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    Presidential politics move fast. What we're watching heading into a new week on the 2020 campaign: ___ Days to next set of primaries: ? Days to general election: 218 ___ THE NARRATIVE The coronavirus pandemic has effectively put presidential politics on hold as elected officials work furiously to save lives and rescue the economy. It's unclear when the next Democratic primary contest will take place or whether there will be another primary debate. This is President Donald Trump's show for now as the Republican president is tasked with leading the nation through the worst public health crisis in the modern era. Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his allies will try to break through, but they'll have to be content with taking a distant backseat for now as the focus stays with the dangerous business of governance in a public health crisis. ___ THE BIG QUESTIONS Can Trump lead an entire nation? Trump has spent much of his presidency speaking only to his conservative base. But in the midst of a pandemic that threatens the lives of Republicans, Democrats and independents, the Republican president's political survival likely depends on his ability to shelve the partisanship and lead all Americans. Seven months before Election Day, it's difficult to imagine a bigger test of presidential leadership. Trump has sent mixed signals, with strong moments in recent days, but he slipped into a dangerous bout of pre-pandemic partisanship over the weekend by threatening to withhold federal support from “the woman in Michigan” — referring to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat — and insulting her with a childish nickname on social media. His base may love it, but that kind of overt partisanship likely won't play well in November — especially in a state like Michigan, which Trump needs to win, and among female voters. Does the rescue package stabilize the economy? Trump has signed into law a $2 trillion bipartisan economic rescue package that represents the largest government expenditure in world history. This week we'll start to see its first effects. The stakes are high for millions of Americans' livelihoods and the November election. History suggests that the health of the economy will decide Trump's reelection as much as any other factor. The Dow is down more than 7,000 points since the beginning of the year, and a record 3.3 million newly unemployed Americans filed jobless claims last week. As bad as that is, market experts suggest it could get worse. We'll all be looking for new signs this week that the historically large stimulus helped stop the bleeding. Can Biden work from home? You've heard about Biden's home studio by now. Well, the 77-year-old Democrat hopes to host at least one virtual campaign event each day from the cozy confines of his Delaware rec room to help avoid being forgotten as the nation focuses on the immediate challenges of surviving a pandemic. It won't be easy. Trump's daily White House press briefings have quickly become must-see TV, no matter how much Democrats scream, while Biden's low-fi events have been awkward at times if you can even find them. With the Democratic nomination nearly his, this isn't the way the former vice president wanted to launch the next phase of his campaign. How do they raise money? Trump and Biden suddenly find themselves navigating perilous terrain as they eye the mountain of campaign cash they'll need to ramp up their campaigns. What used to be a routine request for political cash could now come across as tone-deaf or tacky with millions of Americans out of work and death tolls rising. Our colleague Brian Slodysko reports that the challenge is particularly acute for Biden, who is holding virtual fundraisers via video conferences that lack the exclusivity and tactile nature of an in-person event. Should Biden lock up the nomination, the former vice president will be immediately tasked with building out a nationwide campaign that's strong enough to compete with Trump's mammoth organization. Coronavirus or not, he can't afford to wait. ___ THE FINAL THOUGHT This is a moment in American history that should transcend politics. While politics may feel trivial at the moment, the decisions and strategies Democrats and Republicans adopt today will set the landscape for the November election — and with it, the direction of American leadership for years to come. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Florida charged 50-year-old David White with using a hoax weapon of mass destruction after he sprayed a substance labeled “COVID-19” on the doors and entrance of a Jacksonville business, deputies said. JSO said White told employees and patrons of the business they were now infected with coronavirus after he sprayed the substance. JSO’s Intelligence Unit and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated the incident and identified White as the suspect. The business took precautionary measures to sanitize the area where White sprayed the substance.
  • Alan Merrill, best known for writing the hit song 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll,' died Sunday morning after experiencing coronavirus complications. He was 69. According to USA Today, Merrill's daughter, Laura, said in a Facebook post that her father died at a New York City hospital. 'I was given two minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out,' she wrote of Merrill, who also was a guitarist and vocalist. 'He seemed peaceful, and as I left, there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right-hand side of the CNN/Fox News screen.' She said she walked home and received the news of his death by the time she reached her apartment. 'I’ve made a million jokes about the 'Rona' and how it’ll 'getcha' ... boy, do I feel stupid,' she continued. 'If anything can come of this, I beg of you to take this seriously. Money doesn’t matter. People are dying. You don’t think it’ll happen to you or your strong family. It has.' >> See the post here 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' was originally released by the Arrows, a band Merrill was part of, in 1975, according to 'Entertainment Tonight.' Seven years later, rocker Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released a version of the song, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, the outlet reported. Jett took to Twitter to pay tribute to Merrill on Sunday, sending 'thoughts and love' to his loved ones and the music community. 'I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me,' Jett wrote. 'With deep gratitude and sadness, wishing him a safe journey to the other side.' >> See the tweet here News of Merrill's death came the same day that country music star Joe Diffie died from the virus, 'ET' reported. Read more here or here.
  • A man who was among the five people stabbed during a Hanukkah celebration north of New York City has died three months after the attack, according to an Orthodox Jewish organization and community liaison with a local police department. Josef Neumann, 72, died Sunday night, the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council said in a tweet. The funeral for Neumann, a father of seven and great-grandfather, will be held Monday. No additional details were provided. On Dec. 28, an attacker with a machete rushed into a rabbi's home in an Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, New York, an ambush Gov. Andrew Cuomo called an act of domestic terrorism fueled by intolerance and a “cancer” of growing hatred in America. Rabbi Yisroel Kahan, who is the community liaison for the Ramapo Police Department that serves Monsey and executive director of Oizrim Jewish Council, shared the news of Neumann's passing on his Twitter account as well. 'We were hoping when he started to open his eyes,' Rabbi Yisroel Kahan told The Journal News on Sunday night. “We were hoping and praying he would then pull through. This is so very sad he was killed celebrating Hanukkah with friends just because he was a Jew.” In the days following the attack, Neumann’s family said in a statement that the knife penetrated his skull and went directly into his brain, which could have caused permanent brain damage and could leave him partially paralyzed. He also suffered other cuts to the head and neck, and his arm was shattered. The Hanukkah attack came amid a string of violence that has alarmed Jews in the region. Federal prosecutors said the man charged in the attack, Grafton Thomas, had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic comments and a swastika and had researched Adolf Hitler's hatred of Jews online. Thomas' lawyer and relatives said he has struggled for years with mental illness; they said he was raised in a tolerant home and hadn't previously shown any animosity toward Jewish people. Thomas was indicted on federal hate crime charges as well as state charges, including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
  • At least 722,000 people worldwide – including more than 142,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Monday, March 30, continue below: FDA issues ‘emergency use authorization’ of anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus treatment Update 6:45 a.m. EDT March 30: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an “emergency use authorization' to allow two anti-malaria drugs donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to possibly be used to treat coronavirus patients, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced in a news release Sunday. HHS said it “accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate donated by Sandoz, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division, and 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate donated by Bayer Pharmaceuticals' on Sunday. The authorization allows the donated drugs “to 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 release said. In addition, the authorization “requires that fact sheets that provide important information about using chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate in treating COVID-19 be made available to health care providers and patients, including the known risks and drug interactions,” according to the FDA’s website. Read more here or here. New York City to fine people who violate social-distancing rules Update 5:20 a.m. EDT March 30: New York City will fine those who fail to follow social-distancing guidelines, officials said. According to WPIX-TV, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the news in a Sunday news conference. “We’re going to give people every chance to listen, and if anyone doesn’t listen, then they deserve a fine at this point,” he said, adding that people could face fines of $250 to $500 if they continue to violate the rules after receiving a warning from police. The city has already shut down nonessential businesses and instructed to residents to stay inside when possible, WPIX reported. Budget airline EasyJet grounds entire fleet Update 4:32 a.m. EDT March 30: British airline EasyJet announced that it is grounding all of its 344 planes amid the coronavirus pandemic, ITV is reporting. According to CNN, the budget carrier’s decision takes effect Monday. “At this stage, there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights,” the Luton-based airline said in a statement. The carrier tweeted Monday that entitlements for customers whose flights were canceled “are available for up to a year after your flight was originally due to depart.” >> See the tweets here 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' songwriter Alan Merrill dies of complications from virus Update 3:23 a.m. EDT March 30: Alan Merrill, best known for writing the hit song “I Love Rock 'n' Roll,” died Sunday morning after experiencing coronavirus complications. He was 69. According to USA Today, Merrill’s daughter, Laura, said in a Facebook post that her father died at a New York City hospital. “I was given two minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out,” she wrote of Merrill, who also was a guitarist and vocalist. “He seemed peaceful, and as I left, there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right-hand side of the CNN/Fox News screen.” She said she walked home and received the news of his death by the time she reached her apartment. “I’ve made a million jokes about the ‘Rona’ and how it’ll ‘getcha’ ... boy, do I feel stupid,” she continued. “If anything can come of this, I beg of you to take this seriously. Money doesn’t matter. People are dying. You don’t think it’ll happen to you or your strong family. It has.” >> See the post here ″I Love Rock 'n' Roll' was originally released by the Arrows, a band Merrill was part of, in 1975, according to “Entertainment Tonight.” Seven years later, rocker Joan Jett and the Blackhearts released a version of the song, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, the outlet reported. Jett took to Twitter to pay tribute to Merrill on Sunday, sending “thoughts and love” to his loved ones and the music community. “I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me,” Jett wrote. “With deep gratitude and sadness, wishing him a safe journey to the other side.” >> See the tweet here News of Merrill’s death came the same day that country music star Joe Diffie died from the virus, “ET” reported. Costco to temporarily change store hours Update 1:31 a.m. EDT March 30: In an effort to help protect its customers, Costco announced it will temporarily implement new weekday closing hours for its locations nationwide. Beginning Monday, all its warehouses will close at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and its gas stations will close at 7 p.m. However, it said some specific locations’ hours would be different. The wholesale giant said its weekend hours would remain the same. For its members ages 60 and older and those with physical impairments, Costco has special operating hours from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Costco said it has made some temporary department changes to create more space for social distancing and is following CDC recommendations to minimize risk to its members and employees. U.S. cases soar past 142,000, including more than 2,500 deaths Update 12:39 a.m. EDT March 30: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 142,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Sunday. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 142,502 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 2,506 deaths. Worldwide, there are 722,435 confirmed cases and 33,997 deaths from the virus. U.S. cases outnumber those in any other nation, including the 97,689 reported in Italy and the 82,149 confirmed in China. Of the confirmed deaths, 966 have occurred in New York, 200 in Washington state, 161 in New Jersey and 151 in Louisiana. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest-hit with at least 59,746 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 13,386, California with 6,284 and Michigan with 5,488. Four other states have each confirmed at least 4,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Massachusetts: 4,955, including 48 deaths • Florida: 4,950, including 60 deaths • Illinois: 4,596, including 66 deaths • Washington: 4,493, including 200 deaths Meanwhile, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have confirmed at least 3,000 novel coronavirus infections each, while Texas, Georgia and Colorado have confirmed at least 2,000 cases each.
  • A Phoenix police commander was killed and two other officers were wounded Sunday night as they responded to calls about a dispute between roomates. Cmdr. Greg Carnicle, a veteran officer and father of four, was killed. The other officers, both women, were hospitalized, the department said. Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said at a news conference that the suspect refused to cooperate and shot the officers after they were called to the scene shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday. The suspect was still inside and the situation was active as of 10 p.m., Fortune told the Arizona Republic. 'Tonight we lost a true hero. Greg Carnicle was a 31-year veteran of our department,' Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said. The other two officers who were shot are in stable condition, she said. One woman is out of surgery, and another is recovering from her wounds, Williams told the Republic. The department tweeted that Carnicle “held positions throughout the department including the special assignments unit, K9 and he most recently oversaw all evening and weekend patrol operations.” He's survived by his wife and four children, Fortune said at the news conference. Before the announcement of Carnicle's death, Col. Frank Milstead, director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety wrote on Twitter that “I have no exact details on the condition of the 3 @PhoenixPolice officers who were shot tonight. My heart is with the families of the wounded and the women and men of the Department. Pray for @PhxPDChief Jeri Williams and her team. Godspeed.' Mayor Kate Gallego tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the loved ones of these officers and the entire Phoenix Police Department. Please keep these individuals in your thoughts.' In a tweet, Gov, Doug Ducey asked the public to “join me in praying for these officers, their families, and the entire @PhoenixPolice community.” The most recent death of a Phoenix police officer in the line of duty was in March 2019 when Officer Paul Thomas Rutherford was struck by a vehicle. The last officers killed by gunfire were Officer David Van Glasser in May 2016 and Detective John Thomas Hobbs in March 2014.
  • The official statistics reported by health authorities would seem to show that the United States has more coronavirus infections than any other country and that the New York caseloads exceed any other state. But the true statistics are far from clear. Reporting and testing vary so much from country to country and state to state that it's hard to know the exact size of the outbreaks, and that is especially the case in New York. Here are some facts about the numbers: THE MOST TESTS In the U.S., New York has about 45% of the nation's more than 125,000 cases, according to statistics posted Sunday by Johns Hopkins University researchers tracking global coronavirus trends. But New York has been doing more testing than anywhere else in the country, causing its coronavirus numbers to skew higher. IT'S STILL BAD The widespread testing doesn't change the fact that the outbreak is worse in New York than anywhere else in the U.S. The state has recorded more than 1,000 deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. No other state comes close to that. Health experts pointed to the size and density of the nation’s biggest city as a likely factor, as well as its status as an international business center and travel hub. It may have hit New York earlier too. The state probably saw infections before any other part of the country simply because the city draws more travelers from countries that had bad outbreaks earlier. TESTING SICK PEOPLE Another reason why confirmed cases don't tell the full story is the fact that testing standards differ by location. In New York City, for example, authorities have ordered doctors only to test people who are seriously ill and might require hospitalization. Other places do more widespread testing. Deborah Birx, who coordinates the White House outbreak response, said last week that hat 28% of tests in the New York metro have come back positive, compared with 8% in the rest of the country. That means the toll of the New York outbreak could be significantly worse than the confirmed cases suggest. ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti has instituted a shutdown on a city of nearly 4 million people and threatened uncooperative business owners with power shutoffs and arrest. In Mississippi, home to nearly 3 million people, Gov. Tate Reeves has allowed most businesses to stay open — even restaurants, so long as they serve no more than 10 people at a time. The divergent approaches are evidence that not even a global pandemic can bridge the gaping political divisions of the Trump era. The fierce tribalism that has characterized debates over immigration, taxes and health care is now coloring policy-making during a coronavirus outbreak that threatens countless lives and local economies across nation. There are exceptions, but Republican leaders have been far more likely to resist the most aggressive social distancing measures, emboldened by President Donald Trump's initial rosy outlook and a smaller early caseload in their more rural communities across middle America. But in the more crowded population centers on the East and West coasts where the disease first appeared, the Democrats in charge have been more willing to embrace strict steps such as curfews, sweeping business closures and law enforcement assistance. “This epidemic has been a window into our politics,' said Larry Levitt, who leads health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been tracking responses. “Particularly over the past couple of weeks, a political divide has emerged.” It is an election year divide that could have deadly consequences. As his campaign struggles for attention, leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden has called for a nationwide lockdown to replace the patchwork of local responses, which have varied even among neighboring communities in the same states. Trump, meanwhile, is largely allowing local officials to choose their own course and has encouraged them to compete for scant federal resources. On Sunday, the president extended social distancing guidelines through April as public health officials warned the death toll could exceed 100,000. Politically, the strategy may be working for the first-term Republican president. With the election just seven months away, Trump's favorable ratings are ticking up, even if his numbers have fallen short of past presidents during times of crisis. Yet the GOP's loyalty will almost certainly be tested in the weeks ahead as the virus spreads from the blue-state coastal communities deeper into red-state middle America. Democrats like Garcetti fear the politics that are shaping conflicting pandemic responses will have real-world consequences far more important than the next election. “I do worry that making this a partisan issue will kill more people in redder states,” the Los Angeles mayor said in an interview. “There is no way to keep this out of your city.” In Mississippi, Reeves has adopted many social distancing measures such as limiting groups to 10 people, even if he's resisted some of the most aggressive steps. In an interview late last week, the Republican governor reiterated his opposition to a stay-at-home order, adding that he's heeding the guidance of state health officials and Vice President Mike Pence himself, who told him directly during a recent conversation that the Trump administration is not recommending a blanket shutdown. Reeves dismissed those who think he's not doing enough as enemies of Trump who “don’t like the fact that I’m a conservative and I’m willing to pray.” He warned that extended social distancing orders could cause a more dangerous fallout than the pandemic by destroying the nation's economy. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that if the United States found themselves in a severe depression with 20% to 30% unemployment that the abject poverty that could create could lead to more health problems than this particular virus is causing,” Reeves said. He added: “One size doesn't fit all in this country.' No nation has more documented cases of the deadly virus than the United States, which surpassed 125,000 total infections and 2,200 related deaths over the weekend. The partisan divide in infections and responses is difficult to ignore. All 50 states have reported cases, but the seven with the most infections are led by Democrats. New York may offer a cautionary tale for other states: The state reported its first case on March 1 and surpassed 52,000 infections and 730 deaths in less than a month. The bottom six states in total cases are rural states led by Republicans. Numbers have been escalating virtually everywhere, however, particularly in more populous red states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, which reported more than 7,200 cases and 175 deaths combined as of Sunday. Fifteen of the 21 states that have issued statewide stay-at-home orders so far are led by Democratic governors, according to Kaiser. The Republican-led holdouts include Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has so far agreed with Trump's preference for a more incremental approach in the premier swing state, suggesting that restrictive measures be put in place only in the hardest-hit counties. The GOP's resistance was perhaps best explained in recent days by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who told a Fox News audience that he would be willing to die if necessary to avoid severe social distancing measures that have essentially shut down local economies. There are exceptions, of course. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has split with Trump over when normal life might resume. And Ohio's Republican governor, Mike DeWine, has been one of the most aggressive leaders in either party, banning spectators from sporting events the first week of March. He was among the first governors in the nation to close public schools. Aggressive steps by DeWine and others, however, have been complicated by Trump's inconsistent rhetoric. After repeatedly downplaying the threat at first, the Republican president adopted a more serious tone before suddenly suggesting last week that the worst could be over by Easter, which is April 12. He has now reversed that view, calling it an “aspiration,” with the extension of the social distancing guidelines. Trump has also engaged in a war of words with Democratic governors in key states, where elected officials have openly complained about the lack of federal assistance to stem a dangerous shortage of coronavirus tests and medical equipment. Late last week, Trump told Pence, “don't call the woman in Michigan' — referring to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is considered a potential vice presidential pick for the ultimate Democratic nominee. Trump dubbed her as 'Gretchen 'Half' Whitmer' on Twitter, claiming that she's “way in over her head.” At the same time, the Trump administration began to contemplate a plan to encourage increased economic activity in areas where infections are low, which is largely in Republican-led states at the moment. That, too, appeared to be sidelined by the president's new view that fatalities could reach 100,000 or more. Many conservatives welcome the president's preference to loosen restrictions. “They have no right to tell me I need to stay in my house. They cannot impose a travel ban on me. They can’t. it’s unconstitutional,” said Texas-based activist Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots who now leads the Convention of States Project. Meckler began conversations in recent days with other grassroots conservatives leaders to explore the possibility of filing lawsuits to block some of the more aggressive social distancing measures. In the meantime, he's encouraging like-minded conservatives to embrace “peaceful resistance.' “I’m not going along with it,” Meckler said. “It doesn't mean we won't be smart, but we don't want to be sheep.” Meanwhile, the numbers are shooting up in California, which has reported more than 5,000 infections and 100 deaths. Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti has assigned teams of city workers to ensure non-essential local businesses are complying with shut down orders. He is empowered to shut off their water and power if necessary, and the California Democrat has authorized the police to arrest those who continue to resist. Garcetti said there have been no shutoffs or arrests so far and predicts that “99 out of 100 will comply.” He also offered a dire message to Republicans who have resisted similar steps: “In the projections, you could see this taking tens of thousands of lives in America or millions. You chose. But I don’t think anybody wants the second to be on their hands.” ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • Amazon employees at a New York facility plan to walk out Monday amid concerns about safety as the coronavirus spreads. As many as seven workers have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Staten Island, New York, facility, CNN reported. “The plan is to cease all operations until the building is closed and sanitized,” Christian Smalls, an assistant manager leading the strike, told CNN. “We’re not asking for much. We’re asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid.” The strike could involve 50 to 200 employees, CNN reported. Amazon did not immediately comment. The Amazon employees are not the first to threaten a strike as the coronavirus spreads. Instacart shoppers said they will strike Monday after asking for additional compensation and safety precautions. There are more than 142,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to a Johns Hopkins map.
  • A couple whose wedding party was canceled amid the coronavirus outbreak donated the reception meals to feed 400 hospital workers. Fiona and Adam Gordon were wed March 21 in a small ceremony with two witnesses, The Independent reported. The large reception they had planned for 120 guests was canceled. However, the caterer had already purchased the food. The roast beef, canapes and hog roast had to go somewhere. The caterer asked the couple if they would be willing to donate it. They said yes. A charity group, Hull4Heroes, helped serve the food over the weekend to grateful health care staff. 'We’re just happy to help bring a bit of light in the middle of all this. It is times such as these when you realize what’s important,” Fiona Gordon told The Birmingham Mail. “The fact that we managed to help in some way because of this is a silver lining.”
  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • The mayors of OKlahoma's two largest cities have announced they will expand and more closely enforce “stay at home” measures for the general public as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum enacted a 'Shelter in Place' order on Saturday for all age groups in the city to last from March 28 to April 16.  The 'Safer at Home' order mirrors the executive order made by Governor Stitt on Tuesday.   Mayor Bynum's order was announced hours after 7 more COVID-19 deaths were reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • It was a scary day on Friday for Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who sent a message on Twitter that his son Jim took a bad fall while playing with his brothers at the family's ranch and hit his head. “He was unconscious and his vitals were very weak.  They had to life-flight him to Tulsa,” Mullin said in a video clip that he posted to Twitter as he was on his way back to Tulsa from Washington D.C. Since he first got word about the accident from his wife, he says his son has improved and was due released soon, Mullin citing the need to free up beds at the hospital for the Covid-19 crisis. He also voiced his appreciation for the prayers that were sent to him by friends and supporters.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Washington Insider

  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
  • As Congress pushes ahead with a landmark economic stimulus plan to offset the negative impact of the Coronavirus, lawmakers not only put in provisions to funnel money to Americans and help businesses stay afloat, but also structured oversight for the billions in loans going to big businesses, and helped out a few specific players along the way. First, if you want to read through the text of the bill as approved by the Senate on Wednesday night, you can find the 880 page bill here. For those who want the short version, the table of contents for the bill gives you a good preview of what's to come. Now let's jump in and find a few interesting items in the bill. + 1. Restrictions aimed squarely at President Trump and his family. Section 4019 of the bill is titled, 'Conflicts of Interest,' and is intended to prohibit top government officials from benefiting in any way from the emergency aid being delivered in this bill. It lists the President, Vice President, member of Congress, top Executive Branch officials as people covered by this prohibition. But it goes further - adding, 'spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law' as well. One GOP Senator pointed out the 'son-in-law' provision. 'I wonder who that could be targeted towards,' said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in a mocking tone, referring to Jared Kushner, as Lankford said Democrats were wrong to pursue such provisions. 'A lot of this fight that we've had over the last three days is because they were demanding that there was no way the President, or any member of his family could get any benefit from this loan program at all,' Lankford said. Democrats won those provisions. + 2. Temporary tax break for makers of hand sanitizer. With various alcohol producers switching over some of their production in recent weeks to make hand sanitizer, this bill also provides a temporary exception to the excise tax on the alcohol used to make hand sanitizer products. To an outsider, it shouldn't be any big deal for a liquor producer to shift into production of hand sanitizer, but in reality - it can have pretty big tax implications in how the federal government deals with the process. For example, after a company makes over 100,000 gallons of alcohol, the tax goes from $2.70 per gallon to over $13 per gallon. This provision on page 212 would allow those hand sanitizer products to be made without being hit by those higher taxes. Here was the social media appeal from one company in Maryland. 3. Special oversight for economic recovery spending. As part of provisions providing public insight into what companies get what kind of aid from the federal government, this bill sets up a special Inspector General inside the Treasury Department dealing with the 'Pandemic Recovery.' The internal watchdog would be charged with 'audits and investigations of the making, purchase, management, and sale of loans, loan guarantees, and other investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under any program established by the Secretary under this Act.' There is also a new 'Congressional Oversight Commission,' with members appointed by various parts of the government, to oversee the operations of this economic recovery effort - all to guide against favoritism, and any questionable financial awards - much like there was with the Obama stimulus in 2009. 4. Postal Service gets special loan help. Just like after the anthrax attacks following Nine Eleven, the U.S. Postal Service finds itself in a crunch with the Coronavirus. Not only are some employees getting sick, but mail volume is going down - and that's leading to an even bleaker financial outlook. The Coronavirus rescue bill does not give a blank check to the Postal Service, but instead allows it to borrow up to $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury. Page 607 of the bill specifically says the money can only be used to pay for operating expenses - and not any outstanding debt of the Postal Service. The bill also orders the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of medical products related to the Coronavirus, and also gives the Postal Service the right to establish 'temporary delivery points' during the outbreak, in order to shield employees from the virus. 5. Miscellaneous Provisions. Any reporter who has gone through Congressional spending bills starts to get a little excited when you get to the section labeled 'Miscellaneous Provisions' - and this bill does not disappoint. Starting on page 609, there is a laundry list of extra money sent to various government agencies to deal with the Coronavirus. Some, like money for food safety won't raise any eyebrows. But others were quickly getting the thumbs down from some GOP lawmakers who actually read their way through the details of the bill. 6. There is no Congressional Pay Raise. Let me say it again. There is no pay raise for members of the House and Senate, no matter what you read on Twitter or Facebook. The troublemakers on Twitter didn't take long in spreading fake news about the details of this bill, accusing lawmakers of voting themselves a pay raise. Let me be very clear - that did *not* happen in this bill. There is no reference to the underlying federal code which governs the pay of lawmakers (section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 4501)).  Is there extra money for Congress in this bill? Yes, there is. The Senate gets $10 million, and the House gets $25 million. Where would that money go? It doesn't take too much imagination to come up with items like extra medical, safety, and security precautions for 435 members of the House. Expanded telework with laptops, servers, and more. Cleaning crews to deal with any outbreaks that might touch Congressional offices or the Capitol complex. And finally, even if lawmakers voted themselves a pay raise, they would not be allowed to get any extra money until the new Congress. That's not a law - that's in the Constitution.
  • The morning after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an unprecedented $2 trillion economic rescue package to confront the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that she was already thinking ahead to the next Congressional move to spur economic growth. 'We have to do more,' the Speaker said at a U.S. Capitol news conference, as she told reporters about a phone conversation with Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. 'The Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Powell said to me, interest rates are low, think big,'  'There's no question that more money will be needed,' Pelosi added, as she indicated there would be support to funnel more money directly to Americans. 'I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments,' the Speaker said. Pelosi said the House would vote Friday to approve the $2 trillion economic package, most likely by a voice vote. 'We will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers. If somebody has a different point of view they can put that in the record,' the Speaker said.