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As supplies have dwindled, doctors and nurses have improvised ways to make their stock last. Now they’re urging leaders to help.
By Mariel Padilla

An intensive-care nurse in Illinois was told to make a single-use mask last for five days. An emergency room doctor in California said her colleagues had started storing dirty masks in plastic containers to use again later with different patients. A pediatrician in Washington State, trying to make her small stock last, has been spraying each mask with alcohol after use, until it breaks down. “The situation is terrible, really terrible,” said Dr. Niran Al-Agba, 45, the pediatrician. “I don’t think we were prepared.” Dr. Al-Agba was one of hundreds of health care workers this week who appealed to the public for help confronting the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened thousands and killed more than 140 people in the United States. As hospital supplies have dwindled, the vice president has called on construction companies to donate masks, the surgeon general has urged the public to stop buying them, and experts have warned that, the more doctors and nurses who get sick, the greater strain on a system already stretched thin. Now, doctors, nurses and others are rallying on social media with the hashtag #GetMePPE, referring to personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and face shields, to put pressure on elected leaders to get them more gear to guard against infection. Some suggested that members of the public reach out to a nearby hospital if they had masks or other medical equipment to donate.

According to management I’m wearing the last n95s available in house for now. They are telling us that we put our name on it and place it in a bag for up to FIVE days. All our airborne rooms are FULL of r/o covid and this is just in the ICU#getmeppe pic.twitter.com/ldRbAr8SLx
— ɪ ɴ ᴛ ᴇ ʀ ʀ ᴜ ᴘ ᴛ ᴇ ᴅ (@charinterrupted) March 17, 2020

Medical professionals need a large supply of the masks because they are in direct contact with infected patients and must change their masks repeatedly. The World Health Organization’s guidelines recommend that health workers use surgical masks to cover their mouths and noses, but some hospitals require masks known as N95s, which are thicker, fit more tightly around the mouth and nose, and block out much smaller particles than surgical masks do. Charnai Prefontaine, an I.C.U. nurse in Illinois, said she’s asking the public to implore lawmakers and government officials to speed up the process of bringing resources to hospitals.

By Nikki Carvajal and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) A staff member in Vice President Mike Pence's office has tested positive for coronavirus, Pence's spokesperson said Friday evening. "‪This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus. Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual," said Katie Miller. "Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines." Pence has been the Trump administration's point person on coordinating the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic. While the staffer is the closest confirmed case to Pence that is publicly known, it isn't his first potential brush with the virus. At least two people tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Policy Conference in Washington, which was attended by Pence as well as several lawmakers and aides. Both Pence and President Donald Trump attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, where a high-profile attendee also tested positive for coronavirus. Interactions with that attendee sent multiple Republican lawmakers into self-quarantine in the weeks following the conference. There is no indication that either Trump or Pence "met with or were in close proximity to the attendee" after attending the conference, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement earlier this month. As of Monday, Pence had not been tested for the virus. As the head of the coronavirus task force, the vice president has maintained fairly smooth relationships with the Democratic governors of states hit hard by the virus and projected an image of calm and organization in his near-daily appearances at the White House briefing room lectern to update the nation on the task force's efforts.

By Shane Harris, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima

U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers played down the threat and failed to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen, according to U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting. The intelligence reports didn’t predict when the virus might land on U.S. shores or recommend particular steps that public health officials should take, issues outside the purview of the intelligence agencies. But they did track the spread of the virus in China, and later in other countries, and warned that Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak. Taken together, the reports and warnings painted an early picture of a virus that showed the characteristics of a globe-encircling pandemic that could require governments to take swift actions to contain it. But despite that constant flow of reporting, Trump continued publicly and privately to play down the threat the virus posed to Americans. Lawmakers, too, did not grapple with the virus in earnest until this month, as officials scrambled to keep citizens in their homes and hospitals braced for a surge in patients suffering from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Intelligence agencies “have been warning on this since January,” said a U.S. official who had access to intelligence reporting that was disseminated to members of Congress and their staffs as well as to officials in the Trump administration, and who, along with others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive information.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) In an extraordinary exchange on Friday, President Donald Trump viciously attacked an NBC News reporter who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the country. The exchange, which occurred at the White House's daily coronavirus task force briefing, began when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked Trump whether he was giving Americans "false hope" by touting unproven coronavirus drugs. Toward the end of the exchange, Alexander cited the latest pandemic statistics showing thousands of Americans are now infected and millions are scared. Alexander asked, "What do you say to Americans who are scared?" Trump, shaking his head, ripped into Alexander in response. "I say that you are a terrible reporter," Trump replied. "That's what I say." The President proceeded to launch into an extended rant against Alexander, saying he asked a "nasty question" and assailing NBC and its parent company, Comcast. "You're doing sensationalism," Trump charged. "And the same with NBC and Comcast. I don't call it Comcast. I call it 'Con-Cast.'" "Let me just tell you something," Trump added. "That's really bad reporting. And you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism." Moments later, Kaitlan Collins, a White House correspondent for CNN, asked Trump if it was appropriate to embark on tirades against members of the news media during a public health crisis. "You see yourself as a wartime President right now, leading the country through a pandemic that we are experiencing," Collins noted. "Do you think going off on Peter, going off on a network is appropriate when the country is going through something like this?" Trump defended his verbal assault on Alexander, saying he's "not a good journalist" and launching into another rant against him.

By David Smith

Donald Trump has thrown an extraordinary temper tantrum on live television, lambasting a reporter who challenged him for raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment. Peter Alexander, White House correspondent at NBC News, asked the US president: “What do you say to Americans, who are watching you right now, who are scared?” Erupting in anger, Trump unleashed a tirade: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. I think it’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.” The outburst came at Friday’s White House coronavirus taskforce briefing, at which Trump announced a restriction on non-essential travel across the US-Mexico border as well as stricter controls on undocumented migrants. The president – who repeatedly downplayed the threat early in the global outbreak – has this week been hyping an anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, as a possible therapeutic treatment. “It may work, it may not work,” he said on Friday. “I feel good about it. It’s just a feeling. I’m a smart guy … We have nothing to lose. You know the expression, ‘What the hell do you have to lose?’” This was originally his campaign pitch to African Americans. Yet Trump’s “feeling”, on which he so often relies, was confronted by science when Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned that evidence of chloroquine’s benefits against coronavirus is “anecdotal” and it should not be viewed as a miracle cure. “Fundamentally, I think it probably is going to be safe, but I like to prove things first,” Fauci said. Alexander asked the president: “Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” The president retorted: “No I don’t think so … It may work, it may not work. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, it’s a feeling.” It was then Alexander asked for Trump’s message to people who are feeling scared and the president snapped: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter.” He added: “You’re doing sensationalism … That’s really bad reporting. You ought to get back to reporting.” Trump claimed, “I’ve been right a lot,” and barked at Alexander: “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.” Other correspondents asked Trump why he was assailing a reporter during a national crisis.

China recommended chloroquine for coronavirus a month back
By Bloomberg

The drug touted by the U.S. President Donald Trump as a possible line of treatment against the coronavirus comes with severe warnings in China and can kill in dosages as little as two grams. China, where the deadly pathogen first emerged in December, recommended the decades-old malaria drug chloroquine to treat infected patients in guidelines issued in February after seeing encouraging results in clinical trials. But within days, it cautioned doctors and health officials about the drug’s lethal side effects and rolled back its usage. This came after local media reported that a Wuhan Institute of Virology study found that the drug can kill an adult just dosed at twice the daily amount recommended for treatment, which is one gram. Relates to Virus Drug Touted by Trump, Musk Can Kill With Just Two Gram Dose. As the drug hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration to treat the disease known as Covid-19, the Chinese experience may be useful as the American regulator studies the medication which has been endorsed by Trump as well as Tesla Inc. chief executive officer Elon Musk. The pandemic, which has sickened more than 235,000 globally and killed over 9,800 people, has triggered growing anxiety across the U.S. as states say they lack testing kits and medical equipment. California instituted a state-wide lockdown on Thursday to slow the outbreak.

By Adam Bienkov

The UK government is in "genuine disbelief" about how badly US President Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus outbreak, with officials reacting with "incredulity" to the president's attempts to downplay the epidemic. The Trump administration's slow response and the president's stream of tweets about COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been received badly by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's team, UK officials told BuzzFeed News. "There is a general level of incredulity over his comments but especially over the lack of testing," a UK official told the website. People in the UK government "are used to the steady stream of tweets, but the last few days have caused more than the usual eye-rolling," the official said. "There is genuine disbelief." In the past week, the president has used the outbreak to attack his Democratic opponents. The president has labeled the outbreak a "hoax" and falsely claimed that "anyone who wants a test can get a test." He also reportedly has become fixated on keeping the official number of US cases low. Referring to Trump's response and a new UK government unit designed to counter misinformation about the virus online, a UK official told BuzzFeed News that "our COVID-19 counter-disinformation unit would need twice the manpower if we included him in our monitoring." Johnson has distanced himself from Trump after an 'apoplectic' call.

Of Course Trump Deserves Blame for the Coronavirus Crisis
There’s no moving forward without understanding what’s going wrong.
By Michelle Goldberg

Last Friday, Representative Andy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, wrote a letter signed by 56 colleagues urging Donald Trump to invoke a law called the Defense Production Act in the fight against coronavirus. Passed during the Korean War in 1950, the law lets the president direct manufacturers to make supplies necessary for national security. “It very clearly allows the president to use the same powers for a public health emergency,” Levin told me. At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is leading to a critical shortage of tests, ventilators, respirators, I.C.U. beds and protective gear for medical professionals, it seemed like an obvious move. “He has the power to get what we need,” said Levin. “And this is tens and hundreds of thousands of lives at stake in real time here.” Finally, on Wednesday, Trump invoked the law, and it briefly looked as if things were going to get moving. But later that day, he tweeted that he’s holding off on actually using the powers the law gives him: “I only signed the Defense Production Act to combat the Chinese Virus should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need, but we are all in this TOGETHER!” Levin was incredulous. “The worst-case scenario is right now,” he said, adding: “This is something that is completely beyond partisanship. It’s an all-hands-on-deck crisis.” With the world plunged into the most terrifying emergency in living memory, some people, and not just right-wing hacks, are saying that now is not the time to talk about the malfeasance of Donald Trump.

In Western eyes China seems to be either Mordor or a shining city on the hill – It’s not only the rank demagogues whose words on the country we need to be wary of
by Ben Chu

Mexicans are “rapists”. Muslims should be “banned” from entering America. Black and Hispanic members of Congress should “go back” to where they came from. Immigrants hail from “shithole countries”. White supremacist groups contain some “very fine people”. The debate about whether Donald Trump repeatedly calling the coronavirus outbreak a “Chinese virus” represents an act of racism or not must surely be one of the most pointless debates since mediaeval scholastics squabbled about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Simply look at the man’s long and consistent record of xenophobia and then judge whether he’s using the label “Chinese virus” in a factual and entirely innocent way, as he insists. It’s really not worth wasting any intellectual bandwidth on this question. That’s not, of course, to deny the seriousness of the nominal leader of the free world intentionally stirring the cauldron of bigotry in this way at a time of mass anxiety, economic stress and spiking incidents of racist abuse - and even assaults - directed towards ethnically Chinese people in Western countries. Nor should we be sanguine about Trump’s tweedy epigone, Nigel Farage, ranting on Twitter that: “It really is about time we all said it. China caused this nightmare. Period.” Before we dismiss him as an irrelevance, bear in mind that some 30 per cent of the electorate voted for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party only last year and he has appeared on BBC Question Time 33 times. He tweets to 1.5 million followers. Farage may not have a parliamentary constituency, but be in no doubt: he has an audience. The words of political leaders can have real world consequences, particularly at a time when people are angry and scared. But, of course, in this age of populism, that’s precisely the point. In the case of Trump, it’s important to recognise that the President consistently uses racism as a way of distracting attention from other unhelpful subjects.

By Aristos Georgiou

A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official criticized the use of stigmatizing language which associates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with ethnic Chinese people. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's health emergency programs, made the comments after President Donald Trump defended his use of the term "Chinese virus" when referring to the outbreak. "I think we've been very clear right since the beginning of this event that viruses know no borders and they don't care [about] your ethnicity, the color of your skin, how much money you have in the bank," Ryan told a reporter from the South China Morning Post at a WHO press conference on Wednesday. "It's really important that we are careful in the language we use lest it lead to profiling of individuals associated with the virus," he said. "This is just something we need to all avoid. It's easy in situations to summarize or to make comments that are not intended to do that but ultimately end up having that outcome. I'm sure anyone would regret profiling a virus along ethnic lines. That's not something anybody would want." On Wednesday, the president said his use of the term "Chinese virus" in reference to the pandemic was justified. "It's not racist at all. No, not at all. It comes from China, that's why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate," Trump told reporters at a press conference. However, the president's remarks have been branded as offensive and racist, with some commentators arguing that it could fuel xenophobia against Chinese people.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) It's a stunning reversal President Donald Trump would like Americans to forget. Only days after dismissing the coronavirus threat as a distraction, he's now assumed the title of a resolute war time president fighting an "invisible enemy" while promising to rally the nation behind him in pursuit of "total victory." Trump's new posture is in response to a crisis that is worsening by the hour and appears to be partly designed to cover up the administration's failures in distributing testing kits that have might help authorities slow the virus' advance. And it is already being undermined by his own actions. He's casting doubt over whether he will actually implement a move to invoke the Defense Production Act -- that he signed on Wednesday and that gives him authority to order industry to work towards homeland defense and national goals. In this case, it could speed the production of badly needed ventilators, masks and other supplies for hospital workers. Trump's initial decision was welcomed by state governors and representatives for frontline medical workers who fear being exposed to the virus due to shortages of protective equipment. But he later tweeted that he only signed the act "should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future. Hopefully there will be no need." The statement caused confusion, undermined Trump's earlier adoption of a military-style campaign and raised fresh questions over whether he was still trying to downplay the possible impact of the virus on the United States. "It was so disassociated from what he said this morning at the press conference and what he said to us," said Dr. David Benton, a nursing industry representative who was at a meeting with Trump on Wednesday at which the President talked of "scaling up" medical supplies. Benton said that the President left him with the impression "that he's now using this power to meet the demands that were needed." But he added that the change in position was "very, very strange." Another pillar of Trump's messaging on Wednesday was also afflicted by uncertainty. An announcement that hospital ships will be deployed to New York and a forthcoming West Coast destination is going to happen more slowly than it first appeared. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN Wednesday that it will be several weeks before the vessels are ready. These developments are a reminder that while Trump may enjoy the ring of the title "wartime President" only his words and deeds in a moment of grave national crisis will show whether he is worthy of it. In shouldering the mantle of a wartime commander, Trump is likening the need for an escalating struggle against the coronavirus to the heroism of the World War II generation.

By Travis Gettys

President Donald Trump faced mockery after claiming the coronavirus caught his administration off guard — after claiming he had always known it was a pandemic. The president claimed Tuesday that he’d always been aware of the outbreak’s threat to public health, and praised himself the following morning on Twitter for taking the coronavirus seriously. But then he claimed the outbreak, which scientists have been watching with alarm since it originated three months ago in China, caught him by surprise. “I call it the unseen the unseen enemy, there’s a thousand different terms for it, but it snuck up on us,” Trump said, “and it’s in 128 countries, I think it’s in something like that, very close to that. think of that. So it spreads violently it’s a very contagious, very, very contagious virus for America to be on a wartime footing, in terms of fighting this virus.” President Donald Trump faced mockery after claiming the coronavirus caught his administration off guard — after claiming he had always known it was a pandemic. The president claimed Tuesday that he’d always been aware of the outbreak’s threat to public health, and praised himself the following morning on Twitter for taking the coronavirus seriously. But then he claimed the outbreak, which scientists have been watching with alarm since it originated three months ago in China, caught him by surprise. Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today. “I call it the unseen the unseen enemy, there’s a thousand different terms for it, but it snuck up on us,” Trump said, “and it’s in 128 countries, I think it’s in something like that, very close to that. think of that. So it spreads violently it’s a very contagious, very, very contagious virus for America to be on a wartime footing, in terms of fighting this virus.” The president’s claims met an instant and furious fact check.

by Dan Mangan

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his habit of calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” “It’s not racist at all,” Trump said at a White House press conference to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. “No, not at all.” Trump was asked about his persistent use of the term despite health officials saying that ethnicity does not cause the virus — and reports that dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese-Americans who have been blamed for allegedly spreading the coronavirus. “Because it comes from China,” Trump told the reporter who asked the question. “That’s why.” “I want to be accurate.” The coronavirus pandemic originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Trump also said Wednesday that Chinese government officials originally “tried to say at one point — maybe they stopped saying now — that it was caused by American soldiers.” The New York Times said Friday that a baseless conspiracy theory is circulating in China that U.S. soldiers who visited Wuhan last fall may have sparked the outbreak. “That can’t happen. It’s not going to happen. Not as long as I’m president,” Trump said of the theory. “It comes from China,” the president repeated about the virus. Asked about Trump’s use of the term. Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said: “Viruses no know borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank. So it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it lead to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus.”

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump said during Wednesday's White House press briefing that he will be invoking the Defense Production Act to help make up for potential medical supply shortages and deploy two hospital ships as the US battles the coronavirus pandemic. Trump said that he sees the country on wartime footing and himself as a wartime president amid the coronavirus crisis. "I view it -- in a sense as a wartime president," Trump said after announcing he was invoking the Defense Production Act, which was established in 1950 in response to production needs during the Korean War. The Federal Emergency Management Agency describes the act as "the primary source of presidential authorities to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base to support military, energy, space and homeland security programs." The President also announced that two hospital ships were preparing to deploy in response to New York, which has been heavily impacted by the coronavirus, though Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said only one ship, the US Navy hospital USNS Comfort, was currently slated to go there at this time. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has at times expressed frustration with the President's lack of action to help his state, said he spoke with Trump Tuesday and Wednesday morning in what Cuomo described as an "open and honest conversation." "He is fully engaged on trying to help New York," Cuomo said, calling the President's actions "creative' and "energetic." Cuomo is also meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday afternoon. But the USNS Comfort could still be a "few weeks" away from arriving in New York, a US defense official told CNN.

The president tried to rewrite his history with advising Americans about the coronavirus. His own words prove him wrong.
By Katie Rogers

WASHINGTON — For weeks, President Trump has minimized the coronavirus, mocked concern about it and treated the risk from it cavalierly. On Tuesday he took to the White House lectern and made a remarkable assertion: He knew it was a pandemic all along. “This is a pandemic,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” This is what Mr. Trump has actually said over the past two months: On Jan. 22, asked by a CNBC reporter whether there were “worries about a pandemic,” the president replied: “No, not at all. We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” On Feb. 26, at a White House news conference, commenting on the country’s first reported cases: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” On Feb. 27, at a White House meeting: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.” On March 7, standing next to President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil at Mar-a-Lago, his club in Palm Beach, Fla., when asked if he was concerned that the virus was spreading closer to Washington: “No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not. No, we’ve done a great job.” (At least three members of the Brazilian delegation and one Trump donor at Mar-a-Lago that weekend later tested positive for the virus.) On March 16, in the White House briefing room, warning that the outbreak would “wash” away this summer: “So it could be right in that period of time where it, I say, wash — it washes through. Other people don’t like that term. But where it washes through.” That comment on Monday was part of Mr. Trump’s inching toward a more urgent tone in recent days. But his assertion on Tuesday that he had long seen the pandemic coming was the most abrupt pivot yet from the voluminous number of claims and caustic remarks he has made about the disease. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump spent much of a lengthy news conference praising his administration’s response to the pandemic, saying the only mistake his administration made had been a mismanagement of relationships with the news media.

The president drew attention for his more somber mood at a coronavirus briefing Monday. But on Tuesday, he said, “I didn’t feel different.”

President Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he has adopted a more dire tone in confronting the coronavirus crisis, insisting that he always took the public health emergency seriously despite several past dismissive remarks regarding the threat it posed to Americans. Speaking at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily press briefing, the president was questioned by reporters about his mood at Monday’s news conference, when he struck a graver note relative to his previous appearances discussing the burgeoning outbreak. “I didn’t think — I mean, I have seen that, where people actually liked it,” Trump said Tuesday of the response to his more sober-seeming public-facing demeanor. “But I didn’t feel different,” he continued. “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” The president has been criticized over the course of several weeks for repeatedly minimizing the coronavirus threat, while public health officials within his administration have issued urgent warnings as to the risk the disease posed to the nation. In his first statements on the coronavirus in late January, Trump said the United States had it “totally under control” and tweeted days later that it “will all work out well.” The president’s efforts to downplay the pandemic continued steadily until as recently as earlier this month. He accused the World Health Organization of producing an inaccurate mortality rate, falsely claimed that “anybody that wants a test can get a test,” and predicted that “it will go away. Just stay calm.” But the White House’s optimism seemed to dim significantly Monday, as the coronavirus continued to ravage communities and the federal government rolled out a new slate of stern guidelines intended to counter its rapid spread. Announcing the new measures, a subdued Trump lamented the “invisible enemy” facing Americans and acknowledged that “this is a very bad one.” The apparent shift in messaging coincided with the release of a report by British researchers estimating that as many as 2.2 million people in the U.S. could perish as a result of the coronavirus if drastic steps were not taken to fight its transmission.

‘Lack of Communication’
The department has struggled to maintain a foothold on the evolving crisis and to restore calm among its own people.
By Erin Banco

Officials inside the State Department say they are disturbed at the way Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior administration officials have handled the building’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last two weeks, officials inside the department’s headquarters in Washington and in at least two embassies overseas have voiced their frustrations to superiors about the absence of information on how the department planned to prevent community spread; the scant guidance on how to handle travel and meetings with foreign officials from hotspot regions; and the lack of transparency on internal coronavirus case numbers. That’s according to five State Department officials, all of whom spoke to The Daily Beast over the last week on the condition of anonymity because they fear retribution from the secretary’s office. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment but Pompeo was set to brief reporters Tuesday afternoon. “When the cases started to jump in the U.S., there was almost zero communication on whether we should continue on with our work like normal or whether we should curtail interactions with people from countries in Asia and Europe where the virus was already killing hundreds of people,” one official said. “We knew there were conversations ongoing in the secretary’s office, but there was no transparency about how they were handling all of it.” The increasing frustration among officials at State comes as the Trump administration tries to play catch up with the rest of the rest of the world—to not only contain the virus but to treat COVID-19 patients with limited amounts of key medical supplies and equipment. The internal calls for more clarity from Pompeo’s office underscore the degree to which the department has struggled to maintain a foothold on the evolving crisis and to restore calm among its own people. Two officials who spoke to The Daily Beast did say that communication from the secretary’s office had improved over the last several days.

By Lisette Voytko Forbes Staff

Topline: President Trump attacked the governors of Michigan and New York on Twitter Tuesday—following reports that he told the state officials to “try getting [emergency equipment] yourselves”—and after several officials blasted his administration’s sluggish response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of cases and deaths nationwide continues to climb. “Andrew, keep politics out of it,” Trump tweeted, referencing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Trump again referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” further feeding into what critics say are racist and xenophobic tropes—and an already festering relationship of distrust between the U.S. and China. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has criticized Trump’s coronavirus response several times, saying Wednesday that coronavirus would be “the public health version of Hurricane Katrina” and slammed the Centers for Disease Control’s initial response as “absurd and nonsensical,” before writing in a Sunday New York Times op-ed: “Every country affected by this crisis has handled it on a national basis. The United States has not.” Trump also attacked Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer for “failing” and that “we are pushing her to get the job done,” shortly after she said the federal government “hasn’t been prepared” and that the suggestion for states to work around the administration “because it’s too slow” is “kind of mind-boggling” in a Tuesday MSNBC appearance. Whitmer hit back on Twitter: “Attack tweets won’t solve this crisis. But swift and clear guidance, tests, personal protective equipment and resources would.” Former Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on February 28, 2020, described the federal response as “malpractice,” and in a Sunday CNN appearance said the administration was playing “catch-up” with the virus. Criticism from elsewhere: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker tweeted on Saturday that the “federal government needs to get its s@#t [sic] together NOW,” after travelers had to wait in four-hour-long lines for medical screening at O’Hare International Airport. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted at Trump: “We have no time for your incompetence.” Mayor Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio, Texas, on March 9, 2020, described the administration’s uncoordinated response as “simply stunning.” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said on March 6, 2020, the administration’s “name-calling and making inaccurate off-the-cuff comments [was] simply irresponsible.”

For weeks, Trump and his son-in-law saw the novel coronavirus mostly as a media and political problem. But the spiraling cases, plunging markets, and a Mar-a-Lago cluster finally opened eyes.
By Gabriel Sherman

Last Thursday, as the stock market was on the way to losing nearly 2,400 points—its biggest single-day plunge since the 1987 Black Monday crash—Donald Trump was worrying about the fate of the football season. NFL players aren’t scheduled to report to training camp for months, but according to a source, Trump feared that the league might preemptively announce it was following the NBA and NHL and suspend or delay operations due to the coronavirus. So Trump called NFL owners to see if any action was on the horizon. “Trump begged them not to cancel the season,” a source briefed on the call said. Trump’s concern for the NFL’s well-being was a stark reversal given that he spent the first two years of his presidency attacking the league and its kneeling players. It reflected Trump’s magical thinking that he could manage the coronavirus pandemic by convincing people life would remain normal and sports would be played. (Last week, Trump also spoke with Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White and advised him not to cancel UFC events.) “Trump thinks this is a media problem,” a Republican close to the White House told me. Treating COVID-19 as a public-relations crisis put Trump at odds with the medical community, including the White House’s chief coronavirus adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. During an interview on Meet the Press this weekend, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases urged the United States to move toward a national lockdown similar to the actions taken by Italy and Spain. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting,” Fauci said. With the markets in free fall despite emergency action by the Fed over the weekend, Trump is waking up to the reality that’s been clear to everyone: Coronavirus poses a once-in-a-hundred-years threat to the country. “In the last 48 hours he has understood the magnitude of what’s going on,” a former West Wing official told me. As Trump processes the stakes facing the country—and his presidency—he’s also lashing out at advisers, whom he blames for the White House’s inept and flat-footed response. Sources say a principal target of his anger is Jared Kushner. “I have never heard so many people inside the White House openly discuss how pissed Trump is at Jared,” the former West Wing official said.

The president’s trust ratings regarding the pandemic rank lower than other prominent sources of information.

Few Americans trust President Donald Trump when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey, and fewer than half of respondents believe the federal government is taking sufficient steps to combat the public health crisis. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday shows that only 37 percent of those polled have either “a good amount” or “a great deal” of trust in the the information they hear from the president about the coronavirus, while 60 percent say they do “not very much” or “not at all” trust Trump’s words on the subject. Among those surveyed, the president’s trust ratings regarding the coronavirus rank lower than other prominent sources of information, including the news media, state and local governments, and public health experts. More Americans than do not disapprove of the way he is handling the pandemic, 49 percent to 44 percent, and his overall job approval rating rests at 43 percent.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to present details to Senate Republicans on Tuesday
By Erica Werner and Jeff Stein

The Trump administration is asking Congress to approve a massive economic stimulus package of around $850 billion to stanch the economic free fall caused by the coronavirus, four officials familiar with the planning said Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will present details to Senate Republicans later Tuesday. The package would be mostly devoted to flooding the economy with cash, through a payroll tax cut or other mechanism, two of the officials said, with some $50 billion directed specifically to helping the airline industry. White House officials also want to include more assistance for small businesses and their employees in the legislation, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The talks have taken on more urgency as the economy has shown signs of careening into recession. The Dow Jones industrial average fell almost 3,000 points on Monday and showed signs of a slight rebound on Tuesday. The $850 billion package would come in addition to another roughly $100 billion package that aims to provide paid sick leave for impacted workers, though the details of that legislation remain very fluid as it moves through Congress. But there is emerging tension between the White House’s approach and the bills Democrats are trying to advance. White House officials are leaning hard into the idea of tax cuts and industry assistance, while Democrats have said their proposals are focused more on helping workers, health care providers, schools, and senior citizens.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) This version of Donald Trump will save lives. The President offered Americans something they have rarely seen from him in his latest and most somber press conference yet on the coronavirus pandemic on Monday. He dispensed unimpeachable information based on fact. He called for national unity and seemed like he meant to help forge it. And he ditched his normal habit of hyping the best possible outcome to a situation with improbable superlatives -- instead communicating the gravity of a fast-worsening crisis. "It's bad. It's bad," Trump said as he unveiled a 15-day plan to try to flatten the curve of new infections to alleviate a feared surge of sick patients that could overwhelm the health system. "Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus," Trump said, summoning national resolve as he plunges deeper into a crisis that will now define his term and possibly his reelection hopes.
The President's pivot to seriousness contrasted sharply with some of his previous commentary on the pandemic, which he has compared to the flu and predicted could just go away, and came after he claimed he had "shut it down" and had the disease under control. In many ways, Trump's temperate performance was the most conventional moment of a presidency in which he has refused to adopt the traditional mien associated with his position. He came across as a the leader of a nation in crisis, calling on its citizens to unite in an outpouring of collective action that might temporarily paper over deep national political divides. It will take more than one serious news conference to turn the tide of the pandemic. And Trump must prove in the coming days he has the focus to lead more than fitfully and that he can command the complicated machinery of the federal government and corral Americans behind him. But it was such an unusual performance by the President that he may stand a chance of shocking watching viewers into action and getting them to fully understand the desolate reality of the coming weeks.

Forecasters see historic job losses and deep economic pain on the horizon — but with a sharp rebound, if Congress steps up.

The early signals from the coronavirus crisis point to a scale of damage unseen in the modern U.S. economy: the potential for millions of jobs lost in a single month, a historic and sudden plunge in economic activity across the nation and a pace of sharp market swings not seen since the Great Depression. As the coronavirus outbreak ravages a paralyzed nation, Wall Street suffered another brutal bloodbath on Monday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average diving around 13 percent in its worst percentage loss since 1987’s “Black Monday” crash. A reading on business conditions in the New York area plunged a record 34.4 points to -21.5 in March, suggesting a recession is underway that could be sharp and deep as revenue quickly bleeds out of major industries from airlines to hotels, restaurants, bars and sports leagues. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, the broadest gauge of U.S. companies, fell 12 percent. It has shed $6 trillion in value since peaking in February, slamming retirement accounts for millions of Americans in ways that could have psychological ripples for many months to come. The last time the S&P had three days of similar wild swings was 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression. The S&P is now only around 300 points away from wiping out all its gains since Donald Trump won the White House in November 2016. President Trump himself, one of the grandest boasters of the strength and resilience of markets and the American economy, appeared to capitulate on Monday with a more somber tone reflecting the immense magnitude of the challenge facing the nation. “We have an invisible enemy,” he said, acknowledging that the virus could push the U.S. into recession. “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one.” Trump urged Americans not to gather in groups over 10 and to avoid bars, restaurants, food courts and other public spaces.

By Spencer S. Hsu

The Justice Department on Monday dropped its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The stunning reversal came a few weeks before the case — a spinoff of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — was set to go to trial. Assistants to U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea of Washington and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers cited an unspecified “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination,” according to a nine-page filing accompanied by facts under seal. Prosecutors also cited the failure of the company, Concord Management and Consulting, to comply with trial subpoenas and the submission of a “misleading, at best” affidavit by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a co-defendant and the company’s founder. Prigozhin is a catering magnate and military contractor known as “Putin’s chef” because of his ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. “Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events . . . the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord . . . promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” federal prosecutors wrote. “The better course is to cease litigation” against Concord and a sister catering company, also owned by Prigozhin, the prosecutors said. The government added that Concord enjoys “immunity from just punishment” even if found guilty, since it has no business presence in the United States. The after-business-hours government request to dismiss — granted by U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich — brings an abrupt end to a case that was set to go to trial April 6.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) America's top infectious diseases expert is warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die unless every citizen joins an effort to blunt the coronavirus pandemic -- only to be contradicted by President Donald Trump, who insists the virus is under "tremendous" control. The fresh sign of Trump's unwillingness to accept the full, sobering reality of the outbreak came as an anxious America knuckles down to its new self-isolating reality. The country is bracing for the full fury of the virus that is already escalating sharply and is set to subject the foundations of basic life — the nation's health care, economic and political systems — to a fateful test. Amid calls for a stronger federal response, Trump urged the nation's governors late Monday morning to try to secure additional medical equipment on their own without waiting for the federal government to intervene, though he did say they would try to help. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves," Trump said on the call, a person familiar with the call told CNN's Kaitlan Collins. He was discussing what health experts say is a serious need for more respirators and ventilators to deal with the influx of coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, the number of US infections raced up to at least 3,900, including 70 deaths, up more than 500 cases in a day and up from a caseload of 457 a week ago, showing how the crisis, which may not reach its peak for weeks, is accelerating. Among his tweets on coronavirus Sunday, Trump suggested that his entire focus was not on the national emergency: He tweeted that he was thinking about a full pardon for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI. Earlier that day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, warned that the US could face a similar crisis as Italy if citizens do not fully embrace self-isolation and social distancing, which are designed to flatten the curve of infections. Asked whether hundreds of thousands of Americans could die, Fauci said on CNN's "State of the Union": "It could happen, and it could be worse." Fauci added that the limits on public life were designed to "try and make that not happen." "If we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything," the death toll could be high, Fauci said. "People sometimes think that I'm overreacting. I like it when people are thinking I'm overreacting because that means we're doing it just right." Fauci also said he had not ruled out calling for a national lockdown in order to stem the spread of the virus.

The remarks about addressing the COVID-19 outbreak came the same day that the stock market hit -3,000 points.
By Sanjana Karanth

President Donald Trump said Monday that on a scale of 1 to 10, he would rate his performance in response to the coronavirus crisis at the top. During the White House’s daily coronavirus news briefing, Yahoo News reporter Hunter Walker brought up the president’s previous comments about not being responsible for the country’s lack of testing. “Very simple question: Does the buck stop with you?” Walker asked. “And on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your response to this crisis?” “I’d rate it a 10,” Trump answered. “I think we’ve done a great job.” The president also said the buck “normally” stops with him, “but this has never been done in this country.”

President Trump on how he would rate his response to the #coronavirus outbreak in the US on a scale out of 10: “I’d rate it a 10.”#CheddarLive pic.twitter.com/Sfuu07mMps
— Cheddar🧀 (@cheddar) March 16, 2020

The remarks came the day the Dow Jones hit -3,000 points, its worst drop in three decades, amid growing fears that the pandemic will lead to a global economic recession. In the same press briefing, Trump urged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to stay away from public areas in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The new recommendations apply to everyone, “including the young and healthy,” for the next 15 days, he said. “We’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now,” the president said. “We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it, and that’s what we are.” Despite the president’s perfect self-rating, there is evidence that his leadership has been poor during the pandemic. His administration’s failure started in 2018, when Trump disbanded the White House office specifically dedicated to preparing for a pandemic. During the Monday briefing, Trump downplayed the U.S.’s slow response to the crisis by saying the country has “a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about.” However, the U.S. confirmed its first coronavirus case almost two months ago. In an attempt to save the markets, Trump told CNBC on Jan. 22 that the U.S. had it “totally under control.” And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in February that the virus would spread throughout the country and cause “severe” disruption to everyday life, Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, falsely claimed the disease was “contained” in the U.S.

Bureaucracy, equipment shortages, an unwillingness to share, and failed leadership doomed the American response to COVID-19.
By Olga Khaza

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a confusing time for Americans, but one thing has been glaringly clear: The U.S. is way behind when it comes to testing people for the coronavirus. Despite the fact that last week, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would soon be available, an ongoing Atlantic investigation can confirm only that 13,953 tests have been conducted nationally. New York, which has shut down Broadway and has at least 328 coronavirus cases, is still failing to test patients who have worrying symptoms. As late as March 6, a busy clinic in Brownsville, Texas, a border city of nearly 200,000 whose population crosses back and forth from Mexico frequently, told me they could test only three people. By comparison, South Korea, which has one of the largest outbreaks outside China, is testing nearly 20,000 people a day. Testing is essential for identifying people who have been infected and for understanding the true scope of the outbreak. But when the initial test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was rolled out to state public-health laboratories in early February, one of its components was discovered to be faulty. Since then, academic, clinical, and other laboratories have struggled to get or make new tests and diagnose patients. Though some elements of the breakdown are by now understood, the full extent of the difficulties laboratory directors have faced has remained largely opaque. Interviews with laboratory directors and public-health experts reveal a Fyre Festival–like cascade of problems that have led to a dearth of tests at a time when America desperately needs them. The issues began with onerous requirements for the labs that make the tests, continued because of arcane hurdles that prevented researchers from getting the right supplies, and extended to a White House that seemed to lack cohesion in the pandemic’s early days. Getting out lots of tests for a new disease is a major logistical and scientific challenge, but it can be pulled off with the help of highly efficient, effective government leadership. In this case, such leadership didn’t appear to exist. Here are the four main reasons the testing issues have been so bad:

By Kevin Breuninger

President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. may be able to get the new coronavirus outbreak under control by July or August at the earliest. Trump, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, also said his administration may look at lockdowns for “certain areas” or “hot spots” in the nation. But the president said he wasn’t considering a full national lockdown. “At this moment, no, we’re not,” Trump said. The latest daily briefing came as the number of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 virus continued to rise in the U.S., prompting drastic action at every level of government to try to mitigate its spread. Asked when the U.S. might expect to turn a corner in its efforts to rein in the virus, Trump said that “If we do a really good job, we’ll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way, had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that.” Equities plunged as Trump spoke, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down nearly 13%. The coronavirus task force was originally scheduled to brief reporters Monday morning, but the event was pushed back until after 3 p.m. ET. Trump spoke at roughly the same time in the Rose Garden on Friday, where he was flanked by business leaders who unveiled their own efforts to fight the coronavirus.

Heard on Fresh Air
By Terry Gross


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We're going to talk about how President Trump and some members of his administration have mismanaged the coronavirus outbreak, helping fuel the crisis. My guest Dan Diamond is a reporter for Politico who investigates health care policy and politics, including the Trump administration's coronavirus response. He's written about dysfunction and infighting within the administration and how that's slowed the response to the spread of the virus and led to some counterproductive decisions. The virus has spread to the point where, yesterday, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, which is defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease.

Dan Diamond, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Tell us your main takeaways from the president's speech last night.

DAN DIAMOND: Well, Terry, I guess we can start with the good, such as it was. On Wednesday night, nearly two months after the first U.S. case of novel coronavirus was detected, President Trump finally treated this outbreak with the seriousness it deserves. He's given press conferences where he said the cases would effectively go away. He has posted tweets, even on Monday where he compared this to the flu. This is not the flu. The flu does not lead the National Basketball Association, the NBA, to suspend its season. I think it's a positive that the president seems to finally realize the severity of the problem. Unfortunately, his short remarks contained a lot of mistakes and misinformation. The president said that travel from Europe would be suspended for 30 days. That wasn't completely correct. The White House had to immediately walk that back. U.S. citizens and their families and legal permanent residents can still come back. The president said that cargo would be banned from Europe. That would have been a huge blow to the economy, especially given that some crucial medical supplies come from the EU. But it turned out that Trump misspoke again; cargo will still be allowed.

The president recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and also urged Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.

President Donald Trump on Monday acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions in an increasingly urgent bid to slow the virus in the next two weeks before U.S. hospitals are overwhelmed. “We have an invisible enemy,” the president said at a news conference, where he released guidelines that called for people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people and to steer clear of eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts. “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one.” The guidelines — including a strict recommendation that anyone with even minor symptoms stay home — are not mandatory. But they were issued with a sense of alarm and a frankness that Trump has not previously displayed. The president also acknowledged that the crisis — which has already killed thousands around the world and set off a plunge of world markets — could last until July or August and even plunge the nation into a recession. No country, including the United States, has it under control, he said, though he also suggested America could limit its death toll “if we do a really good job” responding now. “Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus,” Trump said. “If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation, and we will defeat the virus, and we’re going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly.”

By Kevin Breuninger

President Donald Trump said Monday that the U.S. may be able to get the new coronavirus outbreak under control by July or August at the earliest. Trump, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, also said his administration may look at lockdowns for “certain areas” or “hot spots” in the nation. But the president said he wasn’t considering a full national lockdown. “At this moment, no, we’re not,” Trump said. The latest daily briefing came as the number of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 virus continued to rise in the U.S., prompting drastic action at every level of government to try to mitigate its spread. Asked when the U.S. might expect to turn a corner in its efforts to rein in the virus, Trump said that “If we do a really good job, we’ll not only hold the death down to a level that is much lower than the other way, had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that.” Equities plunged as Trump spoke, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down nearly 13%. The coronavirus task force was originally scheduled to brief reporters Monday morning, but the event was pushed back until after 3 p.m. ET. Trump spoke at roughly the same time in the Rose Garden on Friday, where he was flanked by business leaders who unveiled their own efforts to fight the coronavirus.

By Sonam Sheth

President Donald Trump on Monday told a group of governors that they should get vital equipment to treat coronavirus patients on their own. "Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment — try getting it yourselves," Trump told the governors during a phone call, The New York Times reported. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Points of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself." The Times reported that Trump's directive took some of the governors by surprise given that states are already working overtime to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and are hoping for more federal aid. Hospitals across the US are overwhelmed as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases skyrockets. The Washington Post reported that healthcare workers were building triage tents outside emergency rooms, squeezing extra beds into break rooms and physical-therapy gyms, and calling for delays in elective surgeries — or cancelling them altogether — as they grapple with the rapidly spreading disease. At least 3,823 people in 49 US states, plus Washington, DC, and three territories, have tested positive for the virus, and at least 67 patients have died. New York alone reported 950 cases as of Monday morning. The Times reported that Trump used most of his conference call with governors to paint a rosy picture of the disease, which contradicts what scientists and public-health experts have said. "We're going to get it remedied and hopefully very quickly," the president said. "We broke down a system that was broken, very badly broken," he added, and said his administration would create a new system that "is going to be the talk of the world." Trump's comments are at odds with his own earlier statements, during which he claimed the US was well equipped to handle the virus, that it was "totally under control," and that it had been "contained."

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) America's top infectious diseases expert is warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die unless every citizen joins an effort to blunt the coronavirus pandemic -- only to be contradicted by President Donald Trump, who insists the virus is under "tremendous" control. The fresh sign of Trump's unwillingness to accept the full, sobering reality of the outbreak came as an anxious America knuckles down to its new self-isolating reality. The country is bracing for the full fury of the virus that is already escalating sharply and is set to subject the foundations of basic life — the nation's health care, economic and political systems — to a fateful test. The number of US infections raced up to at least 3,485, including 65 deaths, up more than 500 cases in a day and up from a case load of 457 a week ago, showing how the crisis, that may not reach its peak for weeks, is accelerating. Among his tweets on coronavirus Sunday, Trump suggested that his entire focus was not on the national emergency: He tweeted that he was thinking about a full pardon for his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI. Earlier that day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, warned that the US could face a similar crisis as Italy if citizens do not fully embrace self-isolation and social distancing, which are designed to flatten the curve of infections. Asked whether hundreds of thousands of Americans could die, Fauci said on CNN's "State of the Union": "It could happen, and it could be worse." Fauci added that the limits on public life were designed to "try and make that not happen." "If we go about our daily lives and not worry about everything," the death toll could be high, Fauci said. "People sometimes think that I'm overreacting. I like it when people are thinking I'm overreacting because that means we're doing it just right." Fauci also said he had not ruled out calling for a national lockdown in order to stem the spread of the virus. The administration is expected to release new guidelines on social distancing -- for instance relating to bars and restaurants -- on Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended not holding gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. The White House Correspondents Association, which is urging its members to work from home when possible, has instituted a seating arrangement in which every other chair in the briefing room is vacant, and there are mandatory temperature checks for anyone seeking to enter White House grounds. But serious questions remain over whether Trump's administration -- which was slow to recognize the threat, mischaracterized its impact and seemed most concerned about mitigating political damage -- has now got the federal act together. Trump flagrantly contradicted Fauci's warnings at a White House briefing Sunday at which he celebrated the Federal Reserve's decision to cut interest rates to 0% to help the shocked economy. "It's a very contagious virus, it's incredible, but it's something we have tremendous control of," the President said.

By Tucker Higgins

President Donald Trump urged Americans not to hoard food on Sunday during a White House press conference that came just minutes after the Federal Reserve announced new steps to shield the American economy from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “You don’t have to buy so much,” Trump said. “Take it easy. Relax.” In brief remarks, Trump cautioned against panic buying and said that food supply chains remained intact. He noted that earlier in the day he had met with executives from consumer and grocery companies including Target, Campbell’s and Costco. “They have asked me to say, ‘Could you buy a little bit less please.’” Trump said. “I thought I would never hear that from a retailer.” U.S. cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, have ballooned over the last two weeks from roughly 100 confirmed infections on March 1 to almost 3,300 on Sunday, according to data compiled by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University. The president declared a national emergency over the coronavirus on Friday, freeing up to $50 billion for states and U.S. territories to deploy to assist Americans affected by the outbreak.

By John Melloy

President Donald Trump praised the Friday rebound in stocks, which came amid an ongoing bear market stemming from the coronavirus crisis and a day after the worst decline since the 1987 Black Monday market crash. “Biggest stock market rise in history yesterday!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. The S&P 500, the U.S. stock market benchmark, jumped 9.2% on Friday, its biggest climb since October 2008 in the wake of the financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 9.4%, also for its biggest gain since October 2008. Its 1,985-point rise was its biggest point gain ever. The bounce in stocks follows a 10% plunge in the Dow of 2,352.60 points. Thursday’s drop was its worst percentage decline since the 1987 crash and its biggest point decline ever.  On Thursday, the S&P 500 plunged 9.5% and entered an official bear market, down more than 20% from its high.

The U.S. treasury secretary said there will “clearly” be an economic slowdown but that things will pick up later in the year.
By Nina Golgowski

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he doesn’t expect the coronavirus pandemic will trigger a U.S. recession, even as others ― including President Donald Trump’s former economic adviser ― say we’re likely already in one. “We’re clearly going to have a slowdown,” Mnuchin said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “Later in the year, obviously the economic activity will pick up as we confront this virus.” Mnuchin said the real issue at hand is not today’s economic situation but “what economic tools are we going to use to make sure we get through this.” Trump’s former National Economic Council director, Gary Cohn, offered a bleaker immediate assessment of the economy on Friday because of a major halt in travel and consumer spending due to the virus. Fortunately, he believes there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

   NEW: Despite forecasting an economic slowdown, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tells @jonkarl he does not think the coronavirus pandemic will cause a recession: “Later in the year, obviously the economic activity will pick up as we confront this virus.” https://t.co/XkLFkSaaAp pic.twitter.com/sBm0lCojMh
   — This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 15, 2020

“Most likely, I’d be willing to say, we are in a recession right now,” he said on CNN. “We are having negative growth right now and the market is pricing in that uncertainty. The good news is that we are starting from a very strong start, just three weeks ago, and when we get done with this public health crisis ― and I’m convinced we will get done with it, no one knows how long ― the market will be resilient enough to recover.” Former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder has also said that he “wouldn’t be one bit surprised” if data shows that a recession started this month.

The Fed took the most dramatic steps since the 2008 financial crisis to bolster the U.S. economy in the face of coronavirus.
By Heather Long

The Federal Reserve made an emergency interest rate cut to zero on Sunday, a dramatic step meant to make borrowing as cheap as possible for American households and businesses as the coronavirus brings the U.S. economy to a near standstill. The benchmark U.S. interest rate is now in a range of 0 to 0.25 percent, down from a range of 1 to 1.25 percent. The cut effectively brings the nation’s interest rate to zero as President Trump has urged for months. The Fed also announced it is re-starting “quantitative easing," a central bank did in the aftermath of the Great Recession to try to get money flowing again in markets and the broader economy. The actions came as the economy was hurtling toward a recession as the coronavirus outbreak shut down wide swaths of U.S. society. The Fed vowed Sunday to “use its full range of tools” to support the economy and the “smooth functioning of markets.” In the coming months, the Fed will purchase at least $700 billion more in bonds as part of its new quantitative easing. The majority of that, at least $500 billion, will be U.S. Treasury bonds. The rest will be mortgage-backed securities. The ultra low interest rates are expected to remain until the U.S. economy recovers from the coronavirus downturn. “The [Fed] expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events,” the central bank wrote in a statement released Sunday evening.

By Bobby Allyn

Airline passengers returning to the U.S. were confronted with snaking lines causing hours-long delays and confusion at airports around the country starting Saturday as a result of required medical screenings now in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Frustrated travelers took to social media to gripe about the winding lines causing passenger congestion in airports including Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where some travelers reported waits of up to four hours. A U.S. senator from Illinois said he heard of lines stretching up to eight hours.

   This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare #ord #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s
   — Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020

The Trump administration is restricting travel from 28 European countries, which now include the United Kingdom and Ireland. Europe, the World Health Organization has declared, is now the epicenter of the pandemic. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are permitted to return from those countries, but they must go through health screenings. And the mayhem set off by the implementation of the new health measure came into full view on Sunday.

By Spencer Kimball

President Donald Trump said Sunday that he’s strongly considering a full pardon for Michael Flynn, after the Justice Department ordered a review of the criminal case against Trump’s first national security advisor. “I am strongly considering a full pardon,” Trump said in a Twitter post. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration as president.

Google was apparently taken by surprise to hear the president announce that it was “quickly” developing a national coronavirus screening website.
By Mary Papenfuss

Vice President Mike Pence promised “specific” clarifying information Saturday after a Google statement flatly contradicted President Donald Trump’s earlier tout that the tech giant would “quickly” have a national website up to help the public with coronavirus screening. “We’re working 24/7 on this,” Pence told reporters at a White House news conference. “We’re going to have very specific details on the rollout of this new public-private partnership and testing at 5 o’clock tomorrow.” The “objective here is to have a website up very quickly,” he added. Pence said Google would launch a “pilot project” website Monday for “risk assessment.” Trump’s announcement Friday in the Rose Garden apparently took Google by surprise. The company shortly afterward issued a statement from Verily — a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet — that it has a site in “early development” that would be rolled out for testing in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the “hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

Statement from Verily: “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.
   — Google Communications (@Google_Comms) March 13, 2020

Verily representative Carolyn Wang described the operation to The Verge Friday as a “triage website” that was intended for health workers, not the general public, but that’s now being changed. The site was also intended to primarily be a mapping aid so users can type in their address and find the closest location for testing. It will only be able to direct people to “pilot sites” for testing in the Bay Area, though Verily hopes to expand that beyond California “over time,” she said.

"Haphazard and helter-skelter": The president's son-in-law inserted himself into the tumult this week
By Bob Brigham

This article originally appeared on Raw Story:

The president's son-in-law and senior advisor was the focus of a hard-hitting Washington Post deep-dive titled, "Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for action: Inside the Trump administration's troubled coronavirus response." "The economy was grinding to a halt. Stocks were in free fall. Schools were closing. Public events were being canceled. New cases of the novel coronavirus were popping up across the country," the newspaper reported. "And then, on Wednesday, the day the World Health Organization designated the coronavirus a pandemic, Jared Kushner joined the tumult." "President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser — who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause — saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction," The Post reported. While Vice President Mike Pence is officially leading the administration's response, Kushner has been playing an outsized role in recent days.

The communication chaos on coronavirus is eroding the most powerful weapon we have: Public trust
By Carolyn Y. Johnson and William Wan

Amid an outbreak where vaccines, drug treatments and even sufficient testing don’t yet exist, communication that is delivered early, accurately and credibly is the strongest medicine in the government’s arsenal. But the Trump administration’s zigzagging, defensive, inconsistent messages about the novel coronavirus continued Friday, breaking almost every rule in the book and eroding the most powerful weapon officials possess: Public trust. After disastrous communications during the 2001 anthrax attacks — when white powder in envelopes sparked widespread panic — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a 450-page manual outlining how U.S. leaders should talk to the public during crises. Protecting vulnerable people from a virus that, according to some projections, could infect millions and kill hundreds of thousands, depends on U.S. leaders issuing clear public health instructions and the public’s trust to follow directions that could save their lives.

Twelve years after she put together the TARP, the Speaker negotiated a major legislative response to the coronavirus.
By Sam Brodey

For the second time in her career, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was tasked with bailing out a Republican president in a moment of national crisis and, with a tanking stock market in the background, came through with a bill. Twelve years ago, Pelosi worked with President George W. Bush and his lieutenants to craft the 2008 emergency bank bailout. Late Friday night, she’d nailed down a deal with the Trump administration on legislation to respond to the spiraling coronavirus outbreak. But unlike the first time—when the speaker and the man in the White House had a relatively decent working relationship—Pelosi this time was collaborating with a president who’d spent weeks trashing her as, among other things, “incompetent.” The name-calling, ultimately, proved to be a minor hurdle, if one at all; as Trump was largely sidelined during negotiations. Over the course of Thursday and Friday, Pelosi spoke instead with Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, nearly 30 separate times as they hammered out a deal. Through it all, the speaker did not speak with the president once. Asked at a late-night Friday press conference if they had talked, Pelosi looked almost shocked that anyone might think so. “There was no need for that,” she said. Bush was a participant in TARP discussions, though he strategically kept some distance as he and his aides felt that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson would be more palatable a negotiating partner for lawmakers on the Hill. It was Paulson who famously leaned so heavily on Pelosi to help get the bank bailout through the House that he even got down on one knee to beg her to push the bill through her chamber. The parallels between then and now aren’t perfect. But they aren’t far apart either. For lawmakers who were there during the autumn of 2008 the most important difference is the most obvious: Trump. “The crisis atmosphere seems similar. The inability of the president to provide any real leadership is different,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) shortly after a midnight vote on Saturday to approve the coronavirus legislation. “I disagreed vigorously with the Bush administration, but at least the president led and worked with his team on this. We're here at this hour, in large measure, because Donald Trump's provided no leadership, just obstruction.”

by Lauren Hirsch

President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the White House physician. Trump opted to take the test after the press secretary for Brazil’s president tested positive for the virus. Trump dined with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his press secretary at Mar-a-Lago. Bolsonaro said Friday that he tested negative for the virus. Trump had said earlier Saturday that he had taken a test for the coronavirus and was awaiting results. He said he had decided he would do so after a press conference Friday, in which he was pressed on whether he would take a test. One reporter asked whether he was being “selfish” by not getting tested – even when other administration officials advised self-isolation after exposure to an infected person. “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested,” Trump pushed back. According to the note from the White House physician, “last night after an in-depth discussion with the President regarding COVID-19 testing, he elected to proceed.” “This evening,” the White House physician said, “I received confirmation that the test is negative.” The White House physician added that he has been in “daily contact” with the Center for Disease Control and White House Coronavirus Task Force.

From insufficient testing to a lack of coordination, Trump’s response has been a disaster years in the making.
By German Lopez - vox

President Donald Trump’s failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic didn’t begin with the administration’s inability to send out the millions of test kits that experts say are needed to tackle the crisis. It didn’t start with Trump’s bungled messaging downplaying the crisis even as it’s worsened. It began in April 2018 — more than a year and a half before the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, sickened enough people in China that authorities realized they were dealing with a new disease. The Trump administration, with John Bolton newly at the helm of the White House National Security Council, began dismantling the team in charge of pandemic response, firing its leadership and disbanding the team in spring 2018. The cuts, coupled with the administration’s repeated calls to cut the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health agencies, made it clear that the Trump administration wasn’t prioritizing the federal government’s ability to respond to disease outbreaks. That lack of attention to preparedness, experts say, now helps explain why the Trump administration has botched its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration has in recent days taken steps to combat criticisms about its slow and muddled response to the coronavirus, with Trump giving a televised Oval Office address on Wednesday and declaring a national emergency on Friday. But experts say that the damage has been done: The federal government is only now playing catch-up, as thousands of new cases of coronavirus are confirmed and the death toll steadily increases every day. That failure is most abundantly clear in testing. To date, the US has tested a fraction of the people than even countries with much smaller outbreaks. Several weeks after the first community transmission within the US, the country has tested more than 16,000 people as of March 13, according to the Covid Tracking Project. By comparison, South Korea had tested more than 66,000 people within a week of its first case of community transmission. Testing is crucial to slowing epidemics. First, it lets public health officials identify sick people and subsequently isolate them. Second, they can trace that sick person’s recent contacts to make sure those people aren’t sick and to get them to quarantine as well. It’s one of the best policy tools we have for an outbreak like this. It’s also something that the federal government has done well before — recently, with H1N1 and Zika. “It’s been surprising to me that the administration’s had a hard time executing on some of these things,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told me. But it’s the kind of thing that the Trump administration has screwed up, while instead trying to downplay the threat of Covid-19. Trump himself has tweeted comparisons of Covid-19 to the common flu — which Jha describes as “really unhelpful,” because the novel coronavirus appears to be much worse. Trump also called concerns about the virus a “hoax.” He said on national television that, based on nothing more than a self-admitted “hunch,” the death rate of the disease is much lower than public health officials projected. And Trump has rejected any accountability for the botched testing process: “I don’t take responsibility at all,” he said on Friday. Jha described the Trump administration’s messaging so far as “deeply disturbing,” adding that it’s “left the country far less prepared than it needs to be for what is a very substantial challenge ahead.” It’s a playbook that has previously worked for Trump, who successfully, at least politically, fended off concerns about his handling of Hurricane Maria, the opioid epidemic, and a host of self-inflicted crises from his travel ban to the crisis at the US-Mexico border. This time, as people are getting sick and dying, and millions of Americans worry the same could happen to them, Trump’s strategy of denial and downplaying isn’t working (so far). What it has done, instead, is left the Trump administration unprepared for the challenge ahead, whether it’s in the failure on testing or the Trump administration’s inability to calm the public and markets as the novel coronavirus continues to spread. And all of this can be traced back to the Trump administration’s decision in the spring of 2018 to deprioritize the federal government’s ability to respond to pandemics. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. more...

By Jesse Pound

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he has taken a test for the coronavirus and that results are pending. “I had my temperature taken coming into the room … I also took the test last night. And I decided I should based on the press conference last night,” Trump said. Trump said the test was sent to a lab and he doesn’t know when he will get the results. The press secretary of Brazil’s president, both of whom were recently in Mar-a-Lago with Trump, tested positive for the virus. Trump also shook hands with multiple people at Friday’s press conference, which many health experts have warned against doing due to the pandemic. Several members of Congress, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have gone into self isolation after exposure to people with confirmed cases of the virus. Deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement that temperature checks are now being performed on individuals in close contact with the Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. This includes members of the media who are attending the news conference.

By James Walker

Most Americans do not trust President Donald Trump to be honest about the COVID-19 threat, a new poll has found. The latest survey from Yahoo! News and YouGov found that 53 percent of polled U.S. adults did not have faith in the president to tell the truth about the threat of the new coronavirus, while a third of those polled said they trusted the commander-in-chief. A further 14 percent of the 1,635 U.S. adults polled said they were "not sure" whether they trusted Trump on the matter. Women were less likely to trust the president than men, according to the poll results, which found 56 percent of women did not personally trust the president to be honest about COVID-19 while just 49 percent of men said the same. A high percentage of Democrats also said they did not trust Trump to give an honest assessment of the new coronavirus threat. More than three quarters (79 percent) of 569 polled Democrats said they did not trust him on the issue, as 73 percent of Republicans said the opposite. When asked if they were satisfied that the Trump administration was doing everything it could to stop the virus, a plurality (44 percent) of respondents said they were not. More than a third (37 percent) told pollsters they were satisfied while a further 19 percent said they were not sure. Forty-six percent of respondents said they either "strongly" or "somewhat" disapproved of the way President Trump had handled the new coronavirus, while 41 percent approved of his performance.

The president suggests nobody could have seen the pandemic coming after he failed to heed the warnings.
By Eric Lutz

As the coronavirus crisis escalated in recent days, Donald Trump repeatedly cast the pandemic as something nobody could have seen coming. “Who would have thought?” he said during a recent trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?” But according to Politico’s Dan Diamond, Trump’s own White House recognized the gravity of the public health emergency, but the president personally undermined its response, seemingly more concerned about how it all would impact his reelection bid. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar raised alarms with Trump that the novel coronavirus “could be a major problem,” according to Diamond. And yet the president declined to act with urgency, refusing to push for testing that could lead to a larger number of confirmed cases in the United States that would undercut his efforts to play down the threat. “He did not push to do aggressive testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak,” Diamond told NPR’s Fresh Air Thursday. “And the president had made clear—the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential reelection this fall.” Trump has publicly suggested as much. During that same trip to the CDC last week, he told reporters that he wanted to have infected Diamond Princess passengers “stay on” the cruise ship, so as to keep them from being counted among the confirmed coronavirus cases on U.S. soil. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” Trump said. That Trump has and continues to filter the crisis through his craven and crude political calculus is unsurprising. But as Diamond reported last week, the president’s self-interest has undercut efforts by the federal government to combat the virus—“resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear.” Perhaps the clearest symptom of his mishandling? The inadequate testing that could have helped the U.S. face the pandemic head on, something officials told Politico stemmed from the president’s disregard and aides’ reluctance to give him bad news. “It always ladders to the top,” one person helping to advise the administration’s response told the outlet. “Trump’s created an atmosphere where the judgment of his staff is that he shouldn’t need to know these things.”

Though Trump in public has downplayed the virus, privately he has voiced his own anxieties.

The Trump administration is bracing for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the United States that could sicken thousands — straining the government's public health response and threatening an economic slowdown in the heat of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That stark realization has taken hold in high-level White House meetings, during which some administration officials have voiced concerns the coronavirus is already spreading undetected within U.S. borders, two officials told POLITICO. The coronavirus currently has no cure and can be spread to people who have no outward symptoms. Though Trump in public has downplayed the virus, privately he has voiced his own anxieties, rebuking public health leaders over last week's decision to fly home 14 Americans who tested positive for the virus while aboard a cruise ship off Japan, said three individuals with knowledge of the situation. Trump was worried that transporting the Americans to the United States without adequate precautions could create new risks, the individuals said. “The biggest current threat to the president’s reelection is this thing getting out of control and creating a health and economic impact,” said Chris Meekins, a Raymond James financial analyst and former Trump administration HHS emergency-preparedness official. An HHS spokesperson said the administration is committed to protecting public health and preparing for multiple scenarios due to the novel nature of the virus. "As we’ve said all along, the risk to Americans is low, but we expect the numbers to increase," the spokesperson said, declining to characterize the nature of the discussions. But there has been tension within the Trump administration over the response so far. Four officials acknowledged that the process has hit bumps, with high-pressure debates over resources and planning occasionally reopening fault lines between the White House and HHS that first emerged over Trump's broader health agenda. Some of the biggest challenges have been within the health department, with the Centers for Disease Control revising its quarantines, opposing the evacuation of the Diamond Princess cruise ship — despite evidence that a quarantine imposed by Japanese authorities had failed and infections were spreading — and raising general questions about the agency’s level of preparedness.

By Jim Acosta, CNN

(CNN) A source close to Donald Trump said the President is telling people close to him that he is indeed concerned about coming into contact with people who have contracted the coronavirus, including the Brazilian official who tested positive after coming face-to-face with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. "He is very concerned about all the people he met who have it, including the Brazilian," the source said. Fabio Wajngarten, the press secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, two sources have told CNN. Bolsonaro's health is being monitored. Bolsonaro's aide posted an image of himself standing with Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. Wajngarten was accompanying Bolsonaro on a trip to the US, during which Trump and the Brazilian President dined together. Earlier Thursday, the US President insisted he is not concerned about being exposed. "We did nothing very unusual, we sat next to each other for a period of time," he told reporters in the Oval Office, referring to Bolsonaro. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement issued later said: "Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time." She added: "The White House Medical Unit and the United States Secret Service has been working closely with various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First & Second Families, and all White House staff healthy." The source did not know whether the President has been tested or not.

By Grace Hauck, Doug Stanglin USA TODAY

One day after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic to be a national emergency, millions of Americans were grappling with a new normal. More than a hundred universities have transitioned to online-only classes, and several states and large urban school districts are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of the virus. The NBA, MLS and NHL have suspended their seasons. The AMC and Regal theater chains are cutting their seating capacity in half. Some Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada may become drive-thru only. And hundreds of employees have transitioned to working from home. Meanwhile, at least 47 people have died in the U.S., where there have been more than 2,100 confirmed cases of the virus. Worldwide, cases were nearing 150,000 on Saturday with more than 5,500 deaths. Refresh this page for the latest updates on coronavirus. Here are some significant things to know:

Reporter Yamiche Alcindor presses President Trump about disbanding the pandemic response team on the National Security Council in light of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. Source: CNN

Trump has spent weeks downplaying the virus' outbreak.

President Donald Trump on Friday deflected blame for his administration’s lagging ability to test Americans for the coronavirus outbreak, insisting instead — without offering evidence — that fault lies with his predecessor, Barack Obama. “I don't take responsibility at all,” Trump said defiantly, pointing to an unspecified “set of circumstances” and “rules, regulations and specifications from a different time.” The remarks from the president came in response to questions at a Friday press conference about the lack of widespread access to testing, an aspect of his administration's coronavirus response that has been the subject of widespread, steady criticism. Administration officials told lawmakers yesterday that the U.S. tested about 11,000 people during the first seven weeks of the outbreak — roughly as many as South Korea is testing each day. And Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that “the system is not really geared to what we need right now” in and called the testing system “a failing.” But Trump, who spent weeks downplaying coronavirus before declaring it a national emergency on Friday, argued that the health care system was not designed for an outbreak on the scale of coronavirus, “with the kind of numbers that we are talking about.” The president kept his criticism lighter and more forward-looking at first, declaring that his administration is “leaving a very indelible print in the future in case something like this happens again.” “That's not the fault of anybody — and frankly the old system worked very well for smaller numbers, much smaller numbers but not for these kind of numbers,” he added. But then Fauci stepped up to the mic to clarify his position, arguing that the CDC’s testing system, “for what it was designed for, it worked very well,” and maintaining that an “embrace” of the private sector was necessary for testing at the kind of scale needed for the fast-spreading coronavirus. Then, Trump began pointing fingers.

By Ben Mathis-Lilley

In May 2018 the Trump administration dismissed the top “global health security” specialist on the National Security Council and disbanded the pandemic-preparedness team he had led. (Then–National Security Adviser John Bolton was said to have been behind the move.) The responsibility for monitoring infectious disease threats was technically given to another group within the NSC, but even at the time, the Washington Post wrote that the reorganization was seen by experts in the field as “a downgrading of global health security.” This decision has been subject to some scrutiny during the last month of disaster un-preparedness and global health insecurity. On Friday PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump about the subject during a White House press conference, and his response was, simply put, bad. Here’s the transcript (“Tony” is Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who, to be clear, has nothing to do with the National Security Council):  

   ALCINDOR: You did disband the White House pandemic office, and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibility do you take to that, and—the officials that worked in that office said the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?

   TRUMP: Well, I just thank it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done, and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. [Ed.: The closing of borders to some travelers.] And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people, I could ask perhaps, in my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that, I don’t know anything about it. Disbanding, no, I don’t know anything about it …

   ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the reorganization that happened at the National Security Council.

   TRUMP: … It’s the administration, perhaps they do that, let people go, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now, you know, things like that happen.

Alcindor’s microphone was cut off as she was asking a follow-up question.

by Christina Wilkie, Dan Mangan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump refused to accept any responsibility for the slow rate of coronavirus testing in the United States, saying on Friday that he was “given a set of circumstances” that wasn’t meant for the high numbers of potential COVID-19 infections. “What we’ve done, and one of the reasons people are respecting what we’ve done, is we’ve gotten it done very early, and we’ve also kept a lot of people out,” Trump said during a press conference in the Rose Garden. During the briefing, NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Trump whether he took responsibility for the testing lag, which one member of his own task force called “a failing.” “No, I don’t take responsibility at all. Because we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time. It wasn’t meant for this kind of — an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about,” Trump responded. In reality, America’s low rate of COVID-19 testing has drawn criticism from health experts around the world, who say the slow rate of testing obscures the actual rate of infection in the United States, which is likely far higher than tests have so far confirmed. During the earliest stages of the outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed faulty tests to state and local health departments. Once the flawed tests were discovered and discarded,  bureaucratic red tape held up the process of granting exemptions to private labs to make their own tests.  As criticism of the Trump administration’s coronavirus testing protocol has intensified, and testing in other countries such as South Korea has outpaced the U.S. by orders of magnitude, Trump has sought to shift the blame onto his predecessor, Barack Obama. On Friday, asked about testing rates, Trump brought up the example of the 2009 swine flu, or H1N1 epidemic, in order to criticize Obama and boast of his success. “If you go back to the swine flu, it was nothing like this, they didn’t do testing like this, and they lost approximately 14,000 people. They started thinking about testing when it was far too late,” Trump said. Former Obama administration official Ron Klain, who managed the 2014 Ebola outbreak, disputed Trump’s assessment. “The Obama administration tested 1 million people for H1N1 in the first month after the first US diagnosed case,” Klain tweeted on Thursday. “The first US coronavirus case was 50+ days ago. And we haven’t event tested 10,000 people yet.”

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