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Washington Report: April 24, 2020 … “Pandemic Politics”

24 Apr 2020

Washington Report: April 24, 2020 … “Pandemic Politics”

Pandemic Politics … Pandemic Pause … How To Spend $881 Billion In A Month … What NOT To Do With Disinfectants …  Hydroxychloroquine: So Last Week … #FloridaMorons … Five Surprising Things About Coronavirus … From Toss-up to Pinkie On The Scale … Alicia Keys: A Song For Our Time … and other news of the week.

From my quarantine state of mind,
JR

Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners

P.S. 194 Days Till Election Day (Nov 3, 2020)

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More Relief

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes a bust of “Lincoln the Legislator” as she arrives at the Capitol yesterday.

The House voted 388-5 in favor of a $484 billion interim coronavirus relief bill that will add another $310 billion for the small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), plus billions in aid to hospitals and for testing.”
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Jobs

The Labor Department reported Thursday that another 4.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total since March 14 to 26.5 million. But no further [Congressional] action is expected until at least next month, with Republicans and Democrats divided over how much more aid to provide and where it should go. Congress is not scheduled to be in session until May 4.

U.S. Jobless Rate Seen at 14% in Second Quarter

BGov “Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the U.S. unemployment rate will average close to 14% in the second quarter. CBO on Friday also says it expects inflation-adjusted gross domestic product to decline by about 12% in 2Q, equivalent to a decline at an annual rate of 40% for the quarter.
MEANWHILE, U.S. Budget Gap May Surge to $3.7 Trillion: The CBO said the federal budget deficit may more than triple to a record $3.7 trillion during this fiscal year because of massive stimulus and economic shutdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The shortfall may be $2.1 trillion in the following fiscal year, which ends September 2021, Phillip Swagel, director of the nonpartisan agency, said in a blog post Friday. The economy is forecast to shrink at a 39.6% annualized rate in the second quarter.”
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Normal Now Looks Too Risky

Axios “Big majorities of Americans in both parties say it’d be too risky to return to normal life right now, and would rather wait a few more months. Why it matters: President Trump has championed the idea that some states should reopen by May 1, but the latest findings from our national poll suggest most Americans aren’t ready — and worry it would hurt their health. The results suggest that the recent protests in Michigan and elsewhere against stay-at-home orders — which have drawn national press coverage — don’t reflect the views of most Americans. “
U.S. Coronavirus Death toll has surpassed 50,000
The U.S. death toll is soaring, but experts have called the number of reported covid-19-related fatalities an underestimation. While the number of deaths each day has decreased slightly in New York, it is beginning to surge in many other states.
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Remote Access

Axios “The pandemic is creating cracks in the federal government’s long-held opposition to conducting business online. – The Supreme Court is postponing most of its docket of upcoming cases but will hear some via phone conference in May. Many lower federal courts already started conducting remote hearings in recent weeks, in some cases using video conferencing. – Federal agencies are seeking alternatives to what are normally mandatory in-person meetings. The FCC is holding its monthly meeting by phone today.
Congress arguably has the most urgent need to find alternatives to in-person meetings. Speaker Pelosi, after GOP objections, yesterday eased off an immediate plan to permit voting by proxy — a low-tech solution in which a small number of lawmakers could gather in Washington to vote on behalf of others. Instead, the House is forming a bipartisan task force to review options.”
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How To Spend $881 Billion In A Month

Deep Dive BGOV [Congress] has doled out roughly $881 billion from the major components of the pandemic relief package signed into law one month ago, and soon will have a half trillion dollars more to shovel into the economy. The Treasury Department was put in charge of distributing, through multiple channels, nearly half of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). While one key piece ran empty within two weeks — aid to small businesses — there’s still a lot of money left to work with. Here is a tally of what’s been spent or committed so far from the law’s key programs:

1. Fed Liquidity: About 20% of the stimulus, or $454 billion, was given to Mnuchin to use as a backstop for Federal Reserve lending facilities. The central bank can leverage that into more than $4 trillion to help stabilize financial markets through loans aimed at companies and local governments. So far, the Treasury has committed $215 billion from its Exchange Stabilization Fund to nine different Fed facilities. The central bank has said it will post details about who is tapping its facilities on its website.
2. Airlines: So far, [nearly a dozen] airlines have claimed $21.6 billion of the total $50 billion in aid available. Payments are being handed out on a “rolling basis,” according to the Treasury Department. Several airlines have announced that they may ask for more loans but have until the end of September to decide what they will actually take.
3. National Security: The Cares Act sets aside $17 billion for companies deemed critical to national security. So far, none of that money has gone out. The Treasury released an application for those funds late Thursday. The most obvious contender for the funds is Boeing Co., which is shying away from asking for a piece of this portion of the rescue package. Mnuchin has so far said this pot of money is for companies that are either major suppliers to the Defense department, or companies with top-secret clearance.
4. Cash for American Families: The IRS has sent out more than half of economic impact payments it plans to distribute to households to help bolster family budgets as workers face job losses or see their hours cut. The agency has sent up to $155.9 billion of the total $292 billion it plans to send, according to Treasury data released Thursday afternoon.
5. States and Cities: The Treasury has deployed more than $95.2 billion of the $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments. Municipalities can also seek federal relief through the Fed’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, although the central bank has set population thresholds. While the latest spending bill from Congress does not authorize any more money for state and local governments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that there would be a separate “major package” to address the needs of states and localities.
6. Small Business Relief: The initial $349 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans intended for small businesses ran out less than two weeks after it was rolled out. The Small Business Administration approved about 1.6 million loans at an average size of $206,000. Congress has approved another $320 billion for the program, $10 billion of which is for fees and processing, bringing the total aid package to $670 billion. That latest bill also includes an additional $60 billion for a separate small business economic injury loan program, that Congress initially gave $17 billion.
7. Unemployment Insurance: More than $27.7 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid out so far in April. Congress estimates that expanded benefits package will total about $260 billion, however there isn’t a cap on the amount that the federal government will pay out. More than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past five weeks.
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What Not To Do With Disinfectants

Playbook “We all used our own eyes and ears Thursday to witness — either in person, or on a screen — President Trump suggest that disinfectants might be able to help cure the body of Covid-19.
WaPo “After floating the idea of injecting disinfectant into coronavirus patients, WH Press Sec. McEnany joined a host of Trump defenders in arguing the unarguable. She said that Trump was in fact being taken out of context and that he didn’t say what he had clearly said.” Except now, Trump has weighed in, too. And his explanation doesn’t at all match McEnany’s.Rather than argue he didn’t say it or that it was taken out of context, Trump granted that he had said it but said he was just being sarcastic. He claimed he was trying to goad the media.
The Just Joking Defense has become a popular one for Trump when he says something highly controversial. And it’s often a ridiculous assertion, as it is in this case. It was no joke to the maker of  Lysol that felt the need to put out a public statement saying that “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).” AND then there’s the more than 100 people who called Maryland’s emergency hotline asking about whether injecting or ingesting disinfectants could help cure Covid-19, according to Gov. Hogan’s comms director Mike Ricci.”
But we’ve been here before. White House aides will often be dispatched to defend the boss’s controversial comments or actions, make a strained argument, and then have the boss negate the argument. SO… Playbook “MANY OF US KNOW — because we are functioning human beings on planet Earth who were not born yesterday — not to put such substances inside your body because they can make you really, really sick, or perhaps kill you.”
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Hydroxychloroquine Hype

The Hive “The intra–White House battle over the use of chloroquine drugs for treating COVID-19 broke into the open in dramatic fashion on April 21, when the administration’s top coronavirus vaccine developer, Rick Bright, was pushed out of his position as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a small agency within HHS that partners with private scientific ventures to create vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics. The next day Bright issued a statement, first reported by the NYT, stating that he was fired for resisting efforts “to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections. Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives,” he said, “I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.” On April 23, attorneys for Bright said they would file a formal whistleblower complaint on his behalf.
Under the plan, which set off alarm bells within the health agencies, chloroquine drugs would be available to patients through pharmacies, not just to hospitalized patients. “There wasn’t a plan for physician oversight or monitoring,” one federal official told Vanity Fair.” Whether owing to the accumulation of evidence against hydroxycholoroquine’s efficacy, the resistance of career health officials, or something else entirely, the Trump administration appears to have dropped its crusade on behalf of the purported miracle cure—at least for now. It’s been over a week since the president last used a daily coronavirus briefing to promote the drug.”
BREAKING:  THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, which oversees medical treatments in the U.S., has now cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of hospitals or clinical trials because of potential heart problems.
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Covid-19 Tracking System?

BGov “Republican Sen.Mitt Romney and Democratic Sen.Kyrsten Sinema are pressing CDC to quickly come up with a real-time national system for tracking the pandemic. The senators in letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield say they are deeply concerned that federal public health officials are “behind the curve in assessing public health threat levels, because they lack immediate visibility into population health data”
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Five Surprising Facts About the Novel Coronavirus

Vanity Fair “It’s not that I want to talk about the coronavirus all the time. It’s that it invades our conversations whether we like it or not. So the best we can do is try to have something new to say about it. Here’s an attempt to provide a list of five such things. My criteria were that each had to be worthy of the introduction “Did you know…” and there had to be unpleasant research involved. Maybe they could be fodder for a dinner party, if such a thing still existed.
1. Singing Looks Like A Big Danger … Enclosed spaces in which people raise their voices together have time and again proven to be the sites of major outbreaks. Why is singing significant? One 2019 study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports found that “the rate of particle emission during normal human speech is positively correlated with the loudness (amplitude) of vocalization.” It also found that “a small fraction of individuals behaves as ‘speech superemitters,’ consistently releasing an order of magnitude more particles than their peers.” In its review of the literature, it also offered wild (at least to this author) facts like this: Saying “aah” for 30 seconds releases more micron-scale particles than does 30 seconds of coughing. That may be why weddings and funerals and birthday parties and church services of all sorts have been central to outbreak anecdotes. Shared vocalization is a magical thing in normal times, but these are coronavirus times. Even a cough-along is looking safer than a sing-along.
(2) Children aren’t significant spreaders. When it comes to influenza, children pass it along to all. This does not seem to be true of coronaviruses.  Researchers found that “Whilst SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) can cause mild disease in children, the data available to date suggests that children have not played a substantive role in the intra-household transmission of Covid-19.” In only 3 out of 31 household transmission clusters that they studied was a child the index case, meaning the first in the family to show symptoms. By contrast, for avian flu, kids made up the index cases 54% of the time. … “This has obvious implications for decisions on school closures. Letting kids return to class may be less dangerous to everyone than we feared, especially if exceptional precautions are employed. We’ll see what happens in Denmark, where such an experiment is now underway.
(3) SARS had its own once-promising drug combo, reminiscent of hydroxychloroquinetoday. When SARS was raging in 2003, Hong Kong hospitals were attempting robust treatments, putting patients on a combination of steroids and ribavirin, an antiviral drug, and the early results seemed promising. U.S. hospitals, by contrast, were taking a more conservative approach, limiting their interventions to things like providing oxygen. Today, however, we know that less was more. The Hong Kong treatment [resulted in] long-term harm to the survivors, in the form of memory loss and bone necrosis. Such tragedies come to mind as the drug [Trump had been hawking] hydroxychloroquine loses its shine as a tonic for COVID-19.  Simple remedies are possible, of course. Citrus fruit took care of scurvy. But such miracle cures are as rare as bogus cures are common. … In short, times of plague breed a lot of false hopes. This is one of those times.
(4) If your mask has a valve, it’s dangerous to others. … here is something I didn’t know until a few days ago. Masks with exhalation valves, the sort seen on lots of N95 facial coverings, are a danger to others. The problem is simple: They filter what comes in, but not what goes out. They’re intended to deal with dust and fumes, not a pandemic. So, if you want N95-style protection, then you’ll need a model without an exhaust valve, at least if you wish to keep others safe as well. If a valved mask is all you have, then you can slap a procedural mask on top of it. Otherwise, you’ve got a virus-blower on your face. And so does anyone else who’s wearing one. Hey, this is news to me too. Sorry.
(5) You have to work hard to catch it outside. Coronavirus transmission is an indoor phenomenon that works in mysterious ways. Outdoor transmission, on the other hand, is a rarity. One impressive Chinese study, still in the preprint phase, examined 320 cities in China for every outbreak affecting three or more people. Not one was found to have occurred outdoors. Had the authors delved into two-person outbreaks, it still wouldn’t have changed much. Only one of out of the 7,324 cases fit the bill. In a village in Henan province, note the authors, a “27-year-old man had a conversation outdoors with an individual who had returned from Wuhan on 25 January and had the onset of symptoms on 1 February.” Even in that case, the people in question may have touched, shaken hands, or gotten very close for a long time.
Now, to be fair, there’s a Belgian study on the potential hazards of “exposure to slipstream droplets” left by runners, an effort that relies on painstaking models of particle paths. But the Chinese study suggests that such theories don’t matter much in practice. Based on the evidence we have so far, you’re less likely to get the coronavirus outside than you are to die inside from falling, poisoning yourself, or choking, all of which start to look tempting amid all the mindless restrictions on fresh-air activity. Absent compelling evidence for the benefits of joyless outdoor life, let people stroll (even sit!) on the beach, play some tennis, or throw a Frisbee back and forth. They’ll kill no one.

That’s good news, right? If so, let us end on a high note and consider heading outside. If you can’t have a dinner party, you can at least have a walk.
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Cancelled: Oktoberfest Festival

AxiosGermany’s Oktoberfest festival in Munich won’t take place this year, the governor of Bavaria announced Tuesday. Why it matters: The iconic festival draws 6 million people a year and was supposed to start Sept. 19. Germany’s ban on large public gatherings ends on Aug. 31, but authorities thought it would be difficult to enforce social distancing and require all attendees to wear masks.”
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Campaign 2020: From Toss-up to Pinkie On The Scale … For Democrats

(Inside View of the Senate2020 campaigns)
Roll Call Stuart Rothenberg ” …  while the fight for Senate control in November is a toss-up, I’d probably put a pinkie on the scale for Democrats right now. Put simply, the Democrats’ initial top prospects have succeeded in proving their fundraising mettle and have taken advantage of Donald Trump’s GOP.  Quick rundown:

Colorado: Republican hopes that a Democratic primary in Colorado might produce a weak — or at least weakened — nominee have faded. … the fight for the Democratic nomination is over, with former Governor John Hickenlooper the inevitable nominee. Hickenlooper’s popularity as governor and strategic positioning as a moderate businessman, and private polling showing a large Hickenlooper advantage leads to only one conclusion: current Senator Cory Gardner is a heavy underdog.

Arizona: Democratic challenger Mark Kelly continues to raise unbelievable amounts of money in his bid to oust appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally. Public polls over the last few months have also shown Kelly with a lead. … private polling confirms that McSally is an underdog now.”
North Carolina: Eighteen months ago, it wasn’t clear that Democrats would come up with a formidable nominee to challenge Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, even though Tillis’s 1.6-point win in 2014 was a squeaker. But former Tar Heel state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has emerged as a serious threat to the incumbent.  The very limited public polling is contradictory, but private numbers suggest the race is now about even. Tillis’s big advantage is that Trump carried the state in 2016 by 3.7 points, But Tillis, who embraces Trump whenever he can, finds himself in a toss-up.

Maine: BGov “Republican Susan Collins is seeing declining approval ratings, a polarizing president from her party sharing the ballot, and a well-financed, top-tier Democratic recruit combine to give the Maine Republican her most challenging re-election. The latest evidence came last week with a poll finding Collins with a 37% approval rating and first-quarter fundraising reports showing state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) brought in $7.1 million. That was nearly $5 million more than Collins, who paused her campaign in March to focus on the government’s coronavirus response. Both public and private polls now show Collins and Gideon in a dead heat.
MORE… Click Here
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“We’ve Never Backed a Democrat For President”

The Lincoln Project — which includes former and “Never Trump” Republicans George Conway, Reed Galen, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Rick Wilson and more — is up with its first TV ad endorsing Joe Biden. The spot debuts in Milwaukee WI and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Click Here To Watch The Ad
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25 Years Ago This Week

Axios “On April 19, 1995, a blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others in what remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on American soil.
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50 Years Of Progress — and Setbacks — Since the First Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, an estimated 20 million people march in U.S. streets to call attention to the urgent need for environmental protections.
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A Song For Our Time

The 15-time Grammy winner debuted “Good Job.” If you find yourself in tears watching the visual for Alicia Keys’ new song, you are not alone. … The tune was originally written months ago to honor the unsung heroes in Keys’ own life, but as the pandemic swept the world, it occurred to Keys that the lyrics could also serve as a tribute to the health care professionals, front line workers, parents, teachers and everyone else who has stepped up during this unprecedented time.
Watch The Video: Keys’ song, with remarkable CNN images of the America that still leaves the house to work. Get out the tissues.  CLICK HERE.

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