Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Hits Trump With Sassy T-Shirt Message

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has taken an insult from President Donald Trump and turned it into a T-shirt. 

In the past week, Trump has slammed Whitmer ― at times refusing to even say her name ― for appealing to the federal government for help in fighting a surge of coronavirus cases.

While speaking to Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show” Wednesday, Whitmer wore a T-shirt under her blazer that read “that woman from Michigan,” which was a play on one of the phrases Trump has used to describe her. 

Despite the joke on her shirt, Whitmer told Noah that it wasn’t the time for politics:

“People are dying. I don’t have any time to think about fighting anything other than COVID-19 and that’s precisely why I say let’s not fight one another. We are not the enemy. This virus is.” 

Earlier in the interview, Whitmer lamented that a lot of governors ― Republicans and Democrats ― weren’t receiving the support they’d hoped for from authorities on the federal level.

“So we’ve got to supplement that by contracting with anyone we can find masks from or test kits from, and we’re ending up bidding against one another,” she said, calling the process “destructive.”

Whitmer also appealed for a strategy of national buying power to ensure equitable access to needed supplies:  

Trump has taken several swipes at Whitmer for her assistance requests.

“We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan,” Trump told Sean Hannity in an interview last week. 

The next day, Trump said he told Vice President Mike Pence ― who is leading the White House’s response to the pandemic ― not to call Whitmer or Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, another Democrat who has been critical of the administration.

“I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan.’ It doesn’t make any difference what happens,” Trump said. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Pence called anyway.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said that Whitmer is on the shortlist to be his running mate.

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Trump Spends First Half Of Coronavirus Briefing Discussing War On Drugs

President Donald Trump spent nearly an hour speaking about drug cartels and military efforts to rein in smuggling operations on Wednesday as many Americans are desperately worried about the spread of COVID-19, the illness killing thousands of people around the country.

“There’s a growing threat that cartels, criminals and other malign actors will try to exploit the crisis for their own gain,” the president declared from the White House during his daily briefing on the coronavirus. “We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.” 

Trump, flanked by military officials and the attorney general, said the U.S. would begin new “counter-narcotics operations” using a network of Navy and Coast Guard ships. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited figures that 70,000 Americans die each year due to drugs, a number he called “unacceptable.”

“We came upon some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of COVID-19 were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country,” Milley said. “We’re at war with COVID-19, we’re at war with terrorists, we’re at war with drug cartels as well.” 

The novel coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the nation and has now infected more than 213,000 people as many states urge residents to shelter in place for the foreseeable future. The nationwide death toll has surpassed 4,000, nearly 2,000 of those deaths in New York, an epicenter of the outbreak.

The president did speak about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic during the last half of the briefing, regularly calling the virus a “scourge” and saying America was waging an “all-out war” to defeat it.

Those assurances came amid reports the federal stockpile of emergency medical supplies — masks, face shields, gowns and ventilators ― was nearly empty. Governors around the nation have been pleading for more protective equipment to supply hospitals already facing an onslaught of infected patients, but the New York, Illinois and California governors have said they’ve received far less than what they need.

Trump confirmed in the briefing that the stockpile had run low, but said it had happened because the White House had been directing so many supplies to states. He said the country had about 10,000 ventilators ready to be shipped out.

“We have to have the flexibility of moving the ventilators to where the virus is going,” the president said, describing one of the most-requested items needed to treat direly ill Americans. “We have a nice pile of ventilators, we have a lot more coming in.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned earlier this week that up to 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even if current social distancing measures remain in place.

On Wednesday, officials said those social distancing measures had extended somewhat to the military as the U.S. continues its operations abroad.

But Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the armed forces had no plans to scale down its global operations, instead instituting a bevy of social distancing and isolation measures to protect servicemen and servicewomen from infection.

“There seems to be some narrative out there that we should shut down the entire United States military: That’s not feasible,” Esper said. “We work in cramped quarters, it’s the nature of our business. We have a job to do and we will continue to do it.”

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Trump Again Bashes Governors Of Washington And Michigan Over Coronavirus

President Donald Trump again bashed the Democratic governors of Washington and Michigan on Friday, saying they “should be appreciative” of the federal government and that he’s told Vice President Mike Pence — who heads the White House’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — not to call them.

“I think we’ve done a great job for the state of Washington,” Trump said at the daily White House briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Adding that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) was a “failed presidential candidate,” Trump said, “He’s constantly tripping and I guess complaining.”  

“She has no idea what’s going on,” Trump then said of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). “And all she does is say, ‘Oh, it’s the federal government’s fault.’ And we’ve taken great care of Michigan.” 

Asked what more the president wants from governors, Trump answered: “I want them to be appreciative,” he said multiple times, adding that the Army Corps of Engineers’ recent work to revamp hotels to receive coronavirus patients “should be for governors to do, that should be for states to do.” 

“I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’”

“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump added, noting Pence is a “different type of person” who will “call quietly anyway.” 

States across the country have been struggling to test, treat and support the ballooning number of people with coronavirus. The U.S. now has more than 101,000 confirmed COVID-19 casesmore than any other nation in the world. 

Washington and Michigan are among the states with the highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases — more than 3,200 in Washington and 3,600 reported cases in Michigan. Michigan has one of the fastest-growing rates of coronavirus of any state. Washington has the second-highest number of deaths, after New York, with more than 150 residents confirmed dead so far from COVID-19.

Trump slammed Whitmer this week, calling her “the young, a woman governor,” in a Fox News interview, saying: “We don’t like to see the complaints.” 

Whitmer tweeted in response Thursday: “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits.” 

Earlier this month, Trump called Inslee a “snake” during a press conference on coronavirus. At the time, Washington led the nation in coronavirus-linked deaths.   

On Friday, Inslee responded to Trump’s remarks in a tweet: 

Trump spent weeks repeatedly downplaying the virus before recently pivoting toward touting his administration’s response, saying Friday, “We have done a job the likes of which nobody’s seen.” 

After weeks of states demanding more capacity to test people for the virus — including actual complete test kits from the federal government — testing has only recently begun to ramp up nationwide, with the numbers of confirmed positive cases expected to mount accordingly. 

Meanwhile, states have continued to call out the lack of critical medical equipment, such as ventilators, and hospitals and health workers are reporting a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to stay healthy while treating patients with the virus. 

Trump invoked the Defense Production Act earlier Friday to order General Motors to manufacture ventilators. The president claimed at the briefing that, along with other private-sector companies contributing, within the next 100 days, the U.S. will make or procure over 100,000 additional ventilators.

This came just a day after the president said in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) calling for tens of thousands of more ventilators: “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.” New York is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., and hospitals there are already overwhelmed

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Trump Signs Cares Act While Putting Defense Production Act Into Effect, Claiming 'GM Was Wasting Time'

Donald Trump on Friday signed the CARES Act with the goal of providing economic relief to Americans amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The bill is a more than $2 trillion relief package that will provide billions of dollars to health care providers, see checks going directly to tax payers and provide financial assistance to small businesses.

The bill promises $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and $27 billion towards developing vaccines and the development, purchase and distribution of critical supplies needed to provide care.

Another $45 billion will be put into the Federal Emergency Management Agency Disaster Relief Fund, providing more resources for states and local leaders to respond to the crisis.

Additionally, individuals earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200 and $500 for each child, while couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $2,400 and $500 for each child.

“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said of the bipartisan effort on the bill before he signed it on Friday.

“We got hit by the invisible enemy, and we got hit hard,” Trump said, adding, “I think we are going to have a tremendous rebound.”

“This is a very important day,” Trump said. “I’ve signed the single biggest economic relief package in American history and, I must say, any other package by the way. It is twice as large as any relief ever signed.”

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses. That’s what this is all about,” he continued, going on to again thank Republicans and Democrats “for coming together, setting aside their differences and putting America first.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter Friday that the bipartisan passage of the CARES Act “sends a clear message: we are all committed to protecting America’s workers and families as our nation confronts this public health crisis.”

Trump also put into effect the Defense Production Act, which he’s using to order General Motors to produce ventilators.

“Today, I signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators,” Trump said in a statement Friday.

“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” the statement continued.

Trump called out General Motors for “wasting time.”

“Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives,” the statement concluded.

General Motors said in a statement on Friday that the company has been “working around the clock” to meet the “urgent need” of ventilators.

“Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for weeks to meet this urgent need. Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered,” General Motors’ statement said.

“The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible. The entire GM team is proud to support this initiative,” the statement said.

The company had previously said in a press release on March 20 that it is “collaborating to enable Ventec to increase production of its respiratory care products to support the growing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Ventec will leverage GM’s logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to build more of their critically important ventilators.”

While Trump used the Defense Production Act to produce much-needed ventilators, he told Sean Hannity on Friday that he has “a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be.”

While Trump didn’t explicitly mention New York, he clearly then referred to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s comments that the state could need up to 30,000 of the machines.

“I hope NY doesn’t ultimately need 30,000 ventilators,” Cuomo tweeted on Friday. “But I don’t operate on opinion and hope. I operate on facts and data and science. All the projections say we will need 30,000-40,000 ventilators. So that is what we will strive to have.”

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump told Hannity. “You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’ ”

New York is currently the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., with at least 44,635 confirmed cases of the contagious respiratory virus as of Friday afternoon, according to data from the New York Times. There are at least 99,706 cases nationwide as of Friday.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.


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Trump Orders GM To Produce Ventilators, Invoking Defense Production Act

President Donald Trump reversed course Friday and announced that he’s ordering General Motors to produce ventilators needed by hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump took action under the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the president legal power over industrial production, and signed a memorandum “to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators.” 

“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course,” Trump said in a statement. “GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”

Trump signed an executive order allowing for use of the DPA last week, but he has largely resisted pleas for him to use it. He said last weekend that the private sector was already stepping up to make products in low supply ― ventilators, portable X-ray devices, COVID-19 test reagents, masks and gowns ― and that using the DPA would be akin to socialism.

“We’re getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down,” he said at a press briefing Sunday.

Governors struggling to acquire ventilators for their states have urged Trump to address the shortage.

“We need the product now,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Sunday. “We have cries from hospitals around the state. I’ve spoken to governors around the country, and they’re in the same situation.”

Others have said the companies they’ve contacted for supplies are selling units to other countries first.  

“I’m competing with countries outside the United States to get things that we need,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Monday at a press conference. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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10 Of Trump’s Most Damaging Coronavirus Lies

President Donald Trump has a well-established reputation for lying, having told upwards of 16,240 falsehoods in his first three years in office. So it’s predictable that, when confronted with a coronavirus pandemic Trump spent weeks downplaying instead of preparing the country to face, the lies would flow.

Words have consequences, and the president’s torrent of prior falsehoods has doubtless caused damage. Much of it, however, is hard to quantify. Did his lies about Hurricane Maria aid to Puerto Rico affect how much his government actually sent to the island? Did his groundless claim that windmills cause cancer affect the renewable energy industry? Did his Sharpie-altered hurricane forecast cause Alabama residents to flee into danger?

But the damage Trump is causing with his coronavirus mistruths is more immediate. In some cases, Trump’s falsehoods are contributing to people’s deaths.

Below, 10 of Trump’s most damaging coronavirus false claims:

 

1. “Anybody that needs a test gets a test.”

Trump has regularly and grossly overstated U.S. coronavirus testing capacity. “Anybody that needs a test gets a test,” Trump said on March 6. “We — they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.”

By March 8, two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had conducted around 1,700 tests. The test shortage persists to this day. 

Why is this a problem?

It’s impossible to know where the coronavirus has spread if we’re incapable of testing people who think they have symptoms. And if we don’t know where it’s spreading and how fast, we can’t mobilize scarce resources like ventilators and personal protective equipment in advance of major outbreaks. That’s how you end up with nurses using trash bags as PPE, and dying because of it.

A lack of test kits ― and pretending it’s not a problem ― puts everyone at risk.

 

2. “Within a couple of days [the number of positive cases is] going to be down to close to zero.” 

As he pivoted from outright dismissal of a problem he said would “miraculously” go away and began acknowledging the coronavirus was something to deal with, Trump still downplayed the threat.

“When you have 15 [positive] people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,” he said on Feb. 26. “That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

Why is this a problem?

Conveying the truth about the pandemic’s threat may have emphasized the importance of early social distancing and stay-at-home orders that experts say are critical in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

 

3. “This is their new hoax.”

At a Feb. 28 rally in South Carolina, Trump accused Democrats of politicizing his lackluster coronavirus response, which he proclaimed was “one of the great jobs.”

“This is their new hoax,” he said. “We have 15 [coronavirus-positive] people in this massive country and because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.”

Why is this a problem?

The same day the CDC urged the country take “aggressive measures” to “prevent widespread transmission of the virus,” the president undercut the message with a much larger megaphone.

Trump’s politicizing of the problem likely led to many of his supporters failing to see the virus as a serious public health issue, and choosing not to take steps to prevent the spread.

 

4. Repeated selective amnesia about having fired the experts whose job was to foresee exactly this situation.

Trump dismantled the National Security Council’s pandemic response unit in 2018, a subject he claims to know nothing about now that the U.S. is being buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked about the decision by PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor earlier this month, Trump said he didn’t “know anything about” it, called the question “nasty” and moved on. (For the record, he did know, and here’s video to prove it.)

It gets worse: in July, the Trump administration eliminated a Beijing-based American public health official whose role was to help detect disease outbreaks in China.

Why is this a problem?

The pandemic response unit certainly would have come in handy in responding to the coronavirus.

“It would be nice if the office was still there,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress.

Trump’s choice to dismantle that unit, and then to deny knowledge, shows he wasn’t expecting a pandemic and wasn’t prepared to take the necessary actions to deal with one, even though experts in Trump’s own government had conducted exercises showing a pandemic could cause death, disability and job loss that would harm the economy. 

 

5. “Nobody could have ever seen something like this coming.”

On March 25, Trump framed the pandemic as a completely unexpected problem nobody could have prepared for. He’s done this many, many times.

Why is this a problem?

Many experts did see this coming.

“The problem is he’s using that kind of information to justify, in some way or explain, the incompetencies of what this administration has been doing, or not doing, in preparation for something that we knew was coming,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, director Of Columbia University’s National Center For Disaster Preparedness, told MSNBC on Thursday.

“The president did not cause this virus to develop,” he conceded. But Trump’s response to the pandemic, including claiming it was unforeseeable even as it ravaged Italy, is “leading the country in the wrong direction with misinformation that has been extremely destructive to our efforts to combat this calamity that we have on our doorstep.”

 

6. Comparing COVID-19 to the flu.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

Trump has repeatedly sought to diminish the severity of COVID-19 and deflect blame for his administration’s failures by comparing it to something we’re all familiar with.

Why is this a problem?

For starters, it’s false. According to Fauci, COVID-19 “is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”

Worse, Trump has begun using this false equivalence to advocate for sending Americans back to work long before experts believe that’s wise.

 

7. We’re “very close” to a vaccine.  

The president has frequently overstated the speed of vaccine development, telling the public a remedy could be available in as little as “two months” and insisting it was “very close” in his first press conference on the matter.

Why is this a problem?

His March 2 statement was immediately corrected by Fauci: “Let me make sure you get the … information,” he said, noting a vaccine could be ready “at the earliest [in] a year to a year-and-a-half, no matter how fast you go,” something Fauci emphasized he’d told the president prior to that press conference.

Once again, Trump ignored facts and put forth a rosier, and false, alternative that downplays the severity of the reality at hand, potentially prompting some to take actions that could spread the disease. Instead of offering reassuring clarity, the president muddled the message and caused confusion.

 

8. “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”

At a March 13 press conference, Trump declared a national emergency and, asked about repeated delays in producing and distributing coronavirus test kits, completely washed his hands of the mess. 

“I don’t take responsibility at all,” he told reporters.

Why is this a problem? 

Despite boasting that he had the foresight to “close up our country to China,” Trump failed to take more drastic action that may have slowed the spread of coronavirus in the U.S., potentially saving thousands of lives. His slow response came despite warnings from experts and U.S. intelligence agencies, who warned him in February that coronavirus could be a global danger, according to The Washington Post.

Trump’s rosy assessment of the pandemic’s threat to the U.S. may have been colored by assurances from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Trump repeatedly praised for handling the outbreak in China. Once Trump’s misjudgement became clear, he turned to another standby ― racism ― and began calling the coronavirus the “China virus. ” This week, following a surge of hate crimes against Asian Americans, Trump said he might stop using the term.

The president’s “don’t take responsibility” comment was a sharp departure from the Trump of 2013, who tweeted: “Leadership: Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.”

 

9. Hyping a speculative, untested drug as a coronavirus treatment.

At a news conference last week, Trump repeatedly touted an anti-malarial drug called chloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, going so far as to suggest the Food and Drug Administration had approved it for COVID-19.

“It’s shown very encouraging ― very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that’s where the FDA has been so great. They ― they’ve gone through the approval process; it’s been approved. And they did it ― they took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states,” Trump said.

Why is this a problem? 

The FDA hasn’t approved chloroquine for use against COVID-19, a point the agency was forced to clarify in a statement after Trump’s briefing. Experts said the drug can be fatal if misused and there’s no evidence beyond anecdotal stories that it works against COVID-19.

Nevertheless, Trump’s statement prompted hoarding of the drug around the world, including in the U.S., where unscrupulous doctors began fraudulently writing themselves prescriptions for it.

An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized in critical condition after the two heard Trump tout the supposedly game-changing drug on TV. They drank an aquarium cleaning product that contained the drug because they thought it would help them avoid contracting the disease.

 

10. “The cure can’t be worse than the problem.”

Trump has been rolling out variants of this line all week, using it to argue that the economic damage caused by COVID-19 is worse than the disease itself, and, therefore, we should cease social distancing and return to work by Easter.

Why is this a problem?

The economic devastation being caused with much of the country shut down by coronavirus restrictions is apparent ― nobody can argue with that. But ending social distancing efforts prematurely will stretch this crisis out longer, put far greater strain on our health care system (leading to more deaths), and make the coronavirus harder to control in the long run, potentially causing even more economic disruption.

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The Coronavirus Nightmare Crippling New York Will Soon Be in Cities Nationwide

WASHINGTON — It was possible until now to view the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. as a crisis concentrated in a few densely populated regions: New York City, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay Area. New York is now considered the global epicenter of the pandemic. Some of the most searing images and stories of the past few weeks have come from long-term care facilities in Washington state and emergency rooms in New York City.

But the pandemic is entering a new phase, medical and public-health experts say. In the past week, new coronavirus hotspots have emerged in other major metropolitan areas including New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters this week that his city is “six to 12 days behind New York.” (As of Friday, New York City had nearly 40,000 positive tests and 365 deaths.) Garcetti said that L.A. “certainly will see” the rapid spread of the coronavirus that we’ve seen in New York City and its suburbs.

“This is a national epidemic,” Dr. Sarah Fortune, chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, tells Rolling Stone.

“It’s clear we have a bunch of hotspots,” adds Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and an infectious-disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The next three or four weeks will see a lot of hospitalizations. This will lead to the greatest strain yet on the medical care side.”

In Nashville, where he works and teaches, Schaffner says he’s starting to see a surge in patients testing positive for COVID-19 that he didn’t see several weeks ago. Even that initial uptick in coronavirus cases, he says, is revealing breakdowns and problems with the medical supply chain and the equipment needed to slow the virus’ spread.

Schaffner says the local health department for Nashville and Davidson County is already having trouble securing the most basic of products: swabs. The county has scaled up the number of testing sites available to residents, but, according to Schaffner, county officials can’t find enough swabs to carry out COVID-19 tests.

Nashville isn’t alone. A new survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that nearly 90 percent of cities said they didn’t have enough face masks, ventilators, or other personal protective equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Schaffner, who is a former president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and past member of the executive board for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says he’s hearing from other jurisdictions about bottlenecks with the pace of laboratory testing. Labs that run COVID-19 tests are overwhelmed by the number of tests they’re being asked to run.

“I keep hearing that there’s a substantial delay in getting the results back,” he says. “They are getting the specimens, they’re being sent to the lab, but the bottleneck is the laboratory testing capacity, which is uneven across the United States.”

To slow down the spread of the coronavirus nationwide, far greater testing capacity is needed to identify contagious individuals, isolate them from the broader population, and reduce transmission of the virus. Experts say the criteria for those who can get tested must expand to people without obvious symptoms. “We still have to assess from whom we’re taking specimens,” Schaffner says. “You have to have at least some moderate kind of illness, so people with lesser illnesses are not having specimens obtained even though we’d like to do that.”

The mixed messages from Washington haven’t helped. While President Trump has said that “anyone who wants a test gets a test,” one of Trump’s senior health officials, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir, recently told a conservative radio host that the testing “priority is for the hospitalized and sick, health care workers and first responders, people 65 and over who are sick…If you are healthy, don’t worry about it. If you’re mildly ill, you do not need a test.”

Trump’s suggestion that he would loosen social-distancing measures by Easter — contradicting the advice of the scientists on his coronavirus task force — also alarms experts. Dr. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University professor and director of the Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity, says doing so could lead to an “explosion” of cases in New York and elsewhere in the weeks ahead. “I’m now looking at the projections in New York alone; they show us having a big spike as far as four weeks out,” Lipkin says.

Lipkin, who traveled to China earlier this year to study the outbreak and recently tested positive for COVID-19 himself, says the opposite needs to happen. National leaders should put in place the kinds of strict measures used in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected in humans. “They did tests once people were isolated to see who was clearly infected, potentially infected, and not infected. Then they began separating those people within the community,” Lipkin says. “That’s what we would be shooting for.”

“We’re all in jeopardy,” he adds. “As I keep telling people, we’re going to have to do something like that eventually. The shorter the duration, the shorter the pain.”

Dr. Fortune, the Harvard infectious-disease expert, says cities and states that could soon face a crisis similar to New York’s must act now by building more medical-care infrastructure, buying equipment, and hiring the people needed to meet the coming demand for care. “You see what New York is having to do, like appropriating the Javits Center,” she says. “All these big metropolitan areas should be doing that. It should be happening everywhere.”

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Billionaires Want People Back At Work, Even If It Kills Them

As President Donald Trump pushes for an end to the nationwide social distancing practices that health professionals say are essential to saving lives during the coronavirus outbreak, incredibly wealthy Americans are eager to get employees back to work ― and some say they’re OK with people dying if that’s what it takes.

A number of the country’s richest businesspeople spoke frankly about the matter for a Bloomberg story published Wednesday. Dick Kovacevich, who ran Wells Fargo until 2007, said he wants healthy people under age 55 to return to work in late April if the outbreak is contained enough.

“We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know,” he said. “Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you’ll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose.”

That’s a false choice, ethicists and economists have pointed out. Keeping businesses closed across the U.S. on the advice of scientists and health professionals will do economic damage. But rushing people back to work ― thereby prolonging the outbreak, straining the hospital system and adding to the death count from the virus ― would also be disastrous for the economy. Moreover, testing still isn’t available enough in the U.S. to determine who doesn’t have COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and so determine who could theoretically return to work.

But Tom Golisano, the founder and chairman of the payroll processor Paychex Inc., thinks he can prove that wrong ― dead workers be damned.

“The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people,” he told Bloomberg, saying he expected businesses would have to fold. He wants states that haven’t been hit hard by the virus to return to normalcy.

“You’re picking the better of two evils,” he said. “You have to weigh the pros and cons.”

Forbes estimates Golisano’s net worth to be $3 billion.

Conservative pundits are beating the same drum. Radio and TV host Glenn Beck, whose Forbes-estimated net worth in 2014 was $90 million, said this week that people may have to get sick or die for the sake of economic prosperity.

“I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working,” Beck, 56, said on his show “The Blaze” Tuesday. “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.”

Billionaire Tilman Fertitta, the magnate of a casino, hotel and restaurant empire, has also told Bloomberg that people need to get back to work soon.

“I think what we are doing with the shutdown is good but in a few weeks people will need to be around people,” he said Tuesday. “Otherwise you are going to go into an economic crisis that is going to take us years to dig ourselves out of.”

Fertitta, whose net worth Forbes estimates to be $4.4 billion, temporarily laid off 40,000 of his employees this week. 

Lloyd Blankfein, the billionaire who ran Goldman Sachs until 2018, took his grievances to Twitter on Sunday.

“Extreme measures to flatten the virus ‘curve’ is sensible-for a time-to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure,” he wrote. “But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond. Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.”

Trump has signaled that he’d like social distancing efforts to lift as soon as possible, despite public health experts urging him not to rush those plans. 

His focus has been on returning to business as usual by Easter, which falls on April 12. During a Tuesday press conference, Trump said it would be a “beautiful timeline” to have it done by then, because of the day’s religious significance.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pushed back on that, saying at the same press conference that “you can look at a date, but you’ve got to be very flexible on a literally day-by-day, week-by-week basis.”

Public health experts have indicated social distancing measures may need to go on for months in order to avoid overwhelming the nation’s hospitals with COVID-19 cases.

As of Wednesday, more than 20,000 people have died of the coronavirus worldwide, with more than 900 of those deaths occurring in the U.S.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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  • Women expecting babies ask: Who will be with me during labor?
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Pro-Trump Media’s New Chorus On Coronavirus: Let People Die

After first downplaying the coronavirus crisis, right-wing media briefly began to take it seriously. But now that President Donald Trump has vowed to defy health officials and reopen businesses, his favorite pundits have settled on a new message: Let people die.

Trump has suggested that he may lift lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines by mid-April in an effort to quell economic downturn, even though health experts have advised against it. Conservative media immediately moved in lockstep with the president’s new position. Now they’re spreading Trump’s new stance to millions of their readers, listeners and viewers ― at a serious risk to public health.

At issue is what matters more: people’s lives or the economy.

For the last few days, a chorus of Fox News hosts and right-wing commentators have relentlessly been focusing on the latter, dismissing public health experts and suggesting social distancing measures be loosened. Fox News host Steve Hilton held a segment on “flattening the curve, not the economy”; Laura Ingraham, another host on the network, tweeted that doctors shouldn’t shape policy. Pro-Trump activist Charlie Kirk called for “relieving some of the quarantine and allowing the American entrepreneur to be liberated.” Trump, meanwhile, retweeted Ingraham and a series of fringe voices calling on people to go back to work after a 15-day lockdown period.

The idea is irresponsible, particularly at a time when the World Health Organization warns the U.S. could become the epicenter of the pandemic. Countries around the world have embraced drastic lockdown policies and social distancing measures because there are currently no proven treatments or vaccines to stop the virus. Until those are found, health experts say limiting the transmission of the outbreak is the best means of combating it. Loosening social distancing anytime soon would not only result in a surge in coronavirus infections, but also have knock-on effects that could overwhelm the medical system, further hurt the economy and make it harder to treat other illnesses. 

“If you lift the social distancing too soon, obviously you will expose a lot of people,” said Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. “You also will clog up the health system and people will die of other diseases not related directly to coronavirus. People with heart attacks will die, people with asthma will die, people with cancer will die.”

The framing that there is a binary choice between lifting social distancing measures or causing an economic depression is simply inaccurate, many economists argue, and lifting social distancing measures could have its own disastrous effects on the economy.

But the idea of a quick fix to boost ailing markets is appealing for Trump, as the economy has acted as a safety net for his approval ratings and reelection hopes. Trump and conservative pundits have repeated the mantra that “the cure cannot be worse than the disease,” while using euphemisms about finding “balance” or making “difficult tradeoffs” ― downplaying the fact that they’re measuring how many people would need to die in order to see potential benefits to the market. 

Some pundits have suggested measures such as restricting lockdowns only to areas with many cases of coronavirus, such as New York, or keeping seniors indoors. 

But experts say the dire lack of testing in the U.S. makes it is hard to know how widespread the outbreak is across the country and that it’s unrealistic to cut off all contact with vulnerable groups. 

Many pro-Trump pundits have also fixated on a faulty comparison between the coronavirus outbreak and vehicle-related deaths. They argue we don’t shut down roads or ban cars just because driving accidents kill around 40,000 people each year. But this line of reasoning is based on a false equivalence and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the outbreak. Unlike traffic fatalities, the virus has the potential to grow exponentially and rapidly infect millions of Americans ― there is no way of knowing how many people will become sick and a worst-case scenario model projected over 1 million deaths in the U.S. alone. 

Allowing a surge in coronavirus cases would overwhelm hospitals that are already scrambling for supplies and short on resources, potentially collapsing health care systems.

“I know what happens in flu seasons and when you get overwhelmed with patients and having to put people in hallways,” Benjamin said. “People die when that happens.”

Still, some Republicans and Trump-aligned media have proposed that the virus killing vulnerable groups is worth it to boost the economy. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) suggested that older generations would be willing to risk their lives and that people should return to work. 

“Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country,” Patrick said on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. 

Carlson, who has been a bellwether of Trump’s shifting reaction to the crisis, began floating the narrative last week that “the real imperative right now is saving jobs.” Others within the partisan media ecosystem picked it up shortly thereafter, and it soon became Trump’s message as well.  

There will need to be a real conversation about when to end social distancing and other measures needed to stem the outbreak, but it has been just two weeks since WHO declared a pandemic. Restrictions are especially important now, experts say, as the U.S. is nowhere near the peak of the epidemic curve that projects how the outbreak will progress.

“If we lift these restrictions tomorrow or next week or in the next couple weeks, we’re going to lose all this time as the epidemic flourishes around the country,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health. “It’s going to be that much harder to get back to where we are even today.”

  • Coronavirus live updates: Spain’s death toll overtakes China, Prince Charles Tests Positive
  • US Senate reaches a deal on biggest bailout ever
  • Health care workers around the world are falling sick
  • What to do if you live with someone with COVID-19
  • How to make a face mask that is effective against coronavirus
  • Sorry, but you shouldn’t go to your friend’s house while social distancing
  • Women expecting babies ask: who will be with me during labor?
  • The HuffPost guide to working from home
  • What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.

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Trump Hopes Country Will Be Reopened By Easter After Lockdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter, as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As many public health officials call for stricter, not looser restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.

“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall.

Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities.

“I gave it two weeks,” Trump said during the virtual town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu or in automobile accidents and “we don’t turn the country off.”

“We’ll assess at that time and we’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up,” he added. “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.”

The reassessment comes as the White House is encouraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass a roughly $2 trillion stimulus package to ease the financial pain for Americans and hard-hit industries.

Appearing before the president at the virtual town hall, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump has asked for recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force for how he can send people back to work while minimizing the public health risk. He said Trump wants to find a way “to open America back up.”

Trump’s enthusiasm for getting people back to work comes as he takes stock of the political toll the outbreak is taking. It sets up a potential conflict with medical professionals, including many within his government, who have called for more social restrictions to slow the spread of the virus, not fewer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told WMAL on Tuesday that Trump has always heeded his recommendations.

“The president has listened to what I have said and to what the other people on the task force have said, when I have made recommendations he has taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me, the idea of just pitting one against the other is just not helpful,” Fauci said.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic adviser, told reporters Tuesday that “public health includes economic health.”

“That’s the key point. And it’s not either-or. It’s not either-or, and that’s why we’re taking a fresh look at it,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Trump took to Twitter.

“Our people want to return to work,” the president tweeted. “They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!”

During a private conference call with roughly 30 conservative leaders on Tuesday, Pence reinforced Trump’s eagerness to lift coronavirus-related work and travel restrictions “in a matter of weeks, not months.”

Pence said there would be no formal decisions made until the current 15-day period of social distancing was complete when pressed on a specific timeline for lifting restrictions, according to a conference call participant who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private discussion.

Pence told the group that accommodations would need to be made for the highest-risk populations if and when restrictions begin to be lifted.

——

AP writer Steve Peoples in New York contributed to this report.

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