First, THANK YOU (h/tALT) .. House Clears Rescue Package … Quick Catch-Up … Aspirational Projection Vs. Reality … There was a Pandemic Playbook. It Was Ignored … Empty Chairs … 3.3 MILLION File For Unemployment … Defense Production Act (Deep Dive) … NYC. Ground Zero, Again. … Off-Ramp? … How The World’s Richest Country Ran Out Of a 75-Cent Face Mask … and more!
From my bunker,
Capstone National Partners
House Clears Rescue Package
BGov “The House cleared a $2 trillion package by a voice vote today, after the Senate’s 96-0 vote Wednesday to approve the measure.
The President signed the bill into law this afternoon.
“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said before the vote. “We do know that we must do more.”
The size of the stimulus is unprecedented, surpassing the approximately $800 billion Obama stimulus that passed five months after the 2008 financial crash. Together with Federal Reserve actions, the package will amount to an injection of $6 trillion into the country’s economy, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. That’s about 30% of annual GDP.
Congressional action comes as the U.S. is reeling from the effects of the global health crisis.
Next Steps: The success of the massive plan will depend on how quick that the aid can get to beleaguered consumers and businesses, a huge ask for state and federal agencies that are not built to move with haste. Government institutions, especially the Treasury, will be asked to deliver enormous amounts of funding. New programs, like the $377 billion in fresh subsidies for small businesses, are meant to get out the door in weeks, not months or years, but it’ll be a challenge for the banking systems and federal government to quickly process the millions of transactions expected.
But the biggest single portion of the stimulus is the billions earmarked for large companies and state and local governments, and the rules for deciding who will get that and how it will be distributed are a work in progress. The stimulus plan specifies that 10 days after it becomes law, Treasury will post guidelines on how to get the loans. Some advocates argue that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should let the Federal Reserve manage the entire corporate bailout.
Catch Up Quick
Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 585,040 — Total deaths: 26,819 — Total recoveries: 129,812.
U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 97,028 — Total deaths: 1,475 — Total recoveries: 816.
State updates: Nearly 200 cities reported a desperate need for face masks, ventilators and other medical equipment.
World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths, the largest one-day toll anywhere.
– Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus in Britain, where firefighters have been tapped to deliver food and collect bodies.
– Italy reported 919 new deaths — the largest one-day toll anywhere.
– Nearly 300 people in Iran died after drinking methanol, falsely believing it would help them ward off the disease.
Aspirational Projection Vs. Reality
“Advisers To Trump: Drop Your Back-To-Work Deadline” Axios “Believing the worst is yet to come, some top advisers to President Trump are struggling to steer him away from Easter as an arbitrary deadline for much of the nation to reopen. The operating assumption among administration officials involved in the coronavirus planning is that the April 12 mark — 16 days away — will not, in fact, turn out to be the starting gun for businesses across America to reopen.
But Trump is far from chastened. “I don’t think he feels in any way that his messaging was off,” a top official said. “He feels more convinced than ever that America needs to get back to work.”
Between the lines: The reality is that the administration is unlikely to go from red light to green light. More likely it’s a step-by-step process — a “tiered” approach, different guidelines based on geography and other factors, as Trump has been foreshadowing. Trump sought yesterday to provide himself more flexibility, given internal expectations that awful data will only mount.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN last night that Easter was Trump’s “aspirational projection” to “give people some hope.” But Fauci said Trump is “listening to us when we say we really got to reevaluate it, in real time.”
But weaning Trump from setting a date for millions of Americans to get back to work is a delicate, ongoing process. Despite the blowback for imposing an unrealistic and artificial deadline on a virus that knows no deadline, Trump remains impatient.
On Monday, he faces his first self-imposed deadline — the end of the White House’s “15 days to slow the spread.” The bottom line: With states including Louisiana and Florida showing increasingly alarming signals, a senior White House official told Axios that there’s a sense that a rolling disaster awaits..
Pandemic Playbook. Ignored.
Politico “The 69-page document, finished in 2016, provided a step by step list of priorities – which were then ignored by the administration. Click Here for Pandemic Playbook.
Empty Chairs and Empty Tables
NYT “Unfilled jobs and high turnover mean the government is ill equipped for a public health crisis, said many former and current federal officials and disaster experts.
Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.
Ever since President Trump came into office, a record high turnover and unfilled jobs have emptied offices across wide sections of the federal bureaucracy. Now, current and former administration officials and disaster experts say the coronavirus has exposed those failings as never before and left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century. Between Mr. Trump’s history of firing people and the choice by many career officials and political appointees to leave, he now finds himself with a government riddled with vacancies, acting department chiefs and, in some cases, leaders whose professional backgrounds do not easily match up to the task of managing a pandemic.
Mayors Speak: Shortages Have Reached Crisis
Nearly 90% of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey on coronavirus preparedness said they lack sufficient tests kits, face masks and other protective equipment for their emergency responders and medical workers, while 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors survey, published Friday, was conducted from March 20 to March 24 and includes data from 213 U.S. cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico, representing a combined population of 42 million. The shortages of essential items and equipment the cities are facing “has reached crisis proportions,” according to the report.
Biggest Spike In Jobless Claims In U.S. History
Axios “A record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment insurance — almost five times the previous record, set in 1982 — a sign that the coronavirus is causing joblessness like never before.
Why it matters: It’s the biggest spike in unemployment filings in U.S. history, as the pandemic causes businesses across the country to shut down.
The front page of today’s NYT tells a first-ever story in a first-ever way: The whole sixth column, usually the lead story, is taken up by the spike of a graphic showing the biggest surge in jobless claims in U.S. history. … 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record, set in 1982.
Fifty Years Of Reports
Protecting The Front Lines
America’s new goalpost: Build tens of thousands of ventilators and assemble and reuse billions of face masks in the next few weeks to ward off some of the worst-case scenarios from the coronavirus pandemic.
Why it matters: We need to give medical professionals, first responders and essential personnel (like grocery store staff) every possible tool to treat the ill and avoid getting sick themselves.
Trump Invokes the Defense Production Act [!]
WaPo “The announcement was made hours after President Trump complained in tweets that General Motors and Ford were not doing enough to help produce the medical equipment during the pandemic. After dusting off the Defense Production Act, he expressed reluctance to use it before doing so.
Deeper Dive (BGov)
1. What is the Defense Production Act?
It’s a U.S. law enacted under President Harry Truman in 1950 to help the U.S. with the Korean War. Inspired by similar laws passed during World War II, the DPA granted broad authority to the executive branch to intervene in private industry by demanding that manufacturers give priority to defense production. In addition to national defense, it can be used for products related to critical infrastructure, homeland security, stockpiling, and space. Truman used the DPA to cap wages and impose price controls on the steel industry. Other powers granted to him by the law — to requisition materials, ration consumer goods and control consumer credit — were allowed to lapse in 1953.
2. Has it been used since then?
Yes. The Department of Defense “routinely” uses the law to make sure military-related orders are given priority within the U.S. supply chain, according to the Congressional Research Service. FEMA has used it after natural disasters to prioritize contracts for manufactured housing, food and bottled water, and other supplies. Trump himself has employed elements of the law to boost production of rare earth elements, small drones and sensors to detect submarines, among other products. His administration has also considered using it to help the coal and nuclear industries.
3. What can the government do under the law?
In addition to requiring that its orders be given priority, the government can create incentives for manufacturers, such as providing them with direct loans or loan guarantees; buy equipment for them; and waive antitrust restrictions that could discourage industry cooperation. The law allows the government to control the use of scarce resources, such as by requiring companies to reserve materials to fulfill federal orders. Hoarding and price gouging are barred for materials the president designates as scarce. Failing to comply with the law can lead to financial penalties or imprisonment.
4. Is the law being used to help fight the coronavirus?
Not until today. Experts say the law could be useful in coordinating production and distribution of complex goods, such as ventilators, which are assembled from hundreds of individual parts.
5. Why had Trump been reluctant to use the law?
Trump said action under the law wasn’t needed because “tremendous numbers of companies,” including 3M and General Electric, had stepped forward voluntarily to make needed equipment. He also suggested that using the law means “nationalizing our business” as a socialist country like Venezuela might do. (In fact, the law doesn’t mean the government taking ownership of any companies, which is what nationalization implies.) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supported Trump’s resistance to fully deploy his powers under the DPA.
NYC City. Ground Zero. Again.
WaPo “… Eighteen-and-a-half-years after the trauma of 9/11, the novel coronavirus outbreak has again made New York into America’s Ground Zero. … There are obviously enormously significant differences between 2020 and 2001, but instead of hijacking our planes, this unseen pathogen hijacks our lungs.
Axios “With much of America ground to a halt, the state of New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month. Why it matters: The state is bracing for a peak in coronavirus hospitalizations in mid-April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today The governor wants 8 temporary hospitals set up in short order, in addition to dramatically expanding the number of beds at existing hospitals and other facilities, including the renowned Javits Center in New York City.
The startling numbers, per Reuters:
– 519 New Yorkers have died of coronavirus, an increase of 134 since yesterday.
– The state has 44,635 confirmed cases, including 7,400 reported since yesterday.
– Nearly 1,600 of those patients are in ICUs, up 22% from yesterday, the N.Y. Times reports. Most of those patients are on ventilators.
– Hospitalized cases are doubling every 4 days. Last week it was every 3.
– The state has 53,000 hospital beds. It wants 153,000 before the apex.
The big picture: New York needs “20 million N-95 masks, 30 million surgical masks, 45 million exam gloves, 20 million gowns and 30,000 ventilators, all astronomical amounts compared to New York’s current stockpile,” the Times reports.
The bottom line: As cases mount in other states — and until manufacturers can catch up — states will be forced to compete for precious ventilators. On an individual level, this may feel like a moment to despair. But there is something you can do, if you are able: Stay home and help buy time for America’s manufacturers to catch up.”
What Makes A Country Exceptional?
WaPo “…The United States now has the highest number of cases of covid-19 in the world, outstripping both China and Italy. The first line of defense against the disease is testing. On this key metric, the U.S. experience has been a fiasco: We started late, using a faulty test, and never quite recovered.
Trump’s claim that “anybody that wants a test can get a test” is a cruel hoax. In a searing essay in the Atlantic, Ed Yong writes, “Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared.”
Why Did This Happen
It’s easy to blame Trump, and the president has been inept from the start. But there is a much larger story behind this fiasco. The United States is paying the price today for decades of defunding government, politicizing independent agencies, fetishizing local control, and demeaning and disparaging government workers and bureaucrats.
… The governments that are handling this pandemic effectively include democracies such as South Korea, Taiwan and Germany. Many of the best practices employed in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong are not tyrannical but smart — testing, contact tracing and isolation. But all these places have governments that are well-funded, efficient and responsive. In today’s world, with problems that spill across borders at lightning speed, “well executed government” is what makes a country truly exceptional.”
How The World’s Richest Country Ran Out Of a 75-Cent Face Mask
NYT “Why is the United States running out of face masks for medical workers? How does the world’s wealthiest country find itself in such a tragic and avoidable mess? And how long will it take to get enough protective gear, if that’s even possible now?
Interesting read … Click Here.
Off-Ramp For Isolation Nation
Axios “Americans are looking for an exit ramp away from the extreme social distancing brought on by the coronavirus. But that will require steps we’re not yet prepared for. Responsibly easing off of social distancing will only be possible as the number of new cases levels off, and will depend on extensive testing to avoid another surge in infections.
“If we let up, we’ll be back to where we were before social distancing,” said Ali Khan of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The off-ramp requires fast, widespread testing, which the U.S. still doesn’t have. We’re still facing shortages of some supplies needed to make and conduct tests, and it still takes several days — to a week or more — to get results.
What’s next: Syndromic Surveillance
…. testing a random portion of the community — might help the U.S. get a better handle on the true prevalence of COVID-19. Seattle has launched such an effort, adapting an existing program that checks for influenza prevalence.The bottom line: Life won’t go back to normal for a long time. Normalcy will return in doses, and at different paces in different parts of the country.
Maybe Petition The Liberian Government For A Bail Out?
WaPo “Cruise lines got cut out of the bailout package. … Language in the 883-page bill says that, to be eligible for aid from the $500 billion fund for large employers, companies must be certified as “created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States” as well as having “significant operations in” and a majority of employees based in the U.S.
“Major cruise companies have located their primary headquarters overseas, which for years has allowed them to avoid paying U.S. federal taxes, [avoid lawsuits or any form of recourse] and avoid some U.S. regulations,” Jonathan O’Connell reports. “Carnival Corp., owner of the Princess cruise lines, is incorporated in Panama. Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia, and Norwegian Cruise Lines in Bermuda.”
The Olympic Shoe Finally Drops
NYT “The 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan are officially postponed until 2021.
A week ago, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, were promoting the Summer Olympics in Tokyo as the balm the world needed to show victory over the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, the virus won out. Bach and Abe bowed to a groundswell of resistance — from athletes, from sports federations, from national Olympic committees, from health experts — and formally postponed the Games, which had been scheduled to begin in late July, until 2021. The decision brought both a sense of relief and impending chaos to international sports.”