The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 5 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • Critics are seizing on the Department of Justice’s decision to drop the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, arguing it shows how heavily politicized the DOJ has become under Attorney General William Barr.

Anger over the extraordinary move to drop charges even after it secured a guilty plea has created a new political storm around Barr, who had previously angered Democrats for his handling of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

  • The Labor Department reported the worst job losses since the Great Depression.

The pandemic and the desperate scramble to contain it have wiped out at least 21.4 million U.S. jobs in just two months, including a record-breaking loss of 20.5 million jobs in April alone.

The unemployment rate jumped from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February to 14.7 percent in April, the highest since record-keeping began in 1948.

  • The Food and Drug Administration has given diagnostic health care manufacturer Quidel Corp. emergency-use authorization for its COVID-19 antigen test, the first of its kind.

“These diagnostic tests quickly detect fragments of proteins found on or within the virus by testing samples collected from the nasal cavity using swabs,” it added.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services announced it will permit state health departments to send out Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir drug to fight the coronavirus.

HHS said in a statement that the distribution of the drug will be made possible because of a donation from Gilead. Remdesivir will be given to coronavirus patients in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country, including New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois.

  • In the midst of the worst public health & economic catastrophe in a century, the president of the United States tweeted or retweeted over 100 times on Sunday.
  • Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn will self-quarantine for the next two weeks after learning that he came in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, the agency says.
  • Vice President Pence will continue working from the White House this week after his press secretary tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday, a spokesman said Sunday.

“Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine. Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow,” Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.

  • Vice President Pence said he would be happy to welcome “American patriot” Michael Flynn back to the Trump administration, Axios reported Sunday.

Pence told “Axios on HBO” that he would support the president’s former national security adviser rejoining the government after the Department of Justice dropped criminal charges against him last week.

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic must be done in a “thoughtful way” but that not lifting lockdown measures could lead to “permanent economic damage.”

Public health experts have cautioned that allowing public life to restart too quickly and without proper safety protocols in place could cause another spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, which would in turn force states to shut down their economies all over again, causing further economic damage. But Mnuchin said keeping things shut down is also a risk.

  • White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said it is “premature” for the Trump administration to decide whether to support including additional aid for states and local governments in the next coronavirus relief package. 

“We’ve got a bunch of economies around the country and around the world starting to turn the lights back on. [We’re] watching to see what happens to economic activity and the path of the disease,” Hassett responded.

  • The head of U.S. naval operations is self-quarantining after coming in contact with a family member who has contracted coronavirus, according to multiple news outlets.

Adm. Michael Gilday took a test for COVID-19 on Friday, which came back negative, but he will self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution, an official said.

  • Officials warned Sunday that economic challenges could become more dire after an April jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a record 20.5 million Americans lost their jobs last month. 

The 14.7 percent unemployment rate is the highest ever recorded by the BLS, and the one-month rise in the unemployment rate and the one-month decline in jobs also shattered records.

But White House adviser Kevin Hassett said the unemployment rate will continue to rise in May and June and could reach 20 percent.

  • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that “informal” talks are underway on the next round of coronavirus relief, but administration officials and lawmakers first want to see what effects the previous stimulus funding bills have.

“So it’s not that we’re not talking,” he said. “We are. It’s just informal at this stage.”

  • Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics at the University of Washington, said Sunday that he expects the number of COVID-19 cases will rise in the next 10 days in states lifting stay-at-home restrictions sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Administration News 

  • Senate Republican leaders, under pressure from President Trump to install an ally who would dictate more favorable news coverage of his administration, are moving to swiftly confirm a conservative filmmaker to lead the independent agency in charge of state-funded media outlets.

Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has scheduled a committee meeting next week to advance the long-stalled nomination of Michael Pack, a close ally of Stephen K. Bannon’s and a favorite of conservative activists, to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

The action came after Mr. Trump pressed Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, during a recent call to speed up Mr. Pack’s nomination

  • President Trump attacked CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday after the media commentator said “right-wing media” outlets lack news judgment due to prioritizing coverage of the Department of Justice’s decision to drop the case against Michael Flynn over the coronavirus pandemic. 

“@brianstelter is just a poor man’s lapdog for AT&T!. AT&T is the parent company of WarnerMedia, owner of CNN.” was part of a retweet of a message from conservative commentator Dan Bongino, who was also attacking Stelter. “CNN coffee-boy George Costanza is melting down because the conspiracy theories he has been pushing for years have entirely fallen apart. This lunatic has been totally humiliated and embarrassed and he’s lashing out hoping to distract you. What a pathetic soul this loser is.”

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, CBS News, CNN, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Vanity Fair, Washington Post

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