By Robert A. Vella
Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress announced today that progress is being made in negotiations to pass the third phase of massive financial aid bills to offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic now ravaging the nation (see: McConnell, Pelosi, Mnuchin see deal soon on $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus aid). The sense of urgency intensified yesterday after President Trump suggested that he would reverse course on following the advice of medical experts who warn that the only way to contain COVID-19 is to stop the spread of the disease.
Trump’s suggestion is just the latest in a long list of self-serving impulses which have dominated his administration’s response to the pandemic. He feels personally threatened by the economic damage that is occurring not only because it makes him look bad and is hurting his family business, but especially because it could ruin his reelection chances. Furthermore, Wall Street and other powerful corporate interests are panicking over the prospect of full-blown economic collapse. However, this public health crisis has already become too severe to simply ignore; and, there is little the president can do on his own to boost the economy. Here’s why:
- President Trump has issued no national “stay at home” and business shutdown orders which he can rescind. Such orders which have been issued were done so by state governors and local officials. Trump can only request that they be rescinded.
- Trump can rescind the international travel ban and restriction orders which his administration has already ordered, but it is unlikely that many people would flock to commercial airlines and cruise ships while the pandemic is still raging.
- If Trump did publicly announce that he is “reopening the economy,” it would essentially be a rhetorical move which might motivate some people – particularly his loyal supporters – to ignore sound medical advice and possibly even to disobey state and local orders. That would only exacerbate the crisis resulting in more economic damage, more stress on the healthcare system, more untreated sicknesses, and potentially many more deaths.
- Trump’s suggestion is getting a lot of pushback even from one of his strongest allies – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who said: “President Trump’s best decision was stopping travel from China early on. I hope we will not undercut that decision by suggesting we back off aggressive containment policies within the United States.”
Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t care about these consequences. He will act impulsively like he has always done. If he believes that doing something will benefit him personally, he will do it.
Yesterday, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci – the highly respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and one of the few medical experts allowed to speak publicly for the Trump administration – curiously didn’t appear at the President’s daily press conference. Apparently, Trump isn’t happy that Fauci has been correcting his numerous inaccurate statements on-air; and, Trump must’ve been annoyed when Fauci reportedly chuckled when he referred to the State Department as the “Deep State Department” at a recent briefing room meeting. Also yesterday, the major news networks broke away from Trump’s rambling remarks for the first time since his coronavirus press conferences started. Americans gave Trump every opportunity to prove himself on this terrible crisis, but he has consistently failed. Whatever credibility he could have achieved is now gone with the winds of an irrepressible virus.
According to a new opinion poll on self-isolation (see: With U.S. in lockdown, hope and calm beat nervousness — CBS News poll):
10% coming and going as usual
23% going out, but being careful
55% going out only when have to
12% not leaving home
WASHINGTON — As the United States entered Week 2 of trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus by shuttering large swaths of the economy, President Trump, Wall Street executives and many conservative economists began questioning whether the government had gone too far and should instead lift restrictions that are already inflicting deep pain on workers and businesses.
Consensus continues to grow among government leaders and health officials that the best way to defeat the virus is to order nonessential businesses to close and residents to confine themselves at home. Britain, after initially resisting such measures, essentially locked down its economy on Monday, as did the governors of Virginia, Michigan and Oregon. More than 100 million Americans will soon be subject to stay-at-home orders.
Relaxing those restrictions could significantly increase the death toll from the virus, public health officials warn. Many economists say there is no positive trade-off — resuming normal activity prematurely would only strain hospitals and result in even more deaths, while exacerbating a recession that has most likely already arrived.
The economic shutdown is causing damage that is only beginning to appear in official data. Morgan Stanley researchers said on Monday that they now expected the economy to shrink by an annualized rate of 30 percent in the second quarter of this year, and the unemployment rate to jump to nearly 13 percent. Both would be records, in modern economic statistics.
One in three Americans have now been ordered to stay home as US health officials give dire warnings about what the next days of the coronavirus pandemic will look like.
The measures come amid a harrowing disease milestone for the US: the deadliest day yet, with 100 new coronavirus-related deaths reported Monday.
“It’s just going to get worse this week and worse next week,” Dr. Leana Wen, a visiting professor at George Washington University, told CNN Monday night. “How bad it gets depends on the actions that we each can take today.”
Wen’s words echoes the prediction US Surgeon General Jerome Adams made Monday: “This week, it’s going to get bad.”
“We really, really need everyone to stay at home,” he told NBC’s “Today” show.
Only a week ago, Hong Kong seemed like a model for how to contain the novel coronavirus, with a relatively small number of cases despite months of being on the front lines of the outbreak.
That was in large part thanks to action taken early on, while cases were spreading across mainland China, to implement measures that are now familiar throughout the world: virus mapping, social distancing, intensive hand-washing, and wearing masks and other protective clothing.
Now, however, Hong Kong is providing a very different object lesson — what happens when you let your guard down too soon. The number of confirmed cases has almost doubled in the past week, with many imported from overseas, as Hong Kong residents who had left — either to work or study abroad, or to seek safety when the city seemed destined for a major outbreak earlier this year — return, bringing the virus back with them.
The coronavirus outbreak in the US continues to grow, and after weeks of delays, large-scale testing has started to be rolled out in several states.
The COVID Tracking Project, a test-tracking resource from two journalists at The Atlantic and the founder of a medical-data startup, publishes frequently updated estimates of the number of coronavirus tests conducted in each state.
New York and Washington, two epicenters of the US outbreak, have tested a higher share of their populations than other states.
The coronavirus outbreak in the US continues to grow. So far, more than 40,000 cases have been confirmed across all 50 states, and at least 550 Americans have died.
Testing is a key part of fighting a pandemic – knowing the extent of an outbreak and how quickly it’s spreading is an essential piece of information for policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public. After weeks of delays in ramping up its testing, the US is now beginning to roll out testing on a much larger scale. More than 290,000 Americans have been tested for the coronavirus, up from just 10,000 on March 12.
President Trump has praised Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as a “major television star.” He has tried to demonstrate that the administration is giving him free rein to speak. And he has deferred to Dr. Fauci’s opinion several times at the coronavirus task force’s televised briefings.
But Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks — and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin.
Mr. Trump knows that Dr. Fauci, who has advised every president since Ronald Reagan, is seen as credible with a large section of the public and with journalists, and so he has given the doctor more leeway to contradict him than he has other officials, according to multiple advisers to the president.
NEW YORK (AP) — Six television networks began showing President Donald Trump’s briefing on the coronavirus outbreak late Monday, but only Fox News Channel stuck it out to the end nearly two hours later.
It was a notable turning point in coverage of the president’s now-daily briefings. Networks had been starting to hear criticism of how much time they have been showing the president answering questions live, reminiscent of a similar debate in the past about showing Trump’s campaign rallies.
ABC, CBS and NBC all covered Trump at the beginning of Monday’s briefing, which began about 6:10 p.m. Eastern. After 20 minutes, they switched to the network evening newscasts, never to return to Trump. The president spoke until shortly after 8 p.m.
The cable news networks have given Trump blanket coverage for his briefings, but CNN cut away Monday at around 7:20 p.m. MSNBC followed within five minutes.