Day 1153: "We have it totally under control."
1/ Trump called on Congress “to go big” and approve a $1 trillion stimulus package to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which includes distributing roughly $250 billion in cash payments to Americans by the end of April. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added that the plan would also include roughly $50 billion for the airline industry, because “this is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry.” Congress already passed, and Trump signed into law, an $8.3 billion bill that funds vaccine development and provides money to state and local governments. Last week, the House passed a $100 billion bill to expand unemployment insurance, offer paid sick days, and mandate that testing for the virus be free. Trump is expected to sign the package once the Senate passes the bill. Senate Democrats have also proposed a $750 billion plan that includes more emergency aid for hospitals, expanded unemployment insurance, more funds for small business, help with child care, and food assistance for seniors. In 2008, Congress passed a $700 billion package to try and rescue the financial system. Trump, meanwhile, promised that “if we do this right […] we’re going to win” the “war” against the coronavirus. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNBC / NBC News)
The federal government postponed the April 15 tax payment deadline for 90 days. The delay is available to people who owe $1 million or less and corporations that owe $10 million or less. (Wall Street Journal)
Researchers concluded that “the only viable strategy at the current time” is to keep social distancing measures in place for at least three months. A report by the COVID-19 Response Team at the Imperial College of London argues that suppression – i.e. “social distancing of the entire population” – would prevent U.S. hospitals from becoming extremely overburdened until a vaccine becomes available in about 18 months. Researchers also outlined mitigation policies, which focus on “slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread” by isolating people suspected of having the virus at home and quarantining their contacts. Mitigation could reduce the demand on the health care system by two-thirds and cut the number of deaths in half if applied for three months. The would still result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and in health systems “overwhelmed many times over.” The group shared their projections with the White House task force about a week ago. [Editor’s note: It’s worth reading both of these articles to fully understand the scenarios and expected outcomes. This is extremely sobering research.] (New York Times / Vox)
2/ Trump claimed he “always viewed” coronavirus as a “pandemic long before it was called a pandemic” despite repeatedly minimizing and mocking concern about the threat it posed to Americans. Since January, Trump has boasted that “we have it totally under control”; that “one day” the coronavirus will “disappear” like a “miracle”; that “it’s going to work out fine” because of the “warm weather” in April; that coronavirus is a “new hoax” by Democrats; and to “Just stay calm. It will go away.” (New York Times / CNBC / Politico)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned New Yorkers to prepare for a “shelter-in-place” order. A decision will be made in the next 48 hours. (CNBC / Politico / NBC News)
The European Union will close its external borders for 30 days. Movement of people within the European Union’s 27 member nations will still be allowed under the restrictions. (CNBC / Politico)
Trump’s press secretary is in self-quarantine. (New York Post)
Mick Mulvaney is in self-quarantine. (New York Times)
3/ The U.S. military will provide 5 million respirator masks, 2,000 ventilators, and ready its hospital ships in response to the growing coronavirus crisis. The Pentagon will also open up as many as 16 labs to test civilians and potentially call up more members of the National Guard and Reserve. (Wall Street Journal)
At least 100 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus and at least 5,303 confirmed cases. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Dozens of health care workers have fallen ill with COVID-19, and more are quarantined after exposure to the virus. (Washington Post)
One of the nation’s top cancer hospitals has a week’s supply of masks left and at least five employees and three patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19. (BuzzFeed News)
The Department of Veterans Affairs removed its mission statement to serve as a backup health system in times of crisis from its website. The VA’s main three missions are to serve veterans through care, research and training, but a “fourth mission” was added by Congress in 1982: to provide hospital care and medical services to civilians during disasters and emergencies. On Friday, all references to that fourth mission were removed and replaced with information that contains no reference to the mission whatsoever. It is unclear why the page was edited. (Washington Post)
4/ The Justice Department moved to drop charges against two Russian shell companies accused of financing efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Concord Management and Concord Consulting were indicted by Robert Mueller’s team in 2018 — along with 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency — for using social media to spread disinformation, exacerbate U.S. social divisions, and sabotage the 2016 election. Prosecutors recommended that the DOJ drop the charges to prevent Concord from accessing and potentially publishing a cache of documents that includes details about the government’s sources and methods for investigation. In a motion filed on Monday, prosecutors said Concorcd is “eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference.” Prosecutors are still pursuing charges against the 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency. (Washington Post / New York Times)
poll/ 18% of Americans reported that they had been laid off or that their work hours had been cut because of the coronavirus pandemic. 56% of Americans considered the coronavirus outbreak a “real threat,” while 38% said it was “blown out of proportion.” (Los Angeles Times)
poll/ 46% of Americans say the federal government is doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, down from 61% in February. 37% of Americans say they have trust in what Trump says about the crisis, while 60% say they don’t trust what he’s saying. (NPR)
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