👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warned of “impending doom” as Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise throughout the U.S. The seven-day average for new daily Covid-19 cases is nearly at 60,000 – up 10% from the prior week. Hospitalizations are up to about 4,800 a day, from 4,600 a week earlier. And, deaths have also started to rise again. Walensky attributed the rise to the spread of more contagious variants, increased travel, and governors lowering restrictions too quickly. “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” Walensky said, “but right now I’m scared.” (NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg)
😷 Dept. of “We’re gonna get through this.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~127,443,000; deaths: ~2,788,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~30,292,000; deaths: ~550,000; fully vaccinated: ~14.9%; partially vaccinated: ~28.6%
The CDC extended the national ban on evictions through the end of June. The CDC initially released an order in September barring eviction through the end of 2020, citing a 1944 public health law. Congress extended it in December, and the Biden administration renewed it again through March 31. (CNBC / Politico)
A WHO-China report on the origins of Covid-19 concluded that the most likely scenario of the coronavirus jumping from bats to humans was through another animal and that the lab leak theory is “extremely unlikely.” It is not clear, however, if China will allow outside experts direct access to the data. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it.” (Associated Press / New York Times)
Documentary: Dr. Deborah Birx said she received a “very uncomfortable” and “very difficult” phone call from Trump following her Covid-19 warnings. “Well, I think you’ve heard other conversations that people have posted with the president,” Birx said as part of a CNN documentary, “Covid War: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out.” “I would say it was even more direct than what people have heard. It was very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult to hear.” (CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)
2/ Biden announced that 90% of adults will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19. Additionally, the federal government will increase the number of pharmacies participating in the pharmacy vaccination program from 17,000 to 40,000 locations. The U.S. is on pace to administer 3 million vaccines a day. Biden, meanwhile, urged states that have eased mask and social distancing restrictions to reinstate them, saying “the war against Covid-19 is far from won,” “this is deadly serious […] If we let our guard down now we could see the virus getting worse not better.” (Bloomberg / CNN / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
- The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections after two doses in study of real-life conditions. One dose prevented 80% of infections by two weeks after vaccination. (New York Times / Washington Post)
3/ The Biden administration expects the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border to increase from more than 16,000 currently to as many as 26,000 by September. Until this month, the record for children taken into custody by Border Patrol officials was 11,475 in May 2019. (Wall Street Journal / Axios)
4/ Biden plans to expand wind farms along the East Coast in an effort to jump-start the growth of a zero-emission power source to fight climate change. The plan would generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade, which is would power more than 10 million homes and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Biden administration will investigate Trump-era political interference on the science that informed policy. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said that it will form a task force to review federal government policies and make sure they “prevent improper political interference” from affecting research or data. The task force also aims to prevent “the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings.” (New York Times / CNN)
6/ Russian hackers gained access to email accounts belonging to Trump’s Homeland Security chief and members of the department’s cybersecurity staff, who were responsible for identifying threats from foreign countries. The accounts were accessed as part of the SolarWinds hack, which included at least nine federal agencies and dozens of private companies. (Associated Press)
poll/ 72% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including 53% of Republicans who approve of Biden’s handling of vaccine distribution. (ABC News)
poll/ 38% of Americans say Trump made progress toward solving the major problems facing the country, while 37% say he made things worse, 15% said Trump tried but failed to solve the nation’s problems, and 10% said he did not address them. (Pew Research Center)
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