US coronavirus summary
In an update of Oliver Laughland’s earlier story, Dr Deborah Birx has cautioned that social distancing measures are likely to stay in place throughout the summer:
In a later appearance on NBC News, Birx also responded to a suggestion from the vice-president, Mike Pence, in which he claimed that the US would “largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us” by Memorial Day, on 25 May.
Birx said that while downward trends in infections and deaths in certain locations such as Houston and Detroit “gives us great hope”, she said “social distancing will be with us through the summer”.
She added that the US required a “breakthrough innovation in testing” to speed up the reopening, by testing for those who have already had coronavirus but displayed little to no symptoms, in order to track the virus’s spread.
You can read the full story here:
According to public health data collected by the independent Covid Tracking Project, coronavirus deaths nationwide have fallen to 1,184 over the last 24-hour span, the lowest level in nearly three weeks.
A church in suburban Indianapolis, which remains under a statewide stay-at-home order until at least 1 May, has resumed in-person services while adhering to a state order barring gatherings of more than 10 people.
According to the Indianapolis Star:
Services at iTown were slated for every hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday, and parishioners had to reserve tickets online. Tickets for the first round of in-person services were claimed within a day, and the website is already reporting that tickets for May 2-3 services will be made available on May 1.
In addition to being limited to 10 people, attendees will have access to face masks and hand sanitizer and are expected to practice social distancing. Attendees both with and without masks entered the church Sunday.
What Sumrall called a “professional hospital cleaning company” will clean between each service. People who are considered high risk or who are ill are asked to not attend.
In a Facebook video posted on Thursday, iTown pastor Dave Sumrall said the church consulted with “local government leaders and our lawyers” before making the decision.
“We are officially in a situation where your religious freedoms have been removed in the interest of public health,” Sumrall said. “Now listen: I agree that we need to follow the data, we need to listen to our doctors, we need to protect those in our community who are the most vulnerable. But I do not agree with our fundamental rights to worship being revoked. So on one hand the church has been deemed essential, but on the other we’re not allowed to gather. I personally believe this is a fundamental attack on the definition of what the church is.”
With no coronavirus task force briefing on the White House schedule for a second straight day, President Trump broke from his mid-afternoon tweetstorm to take a call with French president Emmanuel Macron.
White House aide Judd Deere passes along this readout from their conversation:
Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Emmanuel Macron of France. President Trump and President Macron discussed positive developments in combating the coronavirus pandemic and progress toward reopening world economies. The two leaders expressed hope to convene the P5 soon and discuss the UN response to the pandemic. President Trump and President Macron agreed on the need to reform the World Health Organization. The two leaders also discussed critical regional and bilateral issues.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis is holding a press briefing and has said he has no firm date for when the state will reopen. “We are going to do everything in a smart way,” DeSantis said. “I am less concerned about the date and more concerned about getting it right.”
He added that he thinks cases from Covid-19 are on a downward trend in Florida. “Our data shows that the cases peaked at the beginning of April, and we think the hospitalizations peaked a few days after that,” he said.
As of Sunday morning, 1,075 people have died from the virus in Florida.
Donald Trump attacks ‘Noble [sic] Prizes’
Donald Trump is on his customary Sunday Twitter tear. After saying on Saturday that his coronavirus press briefings are “not worth the time & effort” due to “hostile questions” from journalists, the president said that the “Noble” [sic] Committee should demand its prizes back from journalists who worked on “Russia, Russia, Russia”.
“When will all of the “reporters” who have received Noble [sic] Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished “Nobles” so that they can be given ….to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right. I can give the Committee a very comprehensive list. When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back, especially since they were gotten under fraud,” wrote the president.
As is often the case, it’s unclear who the president is talking about. The Nobel Prizes were awarded for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economics in 2019. The 2019 prize for literature went to Austria’s Peter Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.” It is unclear what views Handke holds on disinfectant.
Trump may well have meant to criticize the Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. Several winners in 2019 have investigated Trump’s regime.
Trump also took time out to wish Melania happy birthday.
The White House’s economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, says unemployment levels could approach those seen during the Great Depression.
In a sobering interview with ABC’s This Week, Hassett said: “the next couple of months are going to be terrible” for the economy. He added that unemployment could hit 16%.
“We see an unemployment rate that approaches rates we saw during the Great Depression,” Hassett told ABC. “During the Great Recession we lost 8.7m jobs in the whole thing. Now we’re losing that many every 10 days, so the lift for economic policy makers is an extraordinary one.”
Elsewhere, despite the fact that GDP is forecast to shrink by 5.6% this year, the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told Fox News that he believes the economy will bounce back when the US starts to reopen this summer.
“I think as we begin to reopen the economy in May and June you’re going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August, September … You’re seeing trillions of dollars that’s making its way into the economy and I think this is going to have a significant impact,” Mnuchin said.
Larry Hogan: state hotline received ‘hundreds of calls’
Donald Trump’s suggestion that injecting disinfectant could be used as a treatment for Covid-19 were so outlandish that they’re easy to dismiss as the ramblings of a leader unable to handle the demands of a pandemic.
However, on Sunday Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, told CBS’s Face the Nation that his state’s Covid-19 hotline had received “hundreds of calls” following Trump’s comments. “[It’s] hard to imagine that people thought that [Trump’s comment] was serious,” Hogan said. “”But what people actually were thinking about this was this something you could do to protect yourself?”
The president has since said that he was being “sarcastic”, although TV footage does not bear that out. The president has repeatedly given false or misleading information about the coronavirus during his press briefings, and has often found himself at odds with advice given by his own medical experts.
Hogan said that he had raised concerns about “mixed messaging” coming from the White House during the pandemic, and said that the president needed to stick to facts during his briefings.
“It’s critical that the president of the United States, when people are really scared and in the middle of this worldwide pandemic, in these press conferences that we really get the facts out there, and unfortunately some of the messaging has not been great, the mixed messaging,” said Hogan.
Hogan is far from the only person with concerns about Trump’s handling of the pandemic. His own advisers are reported to be worried that his press briefings were harming his presidential campaign. He made only a short appearance at Friday’s briefing and did not take any any questions from reporters. On Saturday, there was no briefing at all and Trump instead wrote on Twitter that they are “not worth the time & effort”.
“What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,” he wrote. “They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”
A Louisiana pastor held services at his church today in defiance of house arrest orders following an assault charge stemming from his decision to hold mass gatherings that flouted public health orders.
The Associated Press reports:
A livestream from Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday showed Tony Spell walking among more than 100 congregants, often repeating the phrase, “I’ve just got to get to Jesus. … Come on America, let’s get back to Jesus.” Nearly all parishioners were not wearing face masks, and social distancing was not being practiced.
The police department in Central, a suburb Baton Rouge, says on their Facebook page that Spell turned himself into the department last week on charges of aggravated assault and improper backing.
Trey Bennett has kept up a one-man demonstration in front of the church since Easter Sunday, when he noticed hundreds of parishioners still attending services in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home mandate, which bans gatherings of more than 10 people. Houses of worship across Louisiana have turned to online services instead.
Last Sunday, Spell drove a church bus in reverse in the direction of the sign-holding protester. Spell already faces misdemeanor charges for holding in-person church services despite the ban on gatherings.
Dozens of Spell’s parishioners met him at the East Baton Rouge Parish prison, dressed in their Sunday best, arrived in church buses to show support. In a livestream from the church, images including photos from Spell’s arrest, as well as information for a GoFundMe account to help with his legal costs, played over music being performed at the church.
Cuomo says he is in favor of bringing sports back in some form provided it can generate revenue without ticket sales. “We want to bring sports back, so there’s an activity that people can watch on TV,” he says. “What sports can you do without an audience? What sports can you make work economically where you don’t have to sell a seat in the stadium or in the arena?”
He adds: “They have to be creative and they have to think about it.”
When pressed on this, Cuomo says he’s spoken with a number of sports owners and companies and encouraged them to “think outside the box, because there is no box”.
“If you could make the economics work without the seat sales and you could have teams play without the seat sales but you had televised and you had the television revenue and whatever else went with that?” he says. “You know we’re in a different place. Be creative and try to figure it out. But if players could get paid more than staying home and owners will get some revenue versus total shutdown, why not? I’d love to watch.”
He continues: “It would have to be up to them, that they an economic analysis that says some revenue is better than no revenue and my players are willing to negotiate a contract reduction. And if they can do it? Everybody has to think outside the box, because there is no box.”
Cuomo says he wants to reimagine rather than just reopen the state.
“I don’t want to just reopen,” Cuomo says. “We learned a lot of lessons here. Painfully, but we learned a lot of lessons. And that’s what reimagine means to me. How do we take the lessons we learned, take this pause in life and say, ‘When we reopen we’re going to be better for it, and we’re going to reimagine what our life is, and we’re going to improve for this pause.’ Even on an individual level. You had time to decompress a little bit. I think everybody when through a period where they analyzed their life and when somebody all of sudden pulls the rug out from under you and you wind up in a different place, you just see life differently. And I think that’s true for most people.
“After that reflection … what have we learned, how do we improve and how do we build back better? Because it’s not about return to yesterday. There is no return to yesterday in life. It’s about moving forward. It’s about taking your experience and what you learned and bringing it to a positive effect.”
Cuomo begins to outline his vision for reopening the state. Phase one will focus on “low-risk” construction and manufacturing, while phase two will be more essential businesses that are considered low risk. He says businesses must present a plan to demonstrate how they can reopen safely: “We need them to be creative and think outside the box,” he says.
There will be two weeks between phases to carefully monitor the effects.
Cuomo adds a major caveat: “You can’t do anything in any region that would increase the number of visitors to that region. You have a whole multi-state region in lockdown here. It’s possible that you open something in Syracuse or you open something in the North Country where you now see license plates coming in from Connecticut, New Jersey, people from downstate, all coming to that area because they’ve been locked down and they’re looking for an activity.”
Governor holds press briefing
New York governor Andrew Cuomo starts with “relatively good” news: total hospitalizations in New York are down to levels seen on 31 March, nearly a month ago.
There have been 367 deaths statewide in the last day, down from 437 in the previous 24-hour period, Cuomo says.
The governor says there have been 16,966 deaths from Covid-19 in New York state overall – a figure that does not include the roughly 5,000 probable deaths in New York state.
Cuomo says he agrees with the CDC’s guidance that hospitalization rate must be in decline for 14 days before considering reopening.
Dr Birx also appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press this morning and continued her stance of declining to criticize the president for his dangerous remarks on the use of disinfectant to combat Covid-19 inside the human body.
Asked if the president’s remarks undermined the credibility of the administration’s scientific response to the pandemic, Birx replied:
I think all of us are very clear and very clear in our discussions with the American people how we’re looking and utilizing data to drive decision making within the task force. Every day, about 2:30 in the morning, I get every single piece of data coming in from every county, where we triangulate where is the virus moving, how are people responding to the virus, are we considering absolutely everything to protect American people? And triangulating that data to come up with that day’s work. Where should PPE go? Where should we be really talking with governors about a recent outbreak? How do we protect individuals that are in essential services? This is the discussion of the task force.
Over the weekend Politico published details of a 57 page Republican party attack memo, which advised GOP candidates to aggressively target China in their public remarks on the coronavirus pandemic.
From the report:
The memo includes advice on everything from how to tie Democratic candidates to the Chinese government to how to deal with accusations of racism. It stresses three main lines of assault: That China caused the virus “by covering it up,” that Democrats are “soft on China,” and that Republicans will “push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.”
The reporting adds to the increasingly clear picture that Republicans will target China throughout election season. A pro-Trump super Pac has already released advertising attacking Joe Biden for his comments on Trump’s decision to ban some travel from the country at the start of the outbreak.
More from the report:
The document urges candidates to stay relentlessly on message against the country when responding to any questions about the virus. When asked whether the spread of the coronavirus is Trump’s fault, candidates are advised to respond by pivoting to China.
Birx: Trump’s remarks a ‘dialogue’
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic from the US.
We’ll start with comments just made by Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr Deborah Birx, who appeared on CNN this morning.
Dr Birx declined to criticize the president for dangerous comments he made earlier in the week floating the idea of using sunlight and the injection of disinfectant to the human body to treat Covid-19. Asked if she was bothered by the need to keep ruling out the use of disinfectant, which can be fatal if ingested, Birx said: “It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle. I worry that we don’t get the information to the American people that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night.”
Earlier in the interview Birx made clear she had told the President that such treatments were not medically viable, but described Trump’s remarks made during a globally televised press conference, as “a dialogue” between the president and scientists at the department of homeland security about a new study.
You can see the full exchange here:
And here’s the CDC’s full guidance on the consequences of consumption of disinfectant.