👋 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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🔥 Daily Damage Report.
🌍 Global: Total confirmed cases ~2,215,000; Total deaths: ~151,000; Total recoveries: ~565,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
🇺🇸 U.S.: Total confirmed cases ~684,000; Total deaths: ~35,000; Total recoveries: ~57,100
💰 Markets: Dow 📈; S&P 500 📈; Nasdaq 📈
✏️ Reported U.S. coronavirus deaths reach record 4,591 in 24 hours – nearly double the prior record. (Wall Street Journal)
✏️ The experimental coronavirus drug remdesivir has showed promise in a Chicago clinical trial. Patients in the trial have reportedly experienced rapid recoveries from fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients being discharged in less than a week. The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with COVID-19 into Gilead Sciences’ two Phase 3 clinical trials. Of those people, 113 had severe respiratory symptoms and fever. All the patients have been treated with daily infusions of remdesivir. (STAT News / CNN)
1/ Trump issued broad guidelines for states to consider as they decide whether to relax social distancing measures, but left specific plans to governors days after insisting he had the “total authority” to unilaterally open the country. Trump said the guidance is based on “hard verifiable data” and that “benchmarks must be met at each phase.” The plan, however, is a vague set of recommendations for a three-phased reopening of businesses, schools, and other gathering places that satisfy broad criteria on symptoms, cases, and hospital loads. The guidelines also suggest that states resuming normal life should plan to “independently” secure protective gear and medical equipment. Businesses, meanwhile, are advised to come up with their own protocols for temperature checks, protective gear, sanitation, and testing. And, despite Trump’s goal for a May 1 reopening, the plan does not contain a date for implementation. “You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors on a conference call Thursday before announcing his “Opening Up America Again” plan, which he described as “the next front in our war.” Trump predicted that there are 29 states were “in the ballgame” and would “be able to open relatively soon,” but didn’t name any. (Washington Post / NBC News / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios)
Testing for the coronavirus would have to be at least doubled or tripled from its current levels to allow for even a partial reopening of America’s economy, public health experts say. Without testing on a massive scale, federal and state officials and businesses lack a clear picture of who has been infected, who can safely return to work, how the virus is spreading, and when stay-at-home orders can be eased. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that “The States have to step up their TESTING!” after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked for more help from the federal government to produce tests on a larger scale. About 1% of the U.S. has been tested for COVID-19, which remains too small to consider going back to normal routines, Dr. Dan Hanfling said, who worked in the National Healthcare Preparedness Program during the Obama and Trump administrations. “I don’t think we’re near it. I don’t think we’re close.” (NBC News / New York Times)
Epidemiologists warned that an influential COVID-19 model is flawed and shouldn’t be relied on as the basis for government decision making, including on “re-opening America.” The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projections were used by the Trump administration in developing national guidelines to mitigate the outbreak and have influenced the White House’s thinking on how and when to “re-open” the country. (STAT News)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged retailers to start operating next Friday as “retail to go.” State parks will reopen Monday, but visitors will be required to wear face coverings. Restrictions on non-coronavirus-related surgeries and procedures will also be loosened. Michigan, Wisconsin, Idaho and other states are also looking to ease restrictions, despite inadequate testing. (Washington Post / New York Times)
Dr. Phil downplayed coronavirus on Fox News by exaggerating statistics about car accidents and swimming pool deaths when comparing them to COVID-19 deaths. In the segment before, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, urged a cautious approach for states to slowly reopen their economies, saying the coronavirus was like nothing the country had ever seen before. Dr. Phil immediately undercut Dr. Fauci, arguing that states should reopen their economies even if lives might be lost in order to prevent anxiety and depression. “People are dying from the coronavirus,” Dr. Phil said. “I get that.” (HuffPost / Salon / Washington Post)
2/ Trump tweeted support for protesters in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia to “LIBERATE” themselves by defying stay-at-home orders — all states where protesters have gathered in public this week to demonstrate against stay-at-home orders issued by Democratic governors. Less than 24 hours after unveiling a plan that deferred to governors to determine when they could safely reopen their states, Trump sent a series of tweets calling on people to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!; LIBERATE MINNESOTA!; LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” Trump’s tweets were sent moments after a Fox News report about protests in Minnesota and elsewhere. (Bloomberg / Politico / USA Today / ABC News / New York Times)
3/ Trump’s reelection campaign still plans to hold rallies leading up to November’s election, despite public health experts warning that large gatherings should be put on hold until as late as next year. “We will get back to those rallies, “ Tim Murtaugh said, Trump’s campaign communications director. “Never fear, the president is certain that we’re going to be back out there speaking directly to the American people.” Trump campaign officials have discussed holding rallies in states that are deemed low risk and ways to implement social distancing precautions at future rallies, but it’s not clear what would characterize a state as “low risk.” (ABC News)
4/ Trump’s campaign committee hasn’t paid 14 city governments a combined $1.82 million for public safety costs stemming from his campaign rallies. The campaign said it’s not responsible for reimbursing cities for police and public safety costs associated with its rallies. (The Center for Public Integrity)
5/ Smugglers sawed into new sections of Trump’s border wall 18 times in one month in San Diego area between Sept. 27 and Oct. 27 last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection records. The records don’t indicate whether the one-month span is a representative sample of how frequently people are trying to breach Trump’s border barrier. (Washington Post)
- The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a politically connected Montana firm $569 million to build “17.17 miles” of the border wall. (Daily Beast)
6/ Michael Cohen will be released from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic. The federal Bureau of Prisons notified Cohen’s attorney that he will be able to serve the remainder of his three-year sentence — which ends in November 2021 — under house arrest instead of in prison. Trump’s former personal attorney will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in prison before he is released. (CNN / NBC News)
7/ A federal judge denied Roger stone’s request for a new trial, who was convicted last year of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his conversations with members of the Trump 2016 campaign. Stone alleged that the forewoman of the jury engaged in juror misconduct by lying on a questionnaire as the jury was being selected. Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s dismissal of Stone’s retrial request means Stone could begin serving his 40-month prison sentence as soon as two weeks from now. Judge Jackson also lifted the gag order placed on Stone, which prohibited him from discussing Robert Mueller’s cases or his own case on social media (CNBC / CNN / Washington Post / NBC News)
poll/ 65% of Americans say Trump waited too long to take to address the threat of the coronavirus in the U.S. 47% of Republicans say criticizing the Trump administration’s response to the virus is acceptable, while 85% of Democrats feel the same. (Pew Research Center / Axios)
poll/ 31% of Americans believe a return to normalcy will come by June 1 – down from 44% who said the same at the beginning of April. 18% think they’ll return to their regular daily routine by July 1, 26% by the end of summer, and 25% expect to resume their normal life by the end of the year or later. (ABC News)
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