By Robert A. Vella
President Trump addressed the nation last night on the coronavirus pandemic. Although he spoke for just ten minutes, his remarks only weakened the public’s confidence in his ability to respond to this worsening public health crisis. It was plainly evident that Trump sees the COVID-19 outbreak exclusively as a threat to his reelection chances, as a political opportunity to punish his perceived enemies, and as a problem he can solve on his own without the expertise of medical science. Today, it is also quite clear that the majority of the American people see this situation very differently.
Trump’s disjointed reciting of medical recommendations on how people should protect themselves and others from getting and spreading the disease (as if people weren’t already aware), and the announced cancelling of two of his scheduled political rallies, gave the impression that he did so reluctantly and belatedly in reaction to fast moving events which he didn’t expect. Trump’s declared travel ban against Europe was even more egregious, not because reducing overall travel wouldn’t help, but because the ban is politically targeted and does not apply to other countries – most notably the U.K. which is geographically part of Europe. Also, Trump issued a vague proposal to provide financial aid to affected Americans in an obvious attempt to steal the headline from Democrats at the same time they were formulating specific bills in both house of Congress.
Stock and bond markets across the globe reacted negatively to Trump’s address crashing sharply for the second straight day. U.S. markets are now officially in “bear market” territory after 11 years of sustained economic growth since the Great Recession. Many industry analysts are expecting that a worldwide recession is inevitable.
Globally, there are currently over 133,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases with nearly 5,000 deaths. The figures in the U.S. are over 1,400 and 40, respectively, but the actual number of infections is undoubtedly much higher due to continuing delays in testing procedures and mitigation efforts. Cruise ship businesses are shutting down, major professional and amateur sports are suspending operations or are otherwise cancelling events, states and cities are prohibiting public gatherings, employers and schools are trying to remain active via telecommuting, people are being advised to avoid social contact wherever possible, high-profile individuals are contracting or being exposed to the virus, and – unfortunately – the worst is still to come.
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have given speeches today concerning this failure of leadership in the Trump administration.
“This virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current administration. Public fears are being compounded by pervasive lack of trust in this president fueled by adversarial relationships with the truth. Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by the hollowing out of our agencies and disparagement of science.” – Joe Biden, from: Biden launches opening salvo of general election, attacks Trump on coronavirus
Here’s today’s news:
“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” it said. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”
U.S. stock prices fell 7 percent within minutes of the market opening on Thursday, setting off a 15-minute pause in trading for the second time in a week, and European stocks also plunged as investors digested the consequences of President Trump’s 30-day travel ban on European visitors to the United States.
The drop put stocks firmly into bear market territory, defined as a decline of 20 percent or more from the peak. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index closed more than 19 percent below the record high set last month, while the Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 20 percent threshold.
President Trump said on Wednesday night that he was suspending most travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, beginning on Friday, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions do not apply to Britain, he said.
Stocks fell sharply once again Thursday after an address from President Donald Trump failed to quell concerns over the possible economic slowdown from the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, the Dow ended its historic 11-year bull market run by closing in bear-market territory. A bear market marks a 20% decline from all-time highs. The S&P 500 was just shy of that threshold going into Thursday’s trading and was poised to enter bear market territory based on futures losses.
“The crux of the angst investors are feeling as the coronavirus spreads surrounds what might happen to consumer spending,” wrote Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.
“Consumers sitting at home and not out spending money because they fear catching the coronavirus is the ultimate negative outcome,” he added. “It has been the U.S. consumer who has been driving the recovery bus during this long expansion.”
A top U.S. health official said the worst is yet to come with a new coronavirus outbreak that has already infected more than 1,000 people across the nation, prompting state officials from New York to Washington to close schools and even mobilize troops outside of Manhattan.
“I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee at a hearing on the nation’s preparedness for the outbreak Wednesday.
How much worse depends on two things, he said: containing the influx of infected people coming from other countries and containing local outbreaks within the U.S.
“Bottom line is it’s going to get worse,” he added.
Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, knew that the United States did not have much time.
In late January, the first confirmed American case of the coronavirus had landed in her area. Critical questions needed answers: Had the man infected anyone else? Was the deadly virus already lurking in other communities and spreading?
As luck would have it, Dr. Chu had a way to monitor the region. For months, as part of a research project into the flu, she and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region.
To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.
Lack of funding has hampered the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told lawmakers Tuesday.
The hearing in the House was originally intended to address concerns about the CDC’s 2021 budget. But lawmakers’ questions for Director Robert Redfield focused more specifically on the outbreak, particularly regarding the slow rollout of tests across the country.
“The truth is we’ve underinvested in the public health labs,” Redfield told them.
WASHINGTON, March 11 (Reuters) – The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials.
The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), a key player in the fight against the coronavirus.
Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she won’t delay legislation aimed at helping Americans get through the coronavirus despite Republican concerns about certain aspects of the bill that’s scheduled to come to the House floor Thursday.
Pelosi said she’s working with the White House to iron out differences on a bill that would provide millions with access to free tests, expand paid sick leave and provide food assistance to needy families.
“We are addressing the realities of family life in America, putting families first,” she told reporters during a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday morning. “We don’t need 48 hours (to address all concerns). We just need to make a decision to help families right now.”
The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Trump administration may continue its “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers while lower-court challenges continue, after the federal government warned that tens of thousands of immigrants amassed at the southern border could overwhelm the immigration system.
The justices reversed a decision of a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that had ordered the policy be suspended Thursday along parts of the border. As is usual in emergency rulings, the court’s unsigned, one-paragraph order did not provide the majority’s reasoning. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted her dissent.
Senate Republicans joined Democrats Wednesday to overturn a rule backed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that would have limited the student debt relief granted to people defrauded by for-profit colleges — an unusual bipartisan move to undo a Trump administration initiative to weaken an Obama-era policy.
It will now go to President Donald Trump, who can either sign the bill or decide to stand with DeVos by vetoing the legislation and letting her rule go into place as was expected on July 1. A policy statement issued by the administration last month said that the President’s advisers would recommend that he veto the resolution. Congress does not have the votes to overturn the President’s veto.
The Trump Organization paid bribes, through middlemen, to New York City tax assessors to lower its property tax bills for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s, according to five former tax assessors and city employees as well as a former Trump Organization employee.
Two of the five city employees said they personally took bribes to lower the assessment on a Trump property; the other three said they had indirect knowledge of the payments.
The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.