👋 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 ~3,173,000; Total deaths: ~225,000; Total recoveries: ~960,000. (Johns Hopkins University)
🇺🇸 U.S.: Total confirmed cases ~1,031,000; Total deaths: ~60,200; Total recoveries: ~117,000
💰 Markets: Dow 📈; S&P 500 📈; Nasdaq 📈
U.S. GDP contracted 4.8% in the first quarter – the first negative reading since the first quarter of 2014 and the worst result on record since the Great Recession of 2009. Economists say the first quarter is a precursor to a far grimmer report to come on the April-June period, with business shutdowns and layoffs striking with devastating force. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that economic activity will plunge this quarter at a 40% annual rate. (CNBC / Associated Press / Vox)
Trump said existing coronavirus social distancing guidelines – set to expire with the end of April – will not be extended further. The administration said the existing social distancing recommendations will “be fading out, because now the governors are doing it.” (NPR)
Millions of municipal workers could find themselves out of a job or without pay as cities and states face an urgent financial crisis, according to a new estimate from the National League of Cities. The reductions in staffing could affect education, sanitation, safety and health, and more. (Washington Post)
Several states warned residents who are called back to work that they may be cut off from unemployment benefits if they refuse to return because they don’t feel safe. Concern about exposure to coronavirus is typically not a sufficient enough reason to stay home and continue collecting benefits, according to a recent guidance from the US Department of Labor. (CNN)
1/ Jared Kushner called the coronavirus crisis “a great success story” as the U.S. death toll crossed 60,000, with more than one million COVID-19 cases confirmed. “We’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this,” Kushner claimed in an interview with Fox News without citing evidence. “We’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. The federal government rose to the challenge.” Kushner also promised that that much of the country could be “back to normal” by June and for the nation to be “really rocking again” by July. [Editor’s note: Jared Kushner is a shithead.] (Daily Beast / CNN / The Hill / Business Insider)
CDC data suggests that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is far higher than reported. Total deaths in seven states are nearly 50% higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11. (New York Times)
Florida officials stopped releasing the list of coronavirus deaths being compiled by Florida’s medical examiners. Earlier this month, the medical examiners’ death count was 10% higher than the figure released by the Florida Department of Health. (Tampa Bay Times)
Trump’s re-election campaign launched a digital ad campaign of Democratic governors praising his response to the coronavirus crisis. This ad splices together statements from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham each saying something positive about Trump or the federal government. (CNN)
2/ Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that a second round of the coronavirus is “inevitable.” He added that “we have put into place all of the countermeasures” to address the pandemic, but “If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.” If states begin lifting restrictions too early, Fauci said the country could see a rebound of the virus that would “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago.” (CNN)
- The federal government ordered 100,000 new COVID-19 body bags for what officials described as preparations for a “worst possible case national scenario.” The order, costing $5.1 million, was placed April 21 by FEMA. Trump, however, said he expected that the pandemic could cost 60,000 to 70,000 lives in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal / NBC News)
3/ The FDA plans to announce emergency authorization for remdesivir after a federal trial showed the experimental antiviral drug could speed recovery in patients infected with the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci said the drug had produced a minor improvement in deaths — 11% for the placebo and 8% for remdesivi – and that patients given remdesivir recovered 31% faster than those given a placebo. Dr. Fauci hailed the results as “highly significant” but added that while the result “doesn’t seem like a knockout,” it was a strong “proof of concept.” He cautioned, however, that the results of the study overseen by his agency, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, still needs to be peer reviewed. However, a separate study of remdesivir – released today – concluded that the drug failed to improve patients’ condition or reduce the pathogen’s presence in the bloodstream, compared with placebo. Remdesivir has never been approved as a treatment for any disease. It was developed to fight Ebola, but results from a clinical trial in Africa were disappointing. Nevertheless, the FDA has been in “sustained and ongoing” discussions with Gilead Sciences to make remdesivir available to COVID-19 patients “as quickly as possible, as appropriate.” Note: An emergency authorization by the FDA is not the same as a drug approval by the agency. When the federal government declares a public health emergency, the FDA can approve certain drugs or tests to address the emergency if there are no other alternatives. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters / CNBC / STAT News / Axios / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
- The Trump administration has been organizing a Manhattan Project-style effort to cut the time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with a goal to have 100 million doses ready by year’s end. Called “Operation Warp Speed,” the program will pull together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by eight months. Separately, a group calling themselves Scientists to Stop COVID-19 has acted as the go-between for pharmaceutical companies looking for a link to Trump administration decision makers. The group, comprised of chemical biologists, an immunobiologist, a neurobiologist, a chronobiologist, an oncologist, a gastroenterologist, an epidemiologist and a nuclear scientist, are working as an ad hoc review board for the research on the coronavirus, weeding out flawed studies before they reach policy makers. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)
4/ Trump – providing no evidence – promised that the U.S. will be able to carry out more than five million coronavirus tests per day “very soon” after a Harvard University study said the U.S. needed to be capable of carrying out at least 5 million tests a day by early June – and 20 million per day by late July – in order to safely reopen the economy. He later claimed that he never said that, blaming it on a “media trap.” Since the beginning of the year, however, the Trump administration has conducted 5.7 million tests in total. And, the largest number of tests conducted by the U.S. in a single day was 314,182. Trump didn’t offer how his administration was going to account for the 1,500% increase in testing, but assured those at the briefing: “If you look at the numbers, it could be that we’re getting very close,” adding “I don’t know that all of that’s even necessary.” Trump also credited expanded testing for the 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus that the U.S. has reported, saying “It’s a number that in one way sounds bad but in another is an indication our testing is more superior.” On March 6, Trump said that anyone who wanted a coronavirus test could get one. Dr. Fauci, however, said Tuesday that “Hopefully, we should see that as we get towards the end of May, the beginning of June.” (Time / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / CBS News / Vox)
5/ Trump ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to find out whether China and the World Health Organization initially hid what they knew about the coronavirus pandemic as it emerged. The White House sent a specific “tasking” to the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency seeking information about the early days of the outbreak, specifically what the WHO knew about two research labs studying coronaviruses in Wuhan, China. The CIA received similar instructions. “Understanding the origins of the virus is important to help the world respond to this pandemic but also to inform rapid-response efforts to future infectious disease outbreaks,” a White House spokesperson said. (NBC News)
- A debate over an executive order to boost American production of medical supplies has gripped the White House, as Trump weighs how to confront China over the coronavirus outbreak without exacerbating the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic. (Washington Post)
poll/ 47% of adults in the U.S. said they were “very” or “somewhat” likely to follow recommendations from Trump when it comes to the coronavirus — 15% lower than a month ago. 98% of Americans said they would not try to inject themselves with bleach or other disinfectants if they got the coronavirus. (Reuters)
poll/ 50% of Americans say they or someone in their household has either lost hours or a job due to the coronavirus — up from 18% a month ago. (NPR)
poll/ 85% of Americans said it was a bad idea to have students return to schools without adequate testing, a vaccine or medications to treat coronavirus. Americans also said it was a bad idea to have people return to work (65%), allow large groups of people to attend sporting events (91%), and reopen restaurants (80%). (PBS)
The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to hold a confirmation hearing next week for Trump’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Rep. John Ratcliffe, when lawmakers return to Washington. Confirming Ratcliffe as the nation’s top intelligence official would send Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, back to Berlin for his primary job of U.S. ambassador to Germany. (CNN / Politico)
A former economist at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accused Trump’s appointees of manipulating the bureau’s research to justify reversing payday lending rules. On his final day of work at the nation’s consumer finance watchdog agency, Jonathan Lanning detailed several attempts by his political apointees that he considered legally risky and scientifically indefensible, including pressuring staff economists to water down their findings on payday loans and using statistical gimmicks to downplay the harm consumers would suffer if the payday restrictions were repealed. (New York Times)
Nearly three-dozen unsealed search warrants reveal a web of contacts between Roger Stone, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and other key figures in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Weeks after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in the Russia investigation, Stone reassured Assange in a Twitter message that if prosecutors came after him, “I will bring down the entire house of cards.” Investigators from Mueller’s investigation also told a judge that Stone orchestrated hundreds of fake Facebook accounts and bloggers to run a political influence scheme on social media in 2016. (CNN / Politico / Associated Press)
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