April 18, 2020

Week 179

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week Trump threw a series of shiny coins to distract from the growing death toll and his mishandling of the coronavirus response. On Monday, he proclaimed he, not the governors, had “absolute authority” to reopen the country; on Tuesday he halted funding to the World Health Organization in the midst of a global pandemic; on Wednesday he threatened to adjourn Congress to make recess appointments; on Thursday he announced his plan to reopen the economy to much ballyhoo and which wasn’t actually a plan; and on Friday he encouraged protestors with tweets to “liberate” states from lockdown orders. Each item was remarkable on its own, and the media spent their days dissecting the legality of the pronouncements and whether they were presidential, as the death toll surpassed live lost in three years of the Korean War and kept going.

As the week came to an end, the United States accounted for nearly 1 in 3 worldwide coronavirus cases, and nearly 1 in 4 deaths. The U.S. is just 4.2% of the world’s population. It became increasingly clear that months of inaction, lies, and disinformation had turned a country which up through the Obama administration had been a leader in preventing global pandemics, into the epicenter of infection, death, and dysfunctionality.

As the U.S.counted 2,000 or more deaths per day, with no slow down in sight, Trump, Fox News, and conservative commentators minimized the import with various whataboutisms, and not-so-subtly pushed for the country to reopen. Not that the country was ready — it was definitely not according to public health experts. Rather Trump was singularly focused on getting re-elected, which required an economic upturn, as 22 million Americans filed for unemployment — even if that meant inciting insurrection.

  1. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Trump has made more than 18,000 false or misleading claims in his 1,170 days in office. In the last 75 days, Trump has averaged 23 claims a day, beating his 22 a day record in 2019.
  2. Stuck at the White House, Trump has used daily briefings as campaign rallies, which have been full of misinformation, pinning blame on others, and taking undue credit. Nearly 20% of his lies come on Twitter.
  3. On Tuesday, WAPO reported in an unprecedented move, the Treasury Department held up stimulus checks the Internal Revenue Service was rushing to send to 70 million Americans so Trump’s name could be added.
  4. The move was finalized late Monday to add “President Donald J. Trump” on the left side of the payment. This marked the first time a president’s name appeared on an I.R.S. disbursement.
  5. Trump had privately suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that he formally sign the checks, but that idea was scrapped given a president is not an authorized signer for legal disbursements by the U.S. Treasury.
  6. On Thursday, a Gallup poll found the rally of support Trump enjoyed in mid-March had faded: his approval was 43%, 54% disapprove (net -9), down from 49% approve, 45% disapprove (net +4) — a 13 point net decrease.
  7. Just 30% of Americans expressed satisfaction with the direction of the country, down 12 points since early March. Congress’s approval increased 8 points to 30%, the highest level since 2009.
  8. On Thursday, Pew Research found 65% of Americans say Trump’s response to the coronavirus was too slow, while 34% said it was quick. 73% said the worst was still to come with the virus.
  9. The poll also found 66% of Americans were more concerned that state governments will lift restrictions too early, while 32% were more concerned they would not be lifted quickly enough.
  10. On Saturday, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 20,000, and stood at 20,389. The director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said the U.S. likely saw its peak daily death total at 2,074.
  11. On Saturday, reproductive rights groups filed an emergency request asking the Supreme Court to ease a March 23 order in Texas banning medical providers from performing nonessential surgeries, including abortion.
  12. On Monday, the ACLU sued Arkansas to block a state order preventing the state’s sole clinic from performing abortions during the coronavirus outbreak. Notably, dentists were allowed to keep appointments.
  13. On Saturday, about 10,000 cars lined up at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which is helping to feed the poor. More than 2 million people in California have filed for unemployment since mid-March.
  14. Food banks across the country are struggling to cope with the huge surge of Americans needing food. San Antonio Food Bank’s CEO Eric Cooper told the “TODAY” show that this is the worst he has seen in his 25 years.
  15. On Saturday, WAPO reported as Trump announced his “Opening Our Country Council” Friday, he has many coronavirus task forces, but still has no plan to clear plan for ending the coronavirus crisis.
  16. The task forces frequently have competing goals and agendas, but lack of coordination and bureaucracy has left the country unprepared to get medical supplies where needed or plan for a new spike in cases when employees go back to work.
  17. Experts say to return to normalcy, nationwide testing, serological testing, and contact tracing are needed. But the regime still has not made enough tests available to those who need it, let alone the entire country.
  18. One of the major obstacles is Trump, as projects get caught in up the chaos of the White House, and advisers need to manage him. Although there are daily meetings, few decisions are made by the task force members; rather, it comes from Trump.
  19. In one Situation Room meeting, Trump wanted to understand the talk of herd immunity, and asked, “Why don’t we let this wash over the country?” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “Mr. President, many people would die.”
  20. Dr. Deborah Birx also formed a group with six doctors to meet daily, including Fauci, the FDA and CDC directors, and the Surgeon General, which arose from the need to moderate Trump’s “voodoo” in public messaging.
  21. On Saturday, NBC News reported Jared Kushner and his cronies are getting involved in the supply chain and distribution of medical supplies, causing weeks of delay and disorganization as they clashed with career officials.
  22. FEMA has also taken supplies from some hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente in the San Francisco Bay Area. The hospital system was notified, “FEMA is intervening and taking U.S. supply” of protective gear, leaving them with a shortfall.
  23. The task force has operated entirely in the dark, with no accountability. Third-party distributors have also inserted themselves into getting goods to the government from factories abroad for undisclosed profits.
  24. On Saturday, Trump allies Reps. Andy Biggs and Ken Buck criticized Fauci, saying in a Washington Times op-ed that he may be doing more harm than good by keeping the economy closed with social distancing.
  25. On Saturday, Trump spent the afternoon and evening sending a flurry of tweets. He praised C-SPAN for a segment on his trade deals, adding, “Our Trade Deals will be having a big impact on our Country as they kick in!”
  26. Trump attacked the media, tweeting, “When the Failing @nytimes or Amazon @washingtonpost writes a story saying “unnamed sources said”… don’t believe them. Most of these unnamed sources don’t exist.”
  27. Both newspapers had stories critical of Trump’s coronavirus response. Trump added, “Does anyone ever notice how few quotes from an actual person are given nowadays by the Lamestream Media,” and, “FAKE NEWS.”
  28. Trump also tweeted, “Watching @FoxNews on weekend afternoons is a total waste of time. We now have some great alternatives, like @OANN,” referencing Fox News competitor One America News Network.
  29. Trump also tweeted, “The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board doesn’t have a clue on how to fight and win,” adding, “If we followed their standards, we’d have no Country left. They should love Sleepy Joe!”
  30. Trump added, “So now the Fake New @nytimes is tracing the CoronaVirus origins back to Europe, NOT China. This is a first!” adding, “They were recently thrown out of China like dogs, and obviously want back in. Sad!”
  31. Later Saturday, Trump tweeted, “Cryin’Chuck doesn’t have a clue. Couldn’t care less about the American Worker,” quoting a tweet about 17 million Americans losing their jobs and the Senate battling over a new bill.
  32. Later Saturday, Trump phoned in to Fox New host Jeanine Pirro’s show, saying he will make the call about re-opening the economy, describing it as possibly the “toughest” decision he will ever make.
  33. Trump said he will make the decision based on conversations with “smart” people, including doctors and business leaders, adding, “Whether we like it or not, there is a certain instinct to it. People want to get back to work.”
  34. Trump added, “I think we’ll have just a tremendous surge. I think it’s gonna be like a rocket ship,” adding, “we still have to remember all of the people that perished. We did it the right way…we’ll be back bigger.”
  35. On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis’s general counsel pressured the Herald’s law firm to quash a public records lawsuit seeking information on deaths at nursing homes from Covid-19.
  36. On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Times reported Florida is undercounting deaths, as the Florida Department of Health has not included snowbirds who die there. So far, there are 40 deaths not counted in the 419 reported.
  37. On Monday, DeSantis removed Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees from his cabinet, after Rivkees said in a video that social distancing measures would need to continue until there is a vaccine.
  38. On Sunday, the Guardian reported that Trump’s coronavirus response has further damaged the United States’ reputation, tarnishing its reputation as a country that knows how to do things effectively.
  39. Allies are also upset over Trump blocking a shipment of medical supplies headed to Germany, his regime’s calling Covid-19 the “Wuhan virus,” and his unwillingness to create a global task force to combat the virus.
  40. On Sunday, NBC News reported nearly 2,500 nursing homes in 36 states are battling the coronavirus, significantly higher than the 400 home federal estimate on March 30.
  41. Without federal reporting requirements in place, there is a large variation in how states gather information on the virus, and their willingness to disclose it. NBC estimates 2,246 deaths in nursing homes from Covid-19.
  42. On Sunday, NYT reported a study in Brazil of coronavirus patients taking a higher dose of chloroquine, a drug related to hydroxychloroquine, was halted after patients developed irregular heart rates.
  43. On Sunday, Trump continued his flurry of tweets, saying, “For the first time in history there is a fully signed Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 50 States,” adding, “We are winning…the war on the Invisible Enemy!”
  44. Trump also tweeted, “Just watched Mike Wallace wannabe, Chris Wallace,” adding, “What the hell is happening to @FoxNews. It’s a whole new ballgame over there!” It was unclear what remarks caused his ire.
  45. Trump added, “If the Fake News Opposition Party is pushing, with all their might, [that he ignored early warnings] then why did Media & Dems viciously criticize me when I instituted a Travel Ban on China?
  46. On Sunday, Dr. Fauci told “State of the Union” that if “you started mitigation earlier,” in February, as opposed to the middle of March, “you could have saved lives.”
  47. Fauci added, “what goes into those decisions is complicated,” adding, “you’re right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different.”
  48. Fauci said, “there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down,” and, “we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often, the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it’s not.”
  49. Shortly after, Trump lashed out at Fauci, quoting a tweet that read, “Time to #FireFauci,” and adding, “Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape. I banned China long before people spoke up. Thank you @OANN.”
  50. Trump also tweeted, “Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected….No excuses!” repeating states are on their own, and and the false claim, “We are testing more than any country in the World.”
  51. On Sunday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed new measures into law, making Election Day a state holiday, and expanding early voting to 45 days before an election.
  52. Later Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I am working hard to expose the corruption and dishonesty in the Lamestream Media. That part is easy, the hard part is WHY?”
  53. Trump also tweeted, “The @nytimes story is a Fake, just like the “paper” itself. I was criticized for moving too fast when I issued the China Ban, long before most others wanted to do so,” adding, “Fake News!”
  54. On Monday, Pew Research found 29% of Americans believe Covid-19 was created in a lab, and just 43% believe it developed naturally — a sign of misinformation in the crisis. 23% believe it was created intentionally.
  55. On Monday, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos said he tested positive for Covid-19, but did not have any symptoms. Stephanopoulos was tested after his wife contracted the virus, and was very sick from it.
  56. On Monday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency charged with the care of migrant children, said 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus — 6 have recovered, and the rest were in isolation.
  57. On Monday, the Navy reported the first death from the coronavirus-infected U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the death was the first among active-duty members of the military.
  58. On Monday, ESPN reported Florida Gov. DeSantis deemed WWE an “essential business” in an April 9 memo, which could also open the door for other sports to resume. The state had 21,600 cases and 570 deaths.
  59. DeSantis later told reporters, “we’ve never had a period like this in modern American history where you’ve had such little new content,” adding, “people are watching, we’re watching, like, reruns from the early 2000s.”
  60. WWE is run by Vince McMahon, husband of Linda McMahon, who served in Trump’s cabinet. On April 9, Linda McMahon’s pro-Trump super PAC announced it will spend $18.5 million on advertising in Florida.
  61. On Monday, WAPO reported the CIA has privately advised its workforce that taking hydroxychloroquine has potentially dangerous side effects, including sudden death. The warning came on March 27.
  62. On Monday, the FBI issued a warning for fraud schemes related to testing, saying, “bad actors are selling fake COVID-19 test kits and unapproved treatments” through calls, social media and door-to-door visits.
  63. On Tuesday, Daily Beast reported FEMA shipped out nearly 20 million hydroxychloroquine tablets to cities around the country hit by the coronavirus. Experts warn the drug’s efficacy is anecdotal.
  64. On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York has surpassed 10,000 deaths, including 671 on Easter, but said that “the worst is over,” as hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and intubations continue to decline.
  65. On Monday, the New York City schools’ chancellor announced 50 Department of Education employees had died from the coronavirus. The NYPD had 20 deaths, and 50 Metropolitan Transit employees had died.
  66. On Monday, after Trump’s tweet on #FireFauci, the White House said in a statement it is “ridiculous” to think Trump would fire him, and “the tweet clearly exposed media attempts to maliciously push a falsehood.”
  67. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states,” adding, “this is incorrect.”
  68. Trump tweeted, “It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons,” adding, “A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!
  69. Shortly after, Trump announced a task force on reopening the economy, including Ivanka, Jared, his chief of staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Sec. Mnuchin, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, and cabinet members.
  70. On Monday, New York Gov. Cuomo announced his state along with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware, will form a regional task force to guide re-opening the economies.
  71. On Monday, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington also announced a Western States Pact to work together on re-opening their economies and controlling Covid-19 spread.
  72. Later Monday, Cuomo announced Massachusetts would be the seventh state to be part of the coalition — notably, the only state of the ten so far with a Republican governor.
  73. On Monday, Trump’s reelection campaign filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wisconsin television for running an ad by Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, which includes a clip of Trump calling the virus a “hoax.”
  74. On Monday, a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley to Trump seeking an explanation of why Inspector General Michael Atkinson was fired gained signatures, having a total of seven from members of both parties.
  75. On Monday, at the daily briefing, the first in three days as the U.S. death toll passed 23,000, Trump held a 2 1/2 hour campaign-style rally where he reeled off his enemies list, attacked reporters, and took no responsibility.
  76. The briefing opened with Fauci walking back his statements in an apparent statement to appease Trump, saying Trump “listened to the recommendation,” and, “That was the wrong choice of words.”
  77. Trump then played a video put together by White House aides that was labeled by media outlets as propaganda. The video was media criticizing of his response interspersed with media clips of loyalists praising him.
  78. ABC’s John Karl asked Trump about the video, saying, “I’ve never seen a video like that played in this room.” Trump bragged, “We have far better than that. That was nothing compared to some that we have.”
  79. Trump said, “Everything we did was right.” Trump complained about being “brutalized” by the press, then added, “But I guess I’m doing okay because, to the best of my knowledge, I’m the president of the United States.”
  80. Trump said of his new economic task force, “We’re going to be putting out guidelines and recommendations fairly quickly, within a few days” on reopening the economy, adding Ivanka and Jared will not be part of it.
  81. Akin to a campaign rally, Trump said, “You know, I don’t mind controversy. I think controversy is a good thing, not a bad thing,” while attacking “sleepy Joe Biden,” who he said he criticized him, and the “fake news.”
  82. When CBS’s Paula Reid asked Trump about the gap in the video and his inaction in February, Trump snapped that he did “A lot. A lot,” and added, “You know you’re a fake.”
  83. Trump also made the remarkable and false claim, “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” in response to states forming groups to coordinate reopening.
  84. Trump added, “I’m going to put it very simply: the president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The president of the United States calls the shots.”
  85. When asked by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, “You said when someone is president of the United States, their authority is total. That is not true. Who told you that?” Trump said, “The governors need us,” and snapped, “Enough!”
  86. Shortly after, CNN’s Jim Acosta, “That is the biggest meltdown I have ever seen from a President of the United States in my career,” adding Trump, “sounds like he is out of control.”
  87. Acosta said Trump is realizing the “walls are closing in on him when it comes to managing this crisis,” adding, “He ignored the severity of this crisis for a couple of months, and now he’s trying to seize control.”
  88. On Monday, several Republicans rebuked Trump. Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House tweeted, “The federal government does not have absolute power,” citing the Tenth Amendment.
  89. On Monday, in a surprise upset in swing state Wisconsin, liberal challenger Jill Karofsky beat the Trump-endorsed GOP candidate for state Supreme Court by an 11-point margin, despite hurdles detailed in Week 178.
  91. On Tuesday, Cuomo said if Trump “wants a fight he’s not going to get it from me,” adding he is “wrong on the law,” and, “We don’t have a king in this country, we didn’t want a king. So we have a constitution.”
  92. On Tuesday, Trump responded, tweeting, “Cuomo’s been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything, most of which should have been the state’s responsibility,” and falsely claiming, “I got it all done for him.”
  93. Trump threatened, “Tell the Democrat Governors that “Mutiny On The Bounty” was one of my all time favorite movies,” adding it is “exciting and invigorating” to watch, “especially when the mutineers need so much.”
  94. On Tuesday, Fauci told AP in an interview that the U.S. is “not there yet” to reopen the economy, saying critical testing and tracing procedures are still needed, adding a May 1 target is “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas.
  95. On Tuesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “The truth is that in January Donald Trump was warned about this pandemic, ignored those warnings, took insufficient action and caused unnecessary death and disaster.”
  96. Pelosi added, “Now more than ever, we need the truth,” and added, “The truth is a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others.”
  97. In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi said, “We will overcome this moment,” but success requires “we need truth,” and “Americans must ignore lies and start to listen to scientists” and other professionals.
  98. On Tuesday, the U.S. death toll surpassed 25,000, accounting for 20% of worldwide deaths, and the number of cases passed 600,000, more than 30% of worldwide cases.
  99. On Tuesday, the NY Daily News reported the Navajo Nation had recorded an alarming rate of coronavirus infections, with more than 800 cases and 28 deaths. In a two-week span, the number of cases jumped 367%.
  100. On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana said in a radio interview given “the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life” that “we have to always choose the latter.”
  101. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that the global economy will this year likely suffer the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  102. On Tuesday, Trump announced the Dynamic Ventilator Reserve plan at a meeting with healthcare executives, a public-private partnership where unused ventilators will be available to coronavirus hot spots.
  103. The White House said as many as 60,000 ventilators at hospitals around the country were not being used. Notably, state governors had already started to work together to share ventilators.
  104. On Tuesday, NYC’s Health Department increased the city’s death toll by 3,778 victims who had died since March 11 listed as “probable,” meaning the victims were not tested, but were presumed to have died of the virus.
  105. The addition brought NYC’s total to more than 10,000 deaths. The CDC said in its guidance that “assumed” coronavirus infection should be noted on death certificates since the city recorded its first death on March 14.
  106. Epidemiologist experts noted the virus is moving very fast so counting is challenging, but including these deaths offers a more accurate accounting of the actual impact of the pandemic. A fuller study after will take months.
  107. Cuomo said, “we will begin reporting all categories of fatalities pursuant to new CDC guidelines and are contacting facilities to get updated numbers,” adding additional people may have died not in hospitals.
  108. On Tuesday, in an op-ed, two epidemiologists said their data showed if Trump had put social distancing into effect on March 2 instead of March 16, 90% of the deaths from the first wave could have have been avoided.
  109. They warned states that have not yet issued stay-at-home orders to do so, citing the lockdowns are not a solution, but they buy time to prepare for further waves and develop treatments and vaccines.
  110. On Tuesday, at the daily briefing, Trump sought to shift blame to the WHO, announcing he was halting U.S. funding pending a review, and saying, “So much death has been caused by their mistakes.”
  111. The WHO first raised the alert on the outbreak on January 5. Trump and his allies focused on a January 14 WHO tweet saying “no clear evidence” of human-to-human transmission, which was updated January 23.
  112. Trump claimed the WHO “willingly took China’s assurances to face value” and “pushed China’s misinformation.” On January 24, Trump tweeted, “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus.”
  113. Trump said, “Many countries said, we’re going to listen to the WHO, and they have problems, the likes of which they cannot believe.” Notably, Trump minimized the threat of the pandemic until mid-March.
  114. Trump backed off on his “absolute” authority, saying, “I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly, and I will then be authorizing each individual governor of each individual state to implement a reopening.”
  115. Speaking on how to reopen the country. Trump also echoed comments by Florida Gov. DeSantis, saying, “We have to get our sports back. I’m tired of watching baseball games that are 14 years old.”
  116. On Tuesday, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, tweeted, “Trump’s decision to defund WHO is simply this — a crime against humanity,” calling it an “appalling betrayal.”
  117. On Wednesday, Bill Gates tweeted, “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds,” adding, “Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
  118. On Wednesday, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield parted with Trump, heaping praise on the WHO in an interview on “CBS This Morning,” and saying any review would be left until “after we get through this.”
  119. On Wednesday, Pelosi said on Trump halting WHO funds, “This is another case, as I have said, of the President’s ineffective response, that ‘a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others.’”
  120. Pelosi added, “sadly” Trump is “disregarding science and undermining the heroes fighting on the frontline,” and, “This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”
  121. On Monday, WAPO reported after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem refused to issue a stay-at-home order, one of the largest clusters in the U.S. has developed at a Sioux Falls ­pork-processing plant with more than 300 ill.
  122. Local leaders, public health experts, and front-line medical workers begged Noem to act as 57 more at the plant tested positive Monday. Instead, at a press conference she touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential breakthrough.
  123. Noem acknowledged that based on scientific modeling, up to 70% of people in her state could contract the coronavirus, yet she said it was not up to the government to tell residents how to behave.
  124. On Thursday, AP reported Smithfield Foods will temporarily close plants in Wisconsin and Missouri. The Missouri plant received raw materials from the company’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota facility.
  125. Smithfield also said it closed the Sioux Falls facility, where 518 employees were infected, as well as an additional 126 people connected to them. A small number of employees in Wisconsin and Missouri tested positive.
  126. On Thursday, WAPO reported shutdowns and closures at the country’s biggest beef processing plants due to the coronavirus outbreak have reduced production by as much as 25%.
  127. On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told CNN, “We have gotten very little help from the federal government,” adding, “I’ve given up on any promises,” and they are “near irrelevant” when it comes to testing.
  128. On Tuesday, Dr. Mehmet Oz told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “we need our mojo back,” adding some things could be opened “without getting into a lot of trouble,” such as schools, calling it “a very appetizing opportunity.”
  129. Oz added based to his reading of a new medical journal study, resuming classes “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” concluding that “might be a trade-off some folks would consider.”
  130. Late Thursday, Oz apologized in a video, saying, “I misspoke,” adding the goal was to discuss “how do we get our children safely back to school” as he was asked “how we’ll be able to get people back to their normal lives.”
  131. Oz, a controversial figure, has been a regular on Fox News programs during the pandemic, hyping hydroxychloroquine, praising Gov. Noem for keeping her state open, dismissing Fauci, and telling viewers to be hopeful.
  132. On Thursday, talk show host Dr. Phil McGraw told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that we do not shut down the economy for lung cancer, car crashes, and pool drownings. Notably, none of those are contagious.
  133. McGraw appeared after Fauci, in a segment in which Ingraham said, “We don’t have a vaccine for SARS or HIV. Life went on, right?” saying Covid-19 could disappear. Fauci said, “These kind of viruses don’t just disappear.”
  134. Dr. Phil, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, responded to Fauci’s comments warning on the toll on mental health, and citing incorrect statistics and talking points which have been disputed by health experts.
  135. On Wednesday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway falsely claimed on “Fox & Friends” that the WHO should have been on top of the novel coronavirus because “this is Covid-19, not Covid-1.”
  136. According to the CDC, “CO” stands for “corona,” “VI” stands for “virus,” and “D” stands for “disease.” The “-19” refers to the year 2019 when the outbreak began, not because it was the 19th appearance, as Conway implied.
  137. On Wednesday, the Empire State Manufacturing Index for April collapsed to -78.2, far worse than the -32.5% expected by economists. The previous record low was -34.3% during the 2008 financial crisis.
  138. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported U.S. retail sales plunged 8.7%, the biggest drop on record since the agency started tracking records in 1992.
  139. On Wednesday, global cases of coronavirus passed 2,000,000, with the U.S. accounting for 30.4% of the total. Global stocks fell, and oil prices hit an 18-year low.
  140. On Wednesday, a new Daily Kos/Civiqs poll found 45% of Americans who frequently watch Fox News believe the U.S. coronavirus death toll is inflated, compared to 11% who do not watch the network.
  141. On Wednesday, Cuomo announced New York would tighten social distancing measures, requiring residents to wear masks when in public, as hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and intubations fell, but deaths remained high.
  142. On Wednesday, in “Operation Gridlock,” protestors in MAGA hats, carrying American and Confederate Flags in Lansing, MI caused a traffic jam near the capitol building to protest the state’s stay-at-home order.
  143. Protestors yelled, “Lock her up!” and “We will not comply!” It was organized by groups including the Michigan Conservative Coalition, whose founder is a political adviser to Betsy DeVos.
  144. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was “disappointed” to see people congregating and not wearing masks, saying, “We know that this rally endangered people.” The state has 28,000 cases and 1,900 deaths.
  145. Fox News also covered the protest, with Tucker Carlson calling Whitmer’s order “petty authoritarianism,” and protestors appearing on Fox News shows. Protests also took place in North Carolina and Ohio.
  146. On Wednesday, four Michigan residents sued Gov. Whitmer, citing they “reasonably fear that the draconian encroachments on their freedom set forth in this complaint will, unfortunately, become the ‘new norm.’”
  147. On Wednesday, NBC News reported the number of deaths in nursing homes nearly doubled since last week to 5,670, driven in part by a huge increase in New York where 2% of nursing home residents had died.
  148. On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to gradually reopen from its lockdown. Germany had far fewer cases and deaths per capita than the U.S. due to mass testing and an early lockdown.
  149. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Trump spent much of his day hosting calls for industry executives and business groups as part of the hastily formed task force he formed to push for reopening the economy.
  150. Many chief executives warned against the May 1 reopening, and urged the White House to focus more on mass testing. Some were notified of the calls in advance, while others first heard Trump say their name at Tuesday’s briefing.
  151. Politico reported that several chief executives missed Trump’s call with Wall Street leaders, and other leaders could not get through. One top executive described the call as a “shit show” that produced little of substance.
  152. NYT reported Cisco Systems and McDonald’s learned about their inclusion when Trump mentioned them Tuesday. Pfizer got a heads up they would be mentioned, without any information about the purpose of the group.
  153. There was also confusion with the House and Senate, where members were abruptly notified they had been selected for a congressional task force in a Wednesday email, and were told, not asked, to be part of it.
  154. On Wednesday, NYT reported Trump’s new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is having a tough adjustment to the position. It does not help that Meadows is emotional and cries at times, while Trump likes to display strength.
  155. Trump also sees emotion as weakness. What functioned well in Congress for Meadows is not working in White House with the constant infighting, lack of process, and moves subject to Trump daily whims.
  156. Meadows was caught off guard when the press office blasted out a list of people selected to be part of groups advising Trump on reopening, a list compiled at the direction of Jared Kushner, creating a debacle with the rollout.
  157. On Wednesday, at the daily briefing, without providing details, Trump said the worst was over: “we have passed the peak of new cases. Hopefully that will continue, and we will continue to make great progress.”
  158. Trump bragged and made misstatements about testing and antibodies, and said these would put us on a path to reopening, saying, “These developments have put us in a strong position to finalize guidelines for states reopening.”
  159. Trump added that, “Today, I spoke with the leaders of many of our nation’s most renowned companies and organizations” on “the full resurgence of the American economy,” adding, “We want to get our country open again.”
  160. Trump said he would speak to governors about, backing off from ordering, rolling back restrictions saying, “They’ll be safe, they’ll be strong, but we want to get our country back,” adding, “We’ll be the comeback kid.”
  161. Trump also insisted that Republican leaders immediately call the Senate back into session to confirm them his nominees, calling it a “dereliction of duty the American people can’t afford during this crisis.”
  162. Trump added, “It’s a scam what they do,” saying Congress should end its “phony pro forma sessions,” or threatened he would use the “very strong power” afforded to him by the Constitution to force an adjournment.
  163. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Trump’s threat saying the Senate would operate and “pledged to find ways to confirm nominees considered mission-critical” to the pandemic.
  164. On Wednesday, Sen. John Kennedy told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “We’ve gotta reopen,” addin,g “when we do, the coronavirus is going to spread faster,” calling it “making a hard decision with the cold, hard facts.”
  165. On Wednesday, NYT reported after an anonymous call, police in New Jersey found 17 bodies crammed into a small morgue meant to hold up to four at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center.
  166. On Wednesday, there were a record-high 2,569 U.S. deaths from the coronavirus reported in the 24 hours ended at 8 p.m., bringing the total to more than 28,000 deaths and 636,000 cases.
  167. On Wednesday, NYT reported the Navy is considering reinstating fired Capt. Brett Crozier. He is viewed as a hero by his crew for putting their lives ahead of his career.
  168. On Wednesday, Michael Caputo, a former Trump 2016 campaign advisor and associate of Roger Stone, who was interviewed in the Mueller probe, was named spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department.
  169. Politico reported loyalist Caputo was installed by Trump to give the White House more control over HHS, as they believed HHS Sec. Alex Azar has been behind critical reports of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
  170. On Wednesday, CNBC reported the tool launched by the Internal Revenue Service to track Americans’ stimulus relief checks did not work for many. Instead, they were given an error message, “Payment Status Not Available.”
  171. On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported U.S. housing starts fell 22.3% in March from the month prior. The housing decline was the worst since the 1980s.
  172. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported 5.2 million Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total to 22 million jobs lost from the coronavirus, wiping out nearly all the jobs gained since the 2008 Great Recession.
  173. On Thursday, the Small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an initial $349 billion pool for emergency loans for small businesses passed by Congress, ran out of money.
  174. On Thursday, Reuters reported Cuomo and 6 other East coast governors have hired McKinsey to develop a plan to help re-open the states, seeking to counter Trump’s pressure to move rapidly and all at once.
  175. Deloitte is also involved in developing the regional plan. An aide for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said the goal is to “Trump-proof” the plan.
  176. On Thursday, Fauci told ABC News that the U.S. return to normal will not be like a “light switch” turned on, would likely be “some degree of modification” of behavior for citizens into the summer months.
  177. Fauci said scientists still do not know everything about the virus and what it is capable of doing, adding, “It is entirely conceivable that we will see a rebound as we get into a seasonal situation, such as next fall or winter.”
  178. On Thursday, Reuters reported the Kremlin said it would accept a “kind offer” by Trump to ship ventilators to the country if it needed them. Russia had 27,938 cases and 232 deaths.
  179. On Thursday, NBC News reported the Association of Public Health Laboratories expressed concern about the reliability of antibody tests not approved by China’s FDA being used by at least two states.
  180. On Thursday, the governors of seven mostly Midwestern states, including Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kentucky said they would coordinate on reopening their economies.
  181. The Midwest coalition joined the 10 states in the East and West, totally 17 states working together, including three states with Republican governors, despite Trump’s early week proclamation of “absolute authority.”
  182. On Thursday, at the daily briefing, Trump announced federal guidelines for a slow and staggered return to normal activity in three phases, despite political and public health outcry for national testing first.
  183. Trump said, “America wants to be open and Americans want to be open,” saying we stay shutdown, and “To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy.”
  184. Despite Trump repeatedly calling for a May 1 reopening, the plan did not give a specific date for implementation of the three vague phases for reopening the economy, schools, and other gathering places.
  185. The plan reversed Trump’s claim of having “total authority” on Monday, putting control in the hands of governors. WAPO reported in a morning call with governors, Trump said, “You’re going to call your own shots.”
  186. Asked about the anti-restriction protests, Trump said, “it’s been a tough process for people,” adding ,“It’s not just, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to stay at home?’ They’re having — they’re suffering.”
  187. WAPO also reported according to current and former senior regime officials, Trump’s strategy of letting governors decide was to shield him from blame if the reopenings resulted in new outbreaks or other problems.
  188. Trump’s plan did not contain a national testing strategy, leaving states and localities to develop and administer their own testing programs. Governors have repeatedly asked for national testing as a key part of reopening.
  189. So far, 3.3 million Americans have been tested, including 146,000 per day in the past week. Although this is a significant improvement from early stumbles, experts say millions of tests are needed per day for reopening.
  190. Trump continued to falsely claim the U.S. is doing “the most advanced and robust testing anywhere in the world,” but many countries including South Korea, Germany, and New Zealand have tested more per capita.
  191. There are no senior task force officials in charge of a national testing strategy. In a Thursday call with bipartisan senators, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Trump ally Lindsey Graham have also pushed that testing is key to reopening.
  192. On Thursday, CNN reported the cost of PPE has increased by more than 1,000% amid a surge in demand. The federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile has nearly emptied, as states scramble for supplies.
  193. On Thursday, Daily Beast reported reopening gyms was added to “phase one” of Trump’s reopening plan, after a Wednesday call with 16 business leaders, including Stephen Ross, owner of Equinox Gyms and SoulCycle.
  194. The advice to reopen gyms went against advice of public health experts, who warned the format was like a petri dish, and social distancing was not possible. Ross threw Trump a big fundraiser last year.
  195. On Thursday, Facebook announced it would warn users who have liked or commented on false, misleading or dangerous information on the coronavirus after the posts have been removed by the moderators.
  196. On Thursday, NYT reported Ivanka disregarded federal guidelines against discretionary travel by traveling along with Jared and their three children to Trump’s Bedminster Club in New Jersey for Passover.
  197. Citizens this year resorted to family gatherings on Zoom for Seders and on Easter Sunday, and governors urged people to stay away from their second homes. Officials defended Ivanka, saying she did not fly commercial.
  198. On Thursday, at a trial for Roger Stone, all twelve of the jurors said they feared for their safety, and do not want more information made public about their identity, after Trump and the far right media criticized them.
  199. Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in an 81-page opinion that Stone did not deserve a retrial, after he claimed jury misconduct, saying the forewoman had not lied about bias but rather Stone’s attorney had not fully screened her.
  200. Stone could appeal in the coming weeks, but he may be ordered to report to prison to serve his 40 month term, at the earliest in two weeks. The gag order against him was also lifted.
  201. On Thursday, the FBI notified Michael Cohen that he will be released early from a prison in Otisville, NY where he was serving a three-year sentence, after 14 inmates and seven staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.
  202. On Friday, a study from China found Covid-19 patients may be most infectious before they began showing symptoms: infectiousness started 2.3 days and peaked 0.7 days before symptoms appeared.
  203. On Friday, the Times of Israel reported U.S. intelligence alerted Israel and NATO allies about the coronavirus outbreak in China in the second week of November using a classified document.
  204. Reportedly U.S. intelligence had informed the Trump regime, “which did not deem it of interest,” but did decide to update allies. It was unclear if the report was the same one cited by ABC News in Week 178.
  205. On Friday, citing Fox News, Trump tweeted, “Why did the W.H.O. Ignore an email from Taiwanese health officials in late December” on human-to-human transmission. Taiwan and the WHO disagree that was in the email.
  206. Trump also blamed Democrats, tweeting, “Today people started losing their jobs because of Crazy Nancy Pelosi, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, and the Radical Left,” adding, “End your ENDLESS VACATION!
  207. On Friday, governors in Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Minnesota said they would slightly ease off some restrictions on some outdoor and other activities, despite the lack of testing.
  208. On Friday, Cuomo said 630 more New Yorkers had died, bringing the total to 12,822. Cuomo said to reopen, “We cannot do it without federal help,” saying the state cannot handle the needed volume or ramp up to open.
  209. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Governor Cuomo should spend more time “doing” and less time “complaining”. Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking!”
  210. Trump added, “We” gave “a large numbers of Ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with testing,” claiming, “We have given New York far more” than other states, and adding, “Less talk and more action!”
  211. Asked by reporters about Trump’s tweets, Cuomo said, “First of all, if he’s sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work, right?” and, “Second, let’s keep emotion and politics out of this, and personal ego.”
  212. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Cuomo ridiculously wanted “40 thousand Ventilators”. We gave him a small fraction of that number, and it was plenty. State should have had them in stockpile!”
  213. Cuomo responded, “They’re your projections,” adding, “If we were foolish for listening to you, then shame on us.” On Trump asking for thanks, he said, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do — send a bouquet of flowers?”
  214. Trump also fomented anti-restriction protests, tweeting in a series of three tweets: “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”
  215. Trump’s tweets were a remarkable display of a sitting president egging on protests, less than 24 hours after he had said at his news conference that reopening decisions would be left to the states.
  216. His tweets were sent minutes after a Fox News segment on the protests, featuring a protestor in Virginia saying, “those of us who are healthy and want to get out of our house and do business, we need to get this going.”
  217. Shortly after, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement the tweets “encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19” and “could also lead to violence.”
  218. Inslee added Trump “is off the rails. He’s not quoting scientists and doctors but spewing dangerous, anti-democratic rhetoric,” adding, “I hope someday we can look at today’s meltdown as something to be pitied.”
  219. Conservative economist Stephen Moore, a member of the White House council to reopen the country, said, “I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks — they are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties.”
  220. On Friday, Guardian reported protests in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and other states were also backed by right-wing hate groups like the Proud Boys as well as conservative armed militia groups and religious fundamentalists.
  221. Trump also tweeted, “China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths,” falsely claiming, “It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S.” The U.S. reported 36,000 deaths, and China reported 4,600.
  222. On Friday, WAPO reported significant problems with the regime sending out relief checks, threatened by old technology and a depleted IRS staff from 99,500 in 2010 to 76,000 under Trump, including in its senior ranks.
  223. While criticism and complaints mounted, Trump deflected to Obama, tweeting, “Biden/Obama were a disaster in handling the H1N1 Swine Flu,” saying, “17,000 people died unnecessarily and through incompetence!”
  224. Trump also claimed, “Also, don’t forget their 5 Billion Dollar Obamacare website that should have cost close to nothing!” — seeming to deflect from relief checks and problems with the SBA rollout earlier in the week.
  225. On Friday, NYC reported an additional 722 probable deaths, bringing the total of probable deaths to 4,309. A total of 12,199 were confirmed or probable of dying of Covid-19, with 122,148 confirmed cases.
  226. On Friday, CNN reported while some early states on the coasts have started to plateau, this week there was a small but significant spike in cases in rural states across the American heartland.
  227. The states most pronounced are those without stay-at-home orders, including Oklahoma increasing 53% this week, Arkansas by 60%, Nebraska by 74%, Iowa by 82%, and South Dakota by 205%.
  228. On Friday, Politico reported Senate Democrats erupted on a conference call with Vice President Pence after Pence gave only vague answers on the federal government’s efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing.
  229. Mild-mannered Sen. Angus King called it a “dereliction of duty,” saying, “I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life.” Asked about the liberate tweets, Pence demurred, saying this is how Trump communicates.
  230. On Friday, AP reported cable-TV networks CNN and MSNBC are continuing to broadcast Trump’s daily briefings, amid a debate over how much unfiltered on-air time to give. Major networks are not covering.
  231. Hosts Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, Chris Hayes, and Joe Scarborough have suggested on-air that their networks stop coverage. Maddow said, “All of us should stop broadcasting. It’s going to cost lives.”
  232. On Friday, at the daily briefing, Trump defended protestors, saying they have endured “too tough” social distancing orders in their states, and adding, “They seem to be very responsible people to me.”
  233. NYT reported Trump is trying to seize on the energy of the small protests popping up around the country to fuel his re-election, and to deflect anger about his response from him and towards Democratic governors.
  234. Trump also said, “The governors are responsible for testing,” and claimed Democratic governors made “requests were made far beyond what was objectively needed.”
  235. Trump says he now expects “around 60,000, maybe 65,000” Americans deaths, without any mention or empathy for the more than 37,000 already dead, and said a death count under 100,000 will mean he did a great job.
  236. Trump said he hoped to have rallies, saying, “I think they are going to be bigger than ever,” and closed saying, “This has been a situation where a lot of great people have been involved and a lot of great decisions have been made.”
  237. On Friday, HuffPost reported the Trump campaign is secretly paying Donald Jr., his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Eric’s wife Lara Trump $15,000 a month each through Brad Parscale’s private company.
  238. Late Friday, the U.S. passed 700,000 confirmed cases, roughly 31% of worldwide cases, with more than 37,000 dead.
  239. On Saturday, in a series of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats, saying, “No matter what you do for the Do Nothing Democrats,” they and “their Fake partners in the Lamestream Media” will only respond “in the negative.”
  240. Trump cited the Politico story on Pence’s Friday call with senators, saying, “He gave them everything that they would have wanted to hear,” and calling the Democrats on the call “ RUDE and NASTY.”
  241. Trump also tweeted, “The most often used phrase in the Lamestream Media, by far, is “sources say,”” claiming it “allows Fake News to make up a phony quote,” and, “The American people should demand NAMES!”
  242. On Saturday, WAPO reported FDA officials concluded that the CDC violated its own laboratory standards in making the kits, citing contamination at the CDC’s central laboratory complex in Atlanta.
  243. Contamination was found in of one of the three test components. In January practice runs with the new kits, false-positive reactions emerged at 24 of the 26 labs — meaning cross contamination.
  244. The problem came from an unnecessary step in the testing process identified in late January that took more than a month to remove, exacerbating nationwide delays in testing.
  245. On Saturday, Floridians returned to the beaches, after Gov. DeSantis gave the green light to loosen coronavirus restrictions. The state has more than 24,000 confirmed cases and 686 reported deaths.
  246. On Saturday, Kim Pagan, a New Jersey woman organizing a protest of stay-at-home orders, was charged by New Jersey State Police for violating the governor’s emergency orders, which prohibits all gatherings.
  247. As the week came to a close, there were 2,293,644 worldwide cases and 157,400 dead from the coronavirus. The U.S. had 715,536 cases (31.1%), 37,625 deaths (23.9%), and a mortality rate of 5.2%.

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Copyright Amy Siskind, April 18, 2020

Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)