👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ The World Health Organization: “The pandemic is accelerating.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” More than 34,000 people have contracted the virus in the U.S., and at least 485 people have died. Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 350,000, with at least 15,000 deaths. (CNBC / CBS News)
2/ The Senate failed to pass the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill for the second day in a row. The procedural vote on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act failed 49-46 – short of the 60 vote threshold needed to advance the legislation for a final debate. Democrats argued that the bill disproportionately helps companies and needs to include more benefits for families and health care providers. Republicans, meanwhile, insisted that the bill offers financial assistance to the entire economy and needs to be passed before more people lose their jobs. After the vote, Mitch McConnell warned that the Senate might not be able to pass a bill until Friday or Saturday, blaming Democrats for “mindless obstruction.” Nancy Pelosi said the House would unveil its own coronavirus stimulus bill. (Politico / Washington Post / ABC News / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post / NBC News)
Sen. Rand Paul tested positive for COVID-19, making him the first U.S. senator to contract the virus. He does not have any symptoms and said was not aware of any instance where he had direct contact with an infected person. Earlier this month, Paul was the only senator to vote against a bipartisan deal that would have provided $8 billion in emergency coronavirus funding. (Axios)
Rep. Ben McAdams has been hospitalized for “severe shortness of breath” after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. McAdams symptoms started getting worse on Friday, so he called the medical hotline for the virus and was told to go to the hospital and check in with the isolation unit. “I was admitted and have been receiving oxygen as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels,” McAdams said in a statement. “I am now off oxygen and feeling relatively better and expect to be released as soon as the doctor determines it is appropriate.” (NBC News)
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed. (USA Today)
The United Kingdom issued a three-week national lockdown. All businesses deemed nonessential will close. (NBC News)
3/ The U.S. economy is deteriorating more quickly than anticipated with more than 84 million Americans at home because of shutdowns to combat the coronavirus. The Labor Department is expected to report that roughly 3 million Americans have filed first-time claims for unemployment assistance – more than four times the record high set during the 1982 recession. A JPMorgan Chase economist told clients that the jobless rate could spike to 20% from today’s 3.5%. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted that the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30% in the second quarter, with a 50% drop in gross domestic product. (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Quartz)
4/ Trump is considering ending “social distancing” guidelines due to concerns about the economic damage from an extended shutdown. Easing guidelines would run counter to recommendations by senior U.S. health officials, who have warned that the U.S. has not yet felt the worst of the pandemic. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted late Sunday. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!” The 15-day period ends on March 30. Administration officials said there is a growing sentiment that the White House went too far in allowing public health experts to set policy to “flatten the curve” that has hurt the economy. Pence, meanwhile, said the CDC will issue guidance allowing people exposed to the coronavirus to return to work sooner by wearing a mask. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Trump administration is updating guidance on how hospitals should respond if supplies like masks, face shields, and other protective equipment run out. The coronavirus task force has compared the need for ventilators, masks, and other protective equipment against the current supply and has acknowledged that the stockpile is short of what’s needed. Trade data also shows a decline in imports of medical supplies, including testing swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns, and hand sanitizer, from China starting in mid-February. Some emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics have already run out of supplies, while others are rationing personal protective equipment like gloves and masks. Trump, meanwhile, has resisted appeals from state, local officials, and hospital administrators to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel companies to make face masks and other gear to protect health workers. The American Medical Association called the shortages of protective gear for medical professionals treating coronavirus cases “unacceptable.” (Washington Post / Associated Press / NBC News / New York Times)
Trump promoted two unproven drugs to treat coronavirus, which has lead to shortages for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who depend on them to alleviate symptoms of inflammation, including preventing organ damage in lupus patients. (Washington Post)
Governors and mayors in growing uproar over Trump’s lagging coronavirus response. (Washington Post)
The Trump administration is considering a special enrollment period for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act because of the coronavirus crisis. Open enrollment for states that use the federal exchange ended on Dec. 15. A special enrollment period because of coronavirus would be aimed partly at ensuring people don’t put off getting tested or treated because they don’t have health insurance. About 30 million Americans are uninsured. (Wall Street Journal)
6/ U.S. intelligence agencies issued classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus. The reports didn’t predict when the virus would hit the U.S. or recommend steps public health officials should take, but it did track the spread of the virus in China and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak.Trump and lawmakers, however, repeatedly played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the virus. (Washington Post)
7/ The Trump administration eliminated a CDC disease expert position in China a few months before the coronavirus pandemic began. The position, known as resident adviser to the U.S. Field Epidemiology Training Program in China, was funded by the CDC and was focused on helping detect disease outbreaks in China. No other foreign disease experts were embedded to lead the program after Dr. Linda Quick had to leave her post in July amid the U.S. trade dispute with China. The post was officially discontinued as of September 2019. The CDC first learned of a “cluster of 27 cases of pneumonia” of unexplained origin in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31. (Reuters)
8/ The Justice Department asked Congress to allow chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies. In one request, the DOJ asked Congress to give the attorney general and top judges broad powers that would allow them to pause court proceedings during emergencies or “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.” These new powers would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.” The DOJ’s requests are unlikely to make it through a Democratic-led House. (Politico)
poll/ 72% of Americans say their state’s governors have done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. 50% say Trump has done a good job, while 45% say he’s done bad job. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)
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