The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Tuesday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported this week: Monday, 2,513; Tuesday, 3,170.

President Trump on Monday walked into a sunny White House Rose Garden to describe response efforts he said showcase how Washington and states are getting ahead of the coronavirus emergency, even as “we will have lost a lot of people.”

The president’s information this month has been contradicted by state, local and public health officials as well as members of Congress (The Hill). Speaking about his Monday conference call with governors, the president said, “People are very happy with what we’re doing.” Accounts from some state capitals were not quite as upbeat (The New York Times).

The United States will have sufficient ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients hospitalized with respiratory distress, Trump said. Citing reports that Ford and GE Healthcare plan to produce 50,000 ventilators in 100 days, the president said 10 companies are revving their ventilator production and that the United States could wind up with an oversupply.

“As we outpace what we need, we’re going to be sending them to Italy, we’re going to be sending them to France, we’re going to be sending them to Spain, where they have tremendous problems, and other countries as we can,” Trump said. “We’re going to be sending approximately $100 million worth of things, of surgical and medical and hospital things to Italy.”

The president said he’s also optimistic that a web of stay-at-home orders from governors, together with federal guidelines extended through April 30, can hold down the escalation of new cases of infection in the country. “This is a very vital 30 days. We’re sort of putting it all on the line,” he told reporters. It is unlikely the federal government would need to issue mandatory quarantine orders, he added. “We’re letting the governors do what they want.

Trump touted the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement on Sunday authorizing the emergency use of two malaria drugs to treat patients, although medical specialists underscore that no randomized clinical trials have yet shown that patients recover faster with certain therapies that are at the moment seen as potentially helpful when administered to some critically ill patients infected with COVID-19 (NPR).

The drugs will be “distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said (The Hill).

HHS said in a statement that the authorization would allow 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate to be donated to the Strategic National Stockpile. The doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate were donated by Sandoz, while the chloroquine phosphate was developed by Bayer Pharmaceuticals.

In New York, the transformation of the Javits Center into a temporary 2,900-bed hospital in three and a half days (pictured below) with help from the federal government earned effusive praise from the president. He also hailed the docking in Manhattan of the USNS Comfort, a floating hospital ship, to serve as backup for the country’s current epicenter of the coronavirus.

Access to COVID-19 test kits and lab processing continues to be a point of confusion and contention between the federal government and the states. Trump again touted the total volume of tests administered in the United States as superior to other countries, including South Korea (The Hill).

But public health experts argue the relevant indicator is how many people have been tested per capita. Using that metric, the United States trails other countries and  immunologists and physicians would like to see asymptomatic Americans tested, as well as people so sick they are assumed to be infected but never tested. 

The Hill: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a political animal and not a public health specialist, resigned from Congress Monday to become Trump’s fourth White House chief of staff. Shifting to a top post in the executive branch for the first time during a national security emergency is a tough assignment. Meadows self-quarantined this month as a precaution when he was exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.

The Hill: House Democrats eye major infrastructure spending as a key component in future coronavirus response legislation. … And there’s more under discussion for legislation after Easter, including additional funding for cities and states, and more help for small businesses (Reuters).

The Hill: House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said Monday that she has been diagnosed with a “presumed” case of the coronavirus, although she has not been officially tested.

The Hill – Special Section: Big tech companies are cracking down on coronavirus misinformation with help from artificial intelligence, and while there are benefits, there are also challenges.


CORONAVIRUS & STATES: As of March 30, at least 29 states are under strict stay-at-home orders affecting more than 225 million people. At least three out of four Americans are, or soon will be, under stay-at-home orders to try to prevent infection from the coronavirus (The New York Times). 

States with such restrictions: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin (CNN and local coverage).

The Hill: Some governors, including in Texas, opted for less aggressive options than blanket self-quarantine orders. But holdout governors are under mounting pressure.

> Maryland: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered residents in Maryland to stay at home beginning Monday night in all circumstances except to perform “essential” activities, including shopping for food and medicine, exercising outdoors with social distancing, and working (WTOP). The governor’s order is HERE. Within two weeks, Hogan said the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., region could look like the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, now struggling to treat more than half the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases and mourning at least 1,459 fatalities as of this morning.   

> Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northam (D) followed Maryland within hours on Monday to issue stay-at-home orders for his state through June 10, effective immediately. “I want to be clear: Do not go out unless you need to go out. This is very different than wanting to go out,” Northam said (The Hill). 

The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob Cusack points up one difference between Hogan and Northam’s directives: All golf courses in Maryland are closed while Northam said it’s okay for people to play golf in Virginia (although state-run courses are closed).

> Washington, D.C.: Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) on Monday said the nation’s capital remains under a stay-at-home order. “The only reasons you should be leaving your home are to buy groceries, pick up medicine, or exercise with your own family, or because you have been advised to seek medical attention, or because you are performing an essential job,” she said during a morning news conference.

> Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday announced an executive order urging Floridians in southern counties (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe, which claim at least 58 percent of the total confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the state) to stay home through “mid-May.” DeSantis, who has rejected the idea of a statewide stay-at-home order, said Monday’s action makes sense for South Florida (Miami Herald and The Hill). … This morning, a group of Florida lawmakers say they will urge the governor to ban tenant evictions during the coronavirus emergency, arguing that residents who are behind in their rent and forced out of housing have no place to shelter from the pathogen.

> Idaho: Despite laying claim to one of the world’s largest toilet paper factories, Idaho residents are enduring the same shortages we’re seeing in the rest of the country. The plant is running out every day, and is getting calls from as far away as Florida looking for supplies of a product Americans stockpiled because of a bottomless fear they would run out (Idaho Statesman). 

The Hill: Governors argue the process of bidding against other states to purchase medical supplies needed to battle COVID-19 results in unnecessarily exorbitant prices and delays. They blame the federal government for a system that could have been nationalized. “I stand here as someone who has had confirmed orders for millions of pieces of gear evaporate in front of us, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said last week.


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CORONAVIRUS & INTERNATIONAL: Is there hope for an end of COVID-19 in Italy? The fatalities are agonizing at 11,591, but the number of new cases of the coronavirus in Italy may be stabilizing, sparking some optimism in the northern parts of the country. Virologists warn that the actual number of cases in Italy could be at least five times higher than the official count, which is 101,739, according to the latest available data. That means infections will continue to climb. In the meantime, officials worry about fear and potential civil unrest in southern Italy, which is poorer and hit hard by losses of income (The Associated Press).

Reuters: Italy to extend coronavirus lockdown until Easter as new cases fall.

> Spain: The overnight death toll reached 849 people in Spain, the highest recorded in 24 hours (Reuters). Problems containing the virus continue this week as Spain became the country with the third-highest number of confirmed cases at 94,417, trailing only the United States and Italy. The death toll is 8,189. The escalation in COVID-19 cases follows Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez order to shutter all non-essential businesses. Spain is in its third week of a mandatory lockdown. 

> Hungary: In a power grab, the parliament in Hungary granted Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sweeping new powers to manage the country’s coronavirus epidemic through “extraordinary measures,” which have no limit and allow Orban’s government to bypass parliament (Reuters).

> Japan: Mark your calendars in 2021 for Tokyo. The summer Olympic Games are rescheduled for July 23 through August 8 (The Associated Press).

> Russia: Trump and President Vladimir Putin spoke on Monday, with oil prices a main topic of discussion. According to the White House’s readout of the call, the two agreed on the “importance of stability in global energy markets,” while the Kremlin said in a statement that the two “exchanged opinions” on oil. Previously, Trump indicated that he would use the call to voice objections to the Russia-Saudi Arabia battle that has driven oil prices below $20 a barrel and is “really hurting” the U.S. energy industry (Agence France-Presse). … Putin delegated to Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin authority for a strict quarantine that began on Sunday night in the city as coronavirus infections rise in Russia (The Washington Post). 

> Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cracked down further on gatherings, banning mass gatherings altogether and limiting outings to two individuals who live in the same home. Those who leave home are able to do so only for a short period of time and can go only up to 100 meters from home (Haaretz).

Netanyahu’s government also passed a number of emergency executive measures in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Among those is the unprecedented decision to allow electronic surveillance of Israeli citizens (The Associated Press). 

> United Kingdom: Scientists who are informing the British government are suggesting that the ongoing lockdown in the U.K. could last until late May or early June. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that while there is no fixed date for the lockdown to end, the period could be shortened if the British people follow the government’s suggestions (Sky News). 

“There are different projections as to how long the lockdown might last. But it’s not the case that the length of the lockdown is something that is absolutely fixed,” Gove said (Sky News).

> France: According to a special report by Reuters, a religious gathering at the Christian Open Door church in Mulhouse, a city along the French border with Germany and Switzerland, on Feb. 18 is viewed as a match that seeded the coronavirus in France. One person in the congregation had the virus, according to the report, and there are now roughly 2,500 cases linked to the event, with some taking the virus with them to Switzerland, West Africa, Corsica, Guyana and elsewhere.


U.S. POLITICS: On the 2020 scene, former Vice President Joe Biden is facing a problem as he gears up for a likely general election fight with the president: finding a sense of excitement among Democrats.

As The Hill’s Amie Parnes will report later today, enthusiasm for the former VP’s campaign is the biggest issue he faces at this point. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found only 24 percent of Biden’s backers are “very enthusiastic” in support of his campaign. By contrast, 53 percent of the president’s backers use the label to describe their support of his reelection efforts. 

“It should be worrisome,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Given how President Trump has performed in this crisis, support for Biden should be through the roof but it’s not.” 

Biden’s advocates fret about the excitement gap while Trump mocks him as “sleepy Joe.” The former vice president is facing the lowest total for a leading Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years.

The Hill: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) responds “no, no” when asked by his brother, CNN journalist Chris Cuomo, about running for president.

The New York Times: Trump won the internet. Democrats are scrambling to take it back.

The Hill: Top Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden.

Matt Flegenheimer, The New York Times: What the “Cuomo 2020” fantasy says about 2020 reality.

> House races: In Kentucky, Republican Todd McMurtry is seizing on Rep. Thomas Massie’s (R-Ky.) attempt to hold up a more than $2 trillion coronavirus relief package to lend momentum to his primary bid to oust the four-term congressman. 

As Max Greenwood writes, Massie’s efforts to delay the relief bill, which forced lawmakers to scramble to return to Washington to pass it, has lended credence to McMurty’s efforts, as Republicans remain upset by the maneuver, which many believe was a selfish act. Last week, Trump rained down criticism, calling him a “disaster for America” and telling the GOP to “throw Massie out” of the party. 

Since Friday, McMurty has escalated his attacks against the incumbent congressman and won the endorsement of the Republican Jewish Coalition PAC, an influential group that rarely weighs in on primary races.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


To protect ourselves from the pandemic, we must protect our health workforce, by Susan Michaels-Strasser, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Jerry Falwell Jr.’s coronavirus response shows his staggering level of ignorance, by Michael Gerson, columnist, The Washington Post. 


The House meets at 3 p.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate will convene in a pro forma session on Thursday at 10 a.m. Votes are not scheduled until April 20. 

The president participates in a phone call with network service providers at 2:30 p.m. in the Oval Office.

Vice President Pence leads a White House coronavirus task force meeting and participates in a press briefing about the latest updates at 5 p.m.

Catch The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter, with the latest from The Hill’s politics team. Sign up to receive evening updates, polling data and insights about the 2020 elections.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube. 


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➔ Layoffs: Macy’s, the nation’s largest department store chain, announced on Monday it will furlough most of its 125,000 employees nationwide during the coronavirus emergency because of loss of most of its sales. The company’s 839 Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Blue Mercury stores have been shuttered since March 18. The company said it will keep “the absolute minimum workforce” for digital business, distribution centers and call centers. Furloughed employees will continue to receive health insurance at least through May. Macy’s said it expects to bring back employees “on a staggered basis as business resumes” (The Washington Post). … Gannett on Monday announced staff cuts, furloughs and salary reductions as advertising revenues sink even as readership during the coronavirus era has generally been robust for many U.S. news outlets (FloridaPolitics). … Disney executives announced pay cuts beginning next month affecting the top echelons of the company. The company has committed to continuing to pay its hourly theme parks employees through at least April 18 (Variety).

➔ Mortgages: A flood of missed home loan payments caused by the coronavirus outbreak is threatening to bankrupt U.S. mortgage lenders and deepen the economic toll of the pandemic. The mortgage industry is scrambling for federal aid to offset losses from thousands of Americans seeking forbearance on their home loans after losing their jobs (The Hill).

➔ Coronavirus & statistical forecasts: The public may get a closer look at the administration’s statistical models of best-case and worst-case rates of infection and death later today at a White House briefing, pulling back a curtain on a standard tool used in epidemiology (The Associated Press). … Richard Epstein, a legal scholar at the Hoover Institution whose article in mid-March influenced skepticism inside the White House about some epidemiologists’ models, talked with The New Yorker. Epstein, who is not an epidemiologist, predicted in an article that about 500 people would die from COVID-19 in the United States. He later updated his estimate to 5,000, saying his previous number was the result of “a simple, stupid error.” To date, more than 2,500 people have died from the virus in this country. Anthony Fauci, an immunologist with the National Institutes of Health, predicted over the weekend that U.S. deaths from COVID-19 could reach 100,000 to 200,000 out of “millions” of cases (CNN). The New Yorker asked Epstein, “Shouldn’t you be careful about offering up these theories before they’re printed?” Epstein’s answer to journalist Isaac Chotiner: “No. It turns out in this particular world if you become quiet about this stuff it never gets heard.”

➔ Sports: For the first time since World War II, Wimbledon is expected to be canceled on Wednesday after the All England Club holds an emergency meeting earlier in the day, according to a German tennis official. “The necessary decisions have already been made,” German Tennis Federation Vice President Dirk Hordorff told Sky Sports Germany. “Wimbledon will decide to cancel (this) Wednesday. There is no doubt about it. This is necessary in the current situation.” The third Grand Slam tournament on the annual tennis calendar is scheduled to begin on June 29 (USA Today). … With a dearth in sports programming, ESPN decided to move up the release date of “The Last Dance,” a highly anticipated 10-part miniseries that chronicles the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. The show will premiere on April 19, according to the New York Post. It had been slated to premiere in June.

➔ Van Gogh stolen: The Singer Laren museum east of Amsterdam reported on Monday that “Spring Garden,” a painting by Vincent van Gogh on loan for an exhibition, was stolen in an overnight raid while the museum was closed due to the coronavirus emergency. The value of the work, which was on loan from the Groninger Museum in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, was not immediately known (The Associated Press).


And finally …  Scientists, doctors, nurses, medical technologists and researchers have found ways to volunteer since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. It takes a village to throttle a new virus, and the United States is the land of problem solvers.

One example: Michael Wells, 34, a neuroscientist at the Broad Institute and Harvard University, launched a national effort to marshal scientists to volunteer their expertise and signed up 7,000 of them in a database he created within 10 days. Organizations and governmental departments in a dozen states, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have tapped into the information (The Associated Press).

Governors in states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases are urging doctors, nurses and medical specialists who recently retired to come back to the front lines to help in hospitals where regular staff members are working 12-hour shifts, day in and day out. In New York, more than 11,000 health care volunteers have answered the call to join the city’s Medical Reserve Corps. One of them is primary care physician and former Bronx Public Health Commissioner Jane Bedell, 63, a cancer survivor who recently retired and decided she can help provide needed care for some patients while also being mindful of the personal risks. “I feel like I want to do my part for the city I love,” she said (WLNY).

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