The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 7 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • President Trump has reportedly privately questioned the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, which topped 80,000 this week, and suggested they may be incorrect or inflated by the current methodology and is seeking a change to the methodology in a way that could lead to fewer deaths being counted.
  • Global public health officials are warning that the coronavirus circulating around the world right now will take years to completely contain, and that the virus might never totally go away. The World Health Organization’s chief scientist said: “I would say in a four to five-year time frame, we could be looking at controlling this.”
  • “This might be painful for some people, it’s kind of like learning a religion is fake. But this religion is fake! It shouldn’t be a religion in the first place. It’s supposed to be science,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said, comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to faith, before later calling him, “The chief buffoon of the professional class.”
  • The U.S. economy faces unprecedented risks from the coronavirus if fiscal and monetary policy makers don’t rise to the challenge, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said while pushing back against the notion of deploying negative interest rates.

“The recovery may take some time to gather momentum, and the passage of time can turn liquidity problems into solvency problems,” Powell said in remarks to a virtual event hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery.”

  • President Trump is not supporting House Democrats’ new coronavirus relief bill that includes new cash payments to Americans, more funding for states, mail-in voting funding, and rent, mortgage and student loan relief, calling the bill “dead on arrival.”

“They want to be able to make sure that Republicans can’t win an election by putting in all sorts of mail-in ballots,” Trump said.

  • President Trump broke with Anthony Fauci in new comments to reporters after the nation’s top infectious diseases expert warned a day earlier about the dangers of lifting coronavirus restrictions too soon, specifically pushing back on warnings against school reopenings because he said coronavirus has “very little” impact on young people.

“Our country’s got to get back, and it’s got to get back as soon as possible,” he said. “And I don’t consider our country coming back if the schools are closed. And it’s had very little… impact on young people.”

  • The Department of Energy is planning to buy 1 million barrels of oil from U.S. companies after funding to make a larger purchase failed to pass Congress.

A notice posted by the agency Wednesday calls the purchase “a test” for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a national stockpile President Trump in mid-March said he would fill “right up to the top.”

The 1 million barrel purchase would be a far cry from the 77 million barrels of space within the reserve. Doing so would have required $3 billion in funds, which Congress did not appropriate as part of the CARES Act stimulus package.

  • The Abbott coronavirus test hailed by President Trump and used by the White House failed to detect infected samples in a large number of cases that were caught by a rival firm, a preliminary study says.

The speedy Abbott test, which is supposed to determine in five to 13 minutes whether a person has the virus, missed a third of the positive samples found by the diagnostic company Cepheid when both tests used nasopharyngeal swabs, said the study done by a group from New York University. It missed more than 48 percent when both firms’ tests used dry nasal swabs. The former penetrates deeply into the nasal passages, while the latter is less invasive.

  • Health experts told members of Congress that states need more help from the federal government on coronavirus testing in order to safely reopen the economy.

In the first hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, experts cautioned that reopening the country prematurely could lead to needless deaths from the disease.

“It was inadequate testing that precipitated the national shutdown. We must not make the same mistakes again as we open up our nation,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told lawmakers.

  • Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner under President Trump, told lawmakers that a “phased” reopening of the country is needed to mitigate the risk of a new epidemic.

“We’ve seen signs of a slowing epidemic nationally but we’re still going to be reopening against the backdrop of more spread than we anticipated,” he said. 

“We need to make sure we get testing out widely and get testing, most of all, for the people who are at highest risk of this virus,” he said, adding that some people are at greater risk of exposure because of where they work or where they live.

  • President Trump plans to tap a former pharmaceutical executive and an Army general to lead Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s program aimed at speeding the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Moncef Slaoui will serve as chief adviser to the project while Gen. Gustave Perna serves as chief operation officer, according to an administration official.

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it canceled a multimillion-dollar contract for surgical masks that it had signed with a Virginia-based firm that lacked a history of producing medical equipment.

The administration had said last month that the contract with Panthera Worldwide, which describes itself as a tactical training company, was worth $55 million. The contract was canceled Tuesday “on the grounds of nondelivery,” a FEMA spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

  • The Pentagon announced a $134 million deal to buy personal protective equipment for medical personnel at more than 15,000 U.S. nursing homes to aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The contract, given to the Federal Resources Supply Company, is for PPE kits including protective eyewear, gloves, gowns, and masks, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement.

Other Administration News 

  • Republican senators are pressing the Trump administration to reveal the names of Obama-era officials who allegedly “unmasked” former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to federal agents about conversations he had with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, after the Justice Department moved to drop its charges against him as documents fueled conservative claims that the FBI was out to entrap Flynn.
  • Sixteen former Watergate prosecutors have called on a federal judge to allow them to weigh in on whether to grant the Justice Department’s request to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
  • The federal judge presiding over former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s criminal case suggested that he is considering the possibility of holding President Trump’s former aide in contempt for perjury.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan also tapped a retired federal judge to argue against the Department of Justice’s motion to drop the criminal prosecution of Flynn.

John Gleeson, who spent 22 years as a judge and served as a federal prosecutor before entering private practice, will serve as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, in opposition to the DOJ’s recently adopted position that Flynn’s case should be dismissed.

  • President Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said that he could not “commit” to the general election happening on its scheduled date of Nov. 3, but added he was not involved in nor aware of any “discussions” about plans to try and change the voting date.
  • President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was reportedly released from prison on Wednesday to serve the rest of his over 7-year sentence at home due to the threat the coronavirus pandemic poses to his health.
  • A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ordered the White House to turn over 20 emails directly relating to President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold congressionally appropriated military aid from Ukraine. The administration has refused to produce the communications thus far, claiming the documents are protected from public release by executive privilege.

The order, issued by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, stems from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the New York Times which sought communications between Michael Duffey, Principal Associate Director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and Robert Blair, a senior advisor to then-Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney.

  • Nine states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for a policy that halts penalizing companies that don’t monitor their pollution during the coronavirus outbreak.

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

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