COVID-19 Update: Day 1,285,342

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Economy & Jobs & Deficit, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment



NC and local:

The United States today topped 60,000 COVID-19 deaths, a milestone once suggested by Donald Trump as a potential “success,” if the pandemic’s toll could be held to just that. It shows no evidence of being held to just that; instead, the 60,000 deaths marker came over three months sooner than the White House-cited pandemic model used in Trump’s claim predicted it would.

That model has largely proved useless and unable to successfully predict deaths at any stage of the pandemic so far. Other models, based on more data and better modeling, are predicting much higher death tolls.

There continues to be little to no “good news” to report as the pandemic continues. A summary of today’s news: Be warned that again, the evidence suggests the federal containment response is still very far from adequate.

• There continues to be substantial evidence that COVID-19 deaths are being substantially undercounted. Some of this may be intentional: The Florida Heath Department has now blocked the future release of statistics compiled by state medical examiners that have regularly shown the state’s COVID-19 deaths to be higher than the “official” state count reported.

• The Trump administration continues to value racism over the preservation of American lives. On Tuesday, Trump suggested he would consider backing pandemic relief for hard-hit states and cities in exchange for “sanctuary city adjustments,” a condition that Trump has no legal authority to require. The man truly has become the worst president in United States history.

• A Trump claim that the nation would soon be conducting “5 million” COVID-19 tests a day was dismissed by the federal official in charge of testing, who said there was “absolutely no way on Earth” that the government could deliver on those numbers.

• The chaos of the incomprehensibly managed “Paycheck Protection Program” is now causing public, and therefore lawmaker, fury. Among the “small businesses” being bailed out by the program while other businesses go without: the owners of a 100-hotel string that includes Atlanta’s posh Ritz-Carlton.

• A Trump demand that meat processing plants reopen (despite hundreds of COVID-19 infections and multiple deaths) would have been complicated by Center of Disease Control regulations that prohibit putting employees in such danger. The administration is therefore turning those rules into voluntary “guidelines.”

• Could employees asked to work in unsafe conditions refuse? Not without losing their jobs. On Monday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds indicated that workers who refuse back-to-work orders would be considered to have “voluntarily quit,” cutting them off from unemployment aid.

• Adding to the Republican-led push to force workers back to work regardless of true pandemic conditions: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making louder demands that any “next” relief package contain blanket immunity from liability for reopening businesses that might expose their workers or customers to the virus.

• There is no timeline for any such bill, however. McConnell is calling the Senate back with a focus on confirming another round of arch-conservative judges.

• Fed-up Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would temporarily federalize the production and distribution of the nation’s medical equipment, bypassing the still-incompetent, still-incoherent, and still favoritism-based Trump administration response by directing the Pentagon to take charge of the effort.

• The economic toll of the pandemic continues to be nothing short of catastrophic, and will almost assuredly continue to get worse.

• Haunted mannequin and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner appeared on Fox News this morning to call the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic “a great success story.”

• Polling indicates some of Trump’s most-needed voters in 2020 do not tend to agree.

• The Trump team’s efforts to refocus blame for the out-of-control pandemic in this country on China—rather than their own slow responses—continue to drive White House policies. Trump advisers are now arguing whether to issue an executive order barring the U.S. from importing Chinese-made (or any foreign-made) medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

• Immigration authorities continue to prove something between incompetent and malevolent in their treatment of detainees during the pandemic. Despite COVID-19 spread in multiple detention centers, ICE has tested only about 700 of the 31,000 immigrants in custody. Over half have tested positive, suggesting those tests are being rationed to only the most obviously ill. Federal judges, however, are becoming increasingly impatient with ICE’s sluggish responses.

• An Ohio state Senate primary challenger who recently gained attention for her participation in an astroturf-heavy anti-shutdown protest was easily defeated yesterday by the Republican incumbent.

• A COVID-19 infected federal inmate whose baby was delivered by cesarean section while she was on a ventilator has now died.

• A Louisiana pastor already charged with violating stay-at-home orders to hold packed church services, with one service attracting 1,200 worshippers, continues to defy those state orders.

• Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear personally apologized to a Kentucky resident named Tupac Shakur after Beshear mistakenly singled out his unemployment claim as an alleged fraud. New York mayor Bill de Blasio is defending himself after warning “the Jewish community” to abide by social distancing orders after a rabbi’s funeral in Brooklyn attracted a large crowd that, according to the city’s police commissioner, refused initial orders to disperse.

Real GDP plummeted 4.8 percent in the first quarter:

This is a little surprising: business lockdowns only started at the tail end of the quarter and shouldn’t have had a huge effect. This suggests that the economy may have been heading for a slide even before it got hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The slowdown hit everywhere. Both personal consumption and private investment were down. Durable goods were down. Services were down. Fixed investment was down. Both imports and exports of services were down.

Among consumption of goods, the biggest drops were in autos and clothing. Among services, the biggest drops were in food, recreation, and health care. Among investment, the biggest drop was in business equipment.

All of this together suggests that the economy was on the edge of recession already, and both consumption and investment then cratered in response to fear of the coronavirus even before it had a concrete effect on the economy. Next quarter should be even worse.

On the other hand: I’ll point out yet again that it doesn’t feel like a typical economic implosion, does it? A drop of this magnitude would normally be accompanied by a huge amount of economic fear, but this time everyone knows exactly why the drop occurred and what has to happen to stop it. In the meantime, everyone also knows that massive government assistance is either here or on the way soon. Our fear right now isn’t truly economic, it’s fear of the virus. This means we can still get out of this with only moderate damage if we handle the pandemic itself properly.