump tells Americans to brace for “very, very painful two weeks.”
The Hill: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperDefense chief says states can use National Guard to enforce stay-at-home orders Overnight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with outbreak | Pentagon shipment of ventilators delayed | Pompeo urges countries to be more ‘transparent’ with virus data Pentagon has not yet sent 2,000 ventilators due to lack of shipment location MORE says states can use the National Guard to enforce stay-at-home orders.
The Hill: For Trump and the political world, it’s now uncharted waters.
CNN: The Pentagon possesses 2,000 ventilators it is prepared to send to the Health and Human Services Department or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the equipment has not yet moved.
The Hill: CNN anchor Chris CuomoChristopher (Chris) Charles CuomoCNN’s Cuomo discusses positive coronavirus diagnosis on-air: ‘You do not want this’ Overnight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of ‘painful’ weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE says he tested positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms while working from his home. During Tuesday night’s broadcast, he warned his audience they “do not want this.”
CORONAVIRUS & ECONOMY: As Trump prepares the nation for funerals and another month or more of stay-at-home instructions that will result in layoffs, economists forecast another 3.5 million filings in the last week for unemployment benefits, pointing to an astonishing surge in joblessness in a country that in February boasted about historically low unemployment.
On Capitol Hill, House Democrats are beginning to collect proposals for a fourth phase of legislative responses to the coronavirus and its aftermath, including the often-mentioned and never enacted idea of federal infrastructure spending, a notion kicked around in Congress for at least three years (The Hill).
Trump on Tuesday called for $2 trillion in new public works programs an economic lifeline, backing an idea promoted by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of ‘painful’ weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach MORE (D-Calif.). “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill,” Trump tweeted (The Hill).
Rank-and-file lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have quickly joined the chorus, framing infrastructure as a commonsense strategy for creating jobs amid mass layoffs.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of ‘painful’ weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn’t have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) hit the brakes Tuesday on the House plan to include major infrastructure spending and other Democratic priorities in what Pelosi calls a “recovery” package (The Hill).
“I think we need to wait a few days here, a few weeks, and see how things are working out,” McConnell said during an interview on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”
“Let’s see how things are going and respond accordingly,” he added. “I’m not going to allow this to be an opportunity for the Democrats to achieve unrelated policy items that they would not otherwise be able to pass.”
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida gov says if White House recommended stay-at-home order it would ‘carry a lot of weight’ America’s governors should fix unemployment insurance Snowbirds in limbo as coronavirus upends travel plans MORE of Florida heralded the infrastructure idea in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, telling reporters during a coronavirus briefing that the suddenly empty roads offered his administration an opportunity to work on roadway upgrades and maintenance. “I’m going to be accelerating some of these infrastructure projects,” he said on Tuesday. The governor said he will disclose details of his infrastructure plans today.
Many economic analysts warn Americans, lawmakers, governors and businesses that the country is now in recession, a sudden end to 11 years of expansion. It could turn out to be worse than the contraction that followed the financial crisis in 2008 because the hardest hit are low-wage earners along with states and communities heavily reliant on tourism, services and energy (The Hill).
One example of a state in the vortex: South Carolina. The state, which boasts of its beaches and Southern pace, on Tuesday closed its shoreline, waterways and boat ramps on orders from Gov. Henry McMaster (R). The governor also shuttered all non-essential businesses (The Post and Courier). McMaster ordered that all beach access points and beach parking lots close because too many people failed to heed warnings about social distancing and avoiding crowds during the COVID-19 emergency (The State).
Trump is leaning on top business executives to help the country dig out of the economic downturn. His reliance on the executive suites he knew best before his election will test his ties to the private sector (The Hill).
Automakers are scheduled to report first-quarter vehicle sales today and are expected to report their worst sales declines in years (CNBC).
The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday closed down 400 points as stocks turned in their worst first quarter on record (CNBC).
And to round out a catalog of horribles, U.S. consumer confidence has plummeted (The Associated Press).
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CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Italian officials believe the number of daily infections has plateaued as the nation took time in unison on Tuesday to grieve those lost to the virus in recent months.
Silvio Brusaferro, the head of Italy’s National Institutes of Health, announced that the number of confirmed cases across the country “has reached a plateau,” as the previous 24 hours saw 4,053 new infections — only three more than the prior day. He also added that there should be a downtick in new cases “if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day.”
Across the country, Italians held a full minute of silence and flags were lowered to half-mast to mourn the mounting losses due to COVID-19. As of this morning, 12,428 have died in Italy — nearly one-third of deaths worldwide — while there are 105,792 confirmed cases (NPR).
Worldwide, there are at least 862,234 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 42,404 reported deaths, according to the latest information.
The New York Times: “We find ourselves afraid.” The Pope confronts coronavirus.
Reuters: Italy frets over lockdown, eyes eventual staggered re-opening.
The Associated Press: Mass testing, empty ICUs: Germany scores early against virus.
> Canada and snowbirds: Canadians who spend winters in the Southern United States are in a quandary as the coronavirus forces them to reevaluate where to live as safely as possible during the next few months. Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauSnowbirds in limbo as coronavirus upends travel plans Trump says Prince Harry, Meghan Markle must pay for their own security if they move to US Trudeau calls for keeping US-Canada border demilitarized MORE early in March urged Canadians abroad to “come home” (The Hill).
> Russia: Russian lawmakers sought to crackdown on those violating quarantine rules and approved a number of tough measures to deter those actions. Among those approved by parliament include a seven-year prison sentence for those who violate the quarantine and cause others to die, fines for healthy individuals who defy stay-at-home orders and up to five years in prison for spreading misinformation about the pandemic (BBC and The Associated Press).
Elsewhere, Denis Protsenko, the top doctor at Moscow’s main hospital for coronavirus patients, announced that he tested positive. The revelation came a week after shaking Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast Moscow placed under strict lockdown to stem coronavirus spread Trump says he’ll speak with Putin on Monday MORE. According to the latest statistics, there are 2,777 confirmed cases in Russia, along with 24 deaths (The Associated Press).
> Spain: Spain continues to repurpose hotels, sporting facilities and libraries, among other locales, into field hospitals as it deals with a rise in deaths and confirmed cases. 840 new deaths were reported on Tuesday (The Associated Press). The country’s total number of confirmed cases also eclipsed 100,000 today, trailing only the U.S. and Italy. According to the latest information, Spain has 102,136 positive cases of the virus and 9,053 deaths (The Guardian).
> Japan: City-run schools in Tokyo could be shuttered through early May as the coronavirus picks up steam in Japan. The news emerged a day after 78 new positive cases were announced, a daily record in Tokyo. The government had planned to reopen some schools next week, most of which have been closed since the beginning of March (Reuters).
The Associated Press: Too little too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay.
U.S. POLITICS: Allies of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill’s Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE are privately grumbling over Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees ‘narrow path’ to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE’s (I-Vt.) refusal to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination as his lead in the delegate count is nearly insurmountable and he is unable to fully unite the party until Sanders leaves the race.
Biden is walking a tightrope when it comes to Sanders as he pushes to win over his enthusiastic and engaged group of supporters. However, as Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley report, frustration is continuing to mount among Biden supporters as the former vice president and the Democratic nominating contest have become sidelined by the outbreak. Team Biden believes it is nearly impossible for the former VP to focus his attention completely on the president as long as Sanders remains in the contest.
As for Sanders, he has shown little appetite for dropping out. On Monday night, he told “Late Night” host Seth Meyers that there remains an avenue for him to nab the nomination over Biden, who remains the overwhelming favorite to become the Democratic standard-bearer.
“We’re about 300 delegates behind. Biden has 1,200. We have 900. There is a path,” Sanders said, acknowledging to Meyers that it is “admittedly a narrow path.”
Sanders’s allies agree that he shouldn’t drop out, noting that Biden cannot officially wrap up the nomination until June, after many states delayed their primaries due to the emerging virus.
One state that has not postponed its primary is Wisconsin, which is slated to go forward with it’s contest on Tuesday. The decision comes despite a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Tony Evers (D) (seen below) and 1,351 confirmed cases in the state as of Tuesday afternoon. Sixteen Wisconsinites have died due to the virus.
“The Wisconsin election will be like nothing anyone alive has ever experienced,” said Ben Wikler, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “Everyone involved in this election is scrambling to try to make democracy work in an impossible situation.”
While the polls are expected to remain open on Tuesday, most voters are casting ballots via absentee voting, which is breaking records in the state. As of Tuesday morning, 337,563 ballots have been returned, while 972,232 individuals requested ballots, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (CNN).
The only other primaries scheduled for April are in Alaska (April 10), Wyoming (April 17), Puerto Rico (April 26) and Ohio (April 28).
Politico: Coronavirus crashes the Wisconsin primary.
COVID-19 is also causing fits for Democrats as they look ahead to the Democratic National Convention and questions surrounding whether it will take place as planned. Biden told MSNBC’s Brian Williams late Tuesday that he does not anticipate his party will be able to meet in Milwaukee for four days in July, given the public health concerns.
“It’s hard to envision that,” Biden said. “We ought to be able — we were able to do it in the middle of the Civil War all the way through to World War II — have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety. And we’re able to do both. But the fact is it may have to be different” (Politico).
The Democratic convention is scheduled July 13-16.
For the GOP, the president said last week that there is “no way” he’ll cancel the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Fortunately for the Republicans, their convention is scheduled to begin six weeks later on August 24.
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Beyond the bad coronavirus numbers lie the good ones. They’re every bit as powerful, by David Von Drehle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2xHIXx2
Applying the lessons of 9/11 to the coronavirus response, by Javed Ali, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/346l0vF
The House meets for a pro forma session on Friday at 10 a.m.
The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Thursday at 10 a.m. Votes are not scheduled until April 20.
The president will receive his intelligence briefing at noon. He will also participate in a phone call with military families on coronavirus response at 2:30 p.m. Trump, Pence and the White House coronavirus task force will brief the press at 5 p.m.
The Washington Association of Money Managers has a sign-up deadline tonight for those interested in Thursday’s 3 p.m. virtual/online program with Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody’s Analytics, who will offer his assessment of the U.S. economy. To register, replies are required by 7 p.m. tonight to firstname.lastname@example.org with name, email and company/employer affiliation.
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Resources for small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak
We know it’s a challenging time for small businesses. To help, Facebook set up a resource hub with information, from how to set up a customer service plan to experimenting with online events.
➔ Fuel efficiency: The Trump administration on Tuesday rolled back an Obama-era law that pushes automakers to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles (The Hill). Critics immediately criticized the administration’s action (The Hill). … Former President Obama on Tuesday retweeted a Los Angeles Times report about the rollback and its impact on efforts to combat climate change, urging Americans to make climate a reason to vote in November: “We’ve seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can’t afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall.” Trump on Tuesday responded to U.S. automotive manufacturers via Twitter to bash “foolish executives” and companies he accused of being “politically correct.”
➔ Immigration: A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release 11 detainees because of their risks of contracting COVID-19. Judges around the country are reviewing similar lawsuits, as immigrant rights advocates warn that an outbreak of the coronavirus in any detention center could rapidly spread. A federal judge in Washington state recently gave ICE a week to prove it can enact proper safety measures in family detention centers, threatening to “revisit” a suit where petitioners asked for the release of thousands of detainees. The ACLU has similar lawsuits filed in six districts (The Hill).
➔ Courts, coronavirus & abortion: On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sought to reverse a federal court order issued on Monday allowing abortion to resume in Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Paxton imposed a temporary freeze on the procedure, arguing it is non-essential medical care during the coronavirus emergency. Paxton said the state plans to challenge the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (CBS News).
➔ Goat invasion: Yes, you read that right. In North Wales, while individuals take social distancing seriously, a group of mountain goats have meandered from the countryside to the barren streets of Llandudno. Andrew Stuart, a video producer for the Manchester Evening News, has posted videos of the goats to much fanfare. “There’s no one around at the moment, because of the lockdown, so they take their chances and go as far as they can. And they are going further and further into the town,” Stuart said (The Associated Press).
And finally … Harry and Meghan are working royals no more. On Tuesday, the duke and duchess of Sussex officially forfeited their roles as working members of the British royal family. They announced in January their intention to forge paths apart from the House of Windsor and now plan to focus on philanthropy and promoting eco-tourism while working with brand advisers in Los Angeles, their new celebrity address. Meghan, a former actress, is back to work and recently provided the voiceover for a Disney documentary about the migration of elephants (The New York Times).