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The Daily 202: Six chilling estimates underscore danger of coronavirus to public health and the economy


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The Daily 202: Six chilling estimates underscore danger of coronavirus to public health and the economy

Joe Biden’s sweeping victories in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries make it nearly impossible to stop him from clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Yet the former vice president’s address to supporters – via a live stream from his home in Wilmington, Del. – focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic. “I know that we as…

The Daily 202: Six chilling estimates underscore danger of coronavirus to public health and the economy

Joe Biden’s sweeping victories in the Florida, Illinois and Arizona primaries make it nearly impossible to stop him from clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Yet the former vice president’s address to supporters – via a live stream from his home in Wilmington, Del. – focused on the novel coronavirus pandemic. “I know that we as a people are up to this challenge,” he said.

His rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) didn’t address the election at all on Tuesday evening. Instead, in his own live-streamed comments from Washington, he exclusively made the case for a $2 trillion plan to combat the pandemic.

“The next primary contest is at least three weeks away,” Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “Sen. Sanders is going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign. In the immediate term, however, he is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.”

The Democratic candidates are not alone. Many Americans seem far less interested in partisan politics now than the virus’s potential impact on their lives and their livelihoods. And national attention is increasingly much more fixed on the coronavirus’s exponential spread – and the social distancing measures necessary to flatten the curve of transmission – than on what remains of the 2020 nominating contest.

There are good reasons for this. All 50 states, with West Virginia being the last, now have confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 110 people infected with the virus have died in the United States, a toll that experts expect to rise quickly. Confirmed cases have topped 6,000 domestically and 200,000 worldwide.

Here are six frightening estimates that illustrate the potential peril to the economy and public health posed by a virus that scientists are still trying to fully understand:

1) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned GOP senators that the unemployment rate could spike to nearly 20 percent if they fail to act dramatically, according to three people familiar with his comments during a private meeting. It was 3.5 percent last month. Mnuchin told reporters afterward that the Trump administration could support a stimulus package with an overall price tag of around $1 trillion. Americans could receive checks for $1,000 or more in the coming weeks, as political support coalesces around the idea. Mnuchin said President Trump wants checks in the mail “in the next two weeks.”

U.S. markets nose-dived this morning, as fearful investors sent the Dow plunging 1,300 points at the open.

Asked about his warning of 20 percent unemployment, Treasury Department spokeswoman Monica Crowley said “Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case.”

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed Tuesday that the Senate would not recess before reaching bipartisan agreement on the stimulus legislation, which would be the third coronavirus relief bill advanced on Capitol Hill in recent weeks,” Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis report. “However, reservations expressed by Democrats on Tuesday over various aspects of the package taking shape between Senate Republicans and the White House suggested that it could take some time to arrive at a bipartisan agreement that could pass both chambers.”

2) The United States is expected to lose 4.6 million travel-related jobs this year as the coronavirus outbreak levies an $809 billion blow to the economy, according to a projection released yesterday by the U.S. Travel Association. “Furthermore, 4 million jobs have been eliminated already or are on the verge of being lost in the next few weeks, the American Hotel & Lodging Association said. In some of the hardest-hit markets — such as Seattle, San Francisco, Austin and Boston — properties are shutting down and occupancy rates are at unprecedented lows,” Rachel Siegel reports. “Total spending on travel in the United States — including from transportation, retail, lodging and restaurants — is expected to drop by $355 billion for the year, or 31 percent — more than six times the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The projected 4.6 million jobs lost would, by themselves, nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate, from 3.5 percent to 6.3 percent … 

“The hotel industry is asking for $150 billion, largely in the form of direct grants, to keep employees on the payroll and small businesses afloat. The broader travel industry is also seeking an additional $100 billion, executives said on a press call. Those tallies are separate from the more than $50 billion being sought by the airline industry.”

United Airlines announced last night that it will cut flights by 60 percent next month because of a drop in demand. And Trump said during a news conference on Tuesday that he supports a bailout for Boeing. “Shortly after the president’s comments, Boeing published a statement saying there should be a minimum of $60 billion in ‘public and private liquidity, including loan guarantees’ for the aerospace manufacturing industry,” Aaron Gregg reports.

3) Research from Imperial College London, endorsed by the U.K. government, suggests that 2.2 million would die in the United States and 510,000 would die in Britain if nothing is done by governments and individuals to stop the pandemic. The new forecasts, by Neil Ferguson and his colleagues, show that more-ambitious measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, to slow but not necessarily stop the epidemic over the coming few months, could reduce mortality by half, to 260,000 people in the United Kingdom and 1.1 million in the United States. The new report concludes that the British government might be able to keep the number of dead below 20,000 by enforcing social distancing for the entire population, isolating all cases, demanding quarantines of entire households where anyone is sick and closing all schools and universities — for 12 to 18 months, until a vaccine is available. The modelers did not give numbers for the United States for these most intense suppression efforts.

Seeing these numbers from some of Britain’s top modelers of infectious disease inspired Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take a much more severe approach to suppress the spread. “The report is also influencing planning by the Trump administration,” William Booth reports. “Deborah Birx, who serves as the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, cited the British analysis at a news conference Monday, saying her response team was especially focused on the report’s conclusion that an entire household should self-quarantine for 14 days if one of its members is stricken by the virus.”

4) At least 60 American health-care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and many more are quarantined after exposure to it. This is not unexpected, but it’s keeping emergency responders off the front lines when they’re needed the most. “We all suspect it’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Liam Yore, a board member of the Washington state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “The risk to our health-care workers is one of the great vulnerabilities of our health-care system in an epidemic like this. Most ERs and health-care systems are running at capacity in normal times.”

“Gauging how badly providers have been hit is difficult because no nationwide data has been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical associations or health-care worker unions. A federal official who was not authorized to talk with the media … said the government has received reports of more than 60 infections among health-care workers,” Lenny Bernstein, Shawn Boburg, Maria Sacchetti and Emma Brown report. “In previous outbreaks of infectious disease, and in other countries where the current pandemic arrived earlier, health-care workers have experienced a disproportionate share of infections. They have been put at risk in the United States not only by the nature of their jobs, but by shortages of protective equipment such as N95 face masks and government bungling of the testing program, which was delayed for weeks while the virus spread around the country undetected.

“At the EvergreenHealth hospital in Kirkland, Wash. — just a few miles from the nursing home at the center of the U.S. outbreak — and in Paterson, N.J., two emergency physicians are hospitalized in critical condition … In Pittsfield, Mass., 160 employees of Berkshire Medical Center have been quarantined at home after exposure to patients who tested positive, forcing the medical center to hire 54 temporary nurses.” 

In a stark sign of the dwindling supplies, Vice President Pence called on construction companies yesterday to donate protective masks to hospitals.

5) An internal report from the Department of Health and Human Services assumes that the “pandemic will last 18 months or longer and could include multiple waves of illness.” The 103-page document, leaked yesterday to the New York Times, also assumed that there will be “significant shortages for government, private sector, and individual U.S. consumers.”

6) If 60 percent of the population falls sick with covid-19 within six months, the United States would require more than seven times the number of available hospital beds that it currently has. That’s the worst-case scenario in a model released yesterday by the Harvard Global Health Institute. Ashish Jha, the director of the institute who led a team of researchers that developed the analysis, said “vast communities in America are not prepared” even for the more optimal scenarios.

“Under the researchers’ best-case scenario, Americans will act quickly to slow the spread of the virus through social distancing, and the infection rate among adults will remain relatively low at 20%, or 49.4 million people over the age of 18, less than twice the number of people who get the flu each year,” ProPublica reports. “Even in a best-case scenario, with cases of coronavirus spread out over 18 months, American hospital beds would be about 95% full. … But in most other scenarios where the virus spreads faster or infects more people, hospitals would quickly fill their available beds with patients, and they would be forced to either expand capacity, limit elective surgeries and other non-necessary treatments, or make life-and-death decisions about care, similar to what has happened in the worst-hit regions of Italy, where some doctors have received guidance to only treat patients ‘deemed worthy of intensive care.’

“In the Harvard team’s moderate scenario — where 40% of the adult population contracts the disease over the course of a year — 98.9 million Americans would develop the coronavirus, though many will have mild or no symptoms, and will not have their diagnoses confirmed by tests. Slightly more than a fifth of all cases will require hospitalization. (That’s roughly the average number of patients requiring hospitalization in other countries.) To treat all hospitalized patients over that time, the country would have to more than double available hospital beds by freeing up existing beds or adding new ones. If that moderate estimate holds, about a fifth of hospitalized patients, or nearly 5% of those infected, would become critically ill … and would need intensive care, such as the use of a ventilator.”

Welcome to The Daily 202, PowerPost’s essential briefing for decision makers.

The latest on the coronavirus response

The United States and Canada have mutually agreed to close their border to non-essential traffic to stem the flow of the virus. “Trade will not be affected!” Trump tweeted. “The Trump administration is also developing a plan to impose emergency border controls that would immediately send migrants who cross illegally back to Mexico, including those who arrive seeking asylum, according to administration officials involved in the preparations. ‘All options are on the table,’ said one senior official,” per Nick Miroff and Marisa Iati.

The U.S. government is in talks with Facebook, Google and a wide array of tech companies and health experts about using location data gleaned from Americans’ phones to combat the coronavirus, including tracking whether people are keeping one another at safe distances. “Public-health experts are interested in the possibility that private-sector companies could compile the data in anonymous, aggregated form, which they could then use to map the spread of the infection,” Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report. “Analyzing trends in smartphone owners’ whereabouts could prove to be a powerful tool for health authorities … But it’s also an approach that could leave some Americans uncomfortable, depending on how it’s implemented, given the sensitivity when it comes to details of their daily whereabouts. Multiple sources stressed that — if they proceed — they are not building a government database.”

The director of the Office of Personnel Management resigned in protest with no notice after five months on the job, leaving the agency that oversees workplace policy for 2.1 million civil servants with no leader. “Dale Cabaniss resigned in frustration following months of tension with the White House budget office and more recently with its newly configured staffing office and a political appointee the office installed at OPM in the last month,” Lisa Rein reports. “Cabaniss thought that she was being micromanaged and that her authority was not respected … As human resources manager of the federal workforce, Cabaniss was unable to communicate clear, timely messages to agency managers on how they should respond to the growing public health threat … Guidance to managers on when they should send their staffs home to telework was often vague and came weeks after U.S. health officials urged Americans to work from home and minimize contact with others. Even now, managers say privately they have not received clear instruction from the Trump administration on how to manage their workforce during the crisis.” 

The Internal Revenue Service began closing field offices in Northern California, Seattle, Puerto Rico and the New York City area — and all of its tax counseling sites for the elderly. “The Social Security Administration closed 1,400 field and hearing offices Monday night,” Rein and Kimberly Kindy report. “Federal courts are rescheduling trials. The Food and Drug Administration has suspended inspections of imported food and medical devices … The federal government, the nation’s largest employer, was until this week a holdout.”

The Federal Reserve launched a special fund to keep credit flowing, another emergency measure as the world spirals toward a recession. (Heather Long

Federalism means an uneven patchwork of reactions to the virus across the country.

“Mark Estee spent his Tuesday laying off 100 cooks, waiters and dishwashers, having been forced by city decree in Reno, Nev., to close two restaurants that had been thriving just days ago. Less than an hour down the road, in Nevada’s Carson Valley, the threat of coronavirus had inspired no such restrictions. Estee’s three other restaurants were preparing to serve dinner,” Griff Witte, Katie Zezima, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Tim Craig report. “The gaps are increasingly drawing the ire of state and local officials who have acted decisively to halt the spread, but worry that their efforts will be for naught if their neighbors don’t follow suit … 

“In some Republican-run states, governors have resisted restrictive action while allowing mayors to take their own initiative. In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee (R) has not ordered restaurants and bars to shut down, but Nashville Mayor John Cooper closed bars in the city and reduced restaurant capacity. … Beyond the city’s limits, it’s a very different story. Natasha Hendrix, the owner of McCreary’s Irish Pub and Eatery in Franklin, Tenn., said about 40 people were in the bar’s dining room for St. Patrick’s Day lunch, eating a corned beef and cabbage special and drinking green beer. Hendrix is sure a lot of the clientele came from Nashville.”

Kansas will close its schools for the rest of the year, but 11 states are still sending students to in-person classes this week. (Education Week)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) banned gatherings of 10 or more people in restaurants, gyms and theaters, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) postponed the state’s April 28 primary election. “With nearly every local county and jurisdiction now affected by the coronavirus, the region’s total had climbed to 162 by Tuesday evening,” Antonio Olivo, Rachel Chason and Greg Schneider report. “The District reported nine new coronavirus patients Tuesday evening, also the largest increase for the city reported in a single day, bringing its total to 32 cases. A D.C. firefighter-paramedic has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in self-isolation at home.”

Supermarkets are limiting the number of shoppers at one time. Temperature checks and delivery-only stores may follow, Abha Bhattarai reports. Some grocers and retailers have implemented custom hours for elderly shoppers, even as experts debate whether such a move would prevent the vulnerable from contracting the virus. Dollar General and Stop and Shop will open their doors early just to senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems, Lateshia Beachum reports.

The Brooklyn Nets announced four of their basketball players tested positive, including superstar forward Kevin Durant. Two players from the Utah Jazz and another from the Detroit Pistons previously tested positive, per Ben Golliver. An Ottawa Senators player became the National Hockey League’s first athlete to test positive. The player, who the team did not identify, has had mild symptoms and is in isolation, per Samantha Pell.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) announced last night that he’s decided to self-quarantine after a constituent who met with him in his D.C. office last week tested positive. The senator said he’s not showing any symptoms. (Amber Phillips is keeping a running list of lawmakers who have isolated themselves.)

Americans are desperate for more testing.

“A small commercial laboratory in Georgia has been selling do-it-yourself coronavirus testing kits, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved at-home testing … A physician at the health clinic working with the Georgia lab said there is no time to waste on federal bureaucracy,” Carolyn Johnson, Laurie McGinley, Juliet Eilperin and Emma Brown report. “The push to accelerate coronavirus testing nationwide made significant advances this week, from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeast. On Tuesday, Adm. Brett Giroir said that nearly 59,000 tests had been done, with commercial labs administering 8,200 on Monday alone. A handful of drive-through testing operations have been set up in large and small cities: Giroir said 47 would start up in a dozen states ‘over the next few days.’”

Researchers in Senegal say they’re making progress. “The West African laboratory that made one of the world’s first yellow fever vaccines has teamed up with the British creator of pee-on-a-stick pregnancy technology,” Danielle Paquette and Borso Tall report from Dakar, Senegal. “Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in coastal Senegal — a World Health Organization partner that has battled viral outbreaks for more than a century — say they’re as little as three months away from releasing $1 diagnostic kits that can detect the respiratory contagion in 10 minutes. … More than 200 companies are working to develop similarly speedy tests, according to the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics in Geneva, which is tracking progress. None has met the international standard of shelf life and accuracy yet. Today the process takes hours in sophisticated labs, and wait times are stretching across the globe, alarming health authorities.”

And D.C.-area hospitals are racing to expand testing capability while freeing up beds. “Montgomery County hospitals are installing treatment and triage tents. Kaiser Permanente set up five drive-through testing sites in Maryland and Virginia for patients who have a prescription, and a health-care system in Hampton Roads, Va., is testing people via drive-through if they meet certain criteria,” Jenna Portnoy, Rachel Chason and Kyle Swenson report. “Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Tuesday that Maryland will repurpose vehicle inspection program sites as drive-through testing centers, but testing will not begin until labs have the capability to actually run the tests. Otherwise, it would create ‘false hope,’ he said.”

One D.C. woman’s case helps illustrate the human impact.

Alison McGrath Howard’s week-long passage from perfect health to the grip of a ferocious virus is emblematic of what government officials fear awaits tens of thousands of Americans now ordered to remain at home. “Somehow, she drove herself to Sibley Memorial Hospital,” Paul Schwartzman writes. “After three hours, she was led to a room where the sign on the door read, ‘Airborne Illness.’ Another patient there was talking on her cellphone to her mother in Chinese. The woman’s cough reminded Howard of her own. … 

“As she lies listless in her Cathedral Heights apartment, [the psychotherapist] thinks about whom she could have unwittingly infected: a patient with a heart condition; the pregnant woman who sat next to her at book group; her son and daughter, both of whom are now staying with her ex-husband. While she does not know how she became infected, Howard suspects it was while she was in New York in early March, attending a conference of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.”

Of the first 100 reported fatalities, many had underlying health conditions.

“Some had diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension or pulmonary ailments. Nearly all — about 85 percent — were older than 60, and about 45 percent were older than 80,” Reis Thebault, Abigail Hauslohner and Jacqueline Dupree report. “It’s unclear how some of them contracted the disease, but more than a third were living in residential care facilities when they became ill. What is known about the scale of transmission and the high number of deaths among vulnerable populations — like at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state, where 27 of the facility’s 120 residents have died — has experts deeply concerned. ‘I see that as the ‘’canary in a coal mine’’ situation,’ said Fred Buckner, an attending physician at the University of Washington Medical Center. ‘I suspect it’s going to be taking off in other locations just like it is in the Seattle area. There’s no reason not to think that. Obviously, that means more deaths.’ In addition to the cluster of cases at Life Care Center, health authorities are monitoring cases at Lambeth House Retirement Community in New Orleans, a high-rise with about 250 residences and rooms. Of the four people who have died in New Orleans, two had been at Lambeth, where there are 12 additional cases.”

New research suggests infants are more vulnerable than thought. 

A paper in the journal Pediatrics, based on 2,143 young people in China, provides the most extensive evidence on the spread of the virus in children, and there is bad and good news. “The study provides confirmation that coronavirus infections are in fact generally less severe in kids, with more than 90 percent having mild to moderate disease or even being asymptomatic. But it contains worrisome information about one subset — infants — and suggests that children may be a critical factor in the disease’s rapid spread,” Ariana Eunjung Cha reports. “The first thing to know is that children are getting infected across all age groups and genders. … According to the analysis by Shanghai Children’s Medical Center, … mild cases (52 percent) were marked by the typical symptoms of a cold — fever, fatigue, cough, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing. Some patients had no fever and only digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Those with moderate infection (39 percent) had pneumonia with frequent fever and cough, mostly dry cough, followed by a wetter cough. … Severe cases were rare (5 percent), as were those who required critical care (0.4 percent.)”

A student at a Dallas middle school tested positive after being sent home by a school nurse. Dallas County in Texas has reported 28 cases. (Dallas Morning News)

Europe is closing its borders. They may be hard to reopen.

“Leaders of the 26 European countries that are part of what is normally a free-movement zone also agreed Tuesday to shut their external borders to most nonresidents for the first time. The about-face in Europe is proving as disruptive as it would be if American states imposed border controls on one another,” Michael Birnbaum reports from Brussels. “And since Europe’s countries are no longer built for self-sufficiency and no country manufactures or grows everything it needs, the effect of the internal blockade could quickly become catastrophic. Trucks trying to enter Poland from Germany were backed up 25 miles on Tuesday as Polish border guards checked drivers’ temperatures, overall health and documents before allowing them through. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose only connection to the rest of the E.U. is through Poland, have had to mount a rescue operation by air and sea to help their citizens trying to get home. The Baltic states have deployed the Latvian national airline and even chartered ferries so their nationals can scramble to German ports and sail around Poland. …

Leaders of the E.U. institutions in Brussels, watching national leaders erect walls all around them, have been desperately trying to keep the internal borders open, at least partially. One major risk, they say, is that medical supplies necessary to combat the coronavirus will pile up in trucks that have been stopped at national frontiers … France and Germany last week threw up political borders around crucial medical equipment produced in their territory, banning the export of protective gear, including masks, to any other country, even Italy, which is struggling with shortages. After entreaties by E.U. leaders, the countries loosened their bans, but not before the message was sent to Italians and others: In a crisis, don’t count on your neighbors to help you out.”

Taiwan will deny entry to many foreigners. The island has recorded 100 cases, per Reuters.

Chinese citizens abroad, including in the U.S., are seeking refuge from the coronavirus pandemic by returning home, per Anna Fifield.

Quote of the day

“If a person were just completely ignorant about what the Bible says about the End Times, they may think … this is it,” said Jeff Kinley, a writer of books on biblical prophecy who lives in Harrison, Ark. Pointing to Revelation 6:8, he added: “I don’t think this is an actual fulfillment of that.” For one major thing, he added, the ancient temple in Jerusalem is supposed to be rebuilt first. (Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

More on Tuesday’s primary results

The Democratic race has passed a point of no return, with Biden firmly in control. 

“From the start of the nomination battle, March 17 — the day by which roughly 60 percent of all pledged delegates were to be allocated — was circled on the calendars of many strategists and campaign staffers as the day the contest could be settled and the party would know who its challenger would be to President Trump in November. That turned out to be accurate,” Dan Balz writes. “For all practical purposes, the contest between Biden and Sanders is over. Numerically, the former vice president is still well short of a majority of delegates needed to win a first-ballot victory. But the reality is that it would take a radical change in fortunes for Sanders to start winning primaries by the margins he would need to catch up to Biden, let alone overtake him to claim the nomination. … Voter turnout was up compared with 2016 in Florida and Arizona, thanks to lots of early voting, but down in Illinois, which had the lowest level of early voting of the three states — an indication of the impact of the virus on Election Day turnout.”

Sanders faces pressure to withdraw, but an adviser says the coronavirus might keep him in.

“Sanders and his wife, Jane, are expected to reach a decision together about the future of the campaign, people in frequent contact with them said, taking input from advisers but making the call on their own. Many Democrats are waiting anxiously to see what Sanders says on Wednesday about the future of the race, if anything,” Sean Sullivan reports. “Sanders spent Tuesday in Washington, where the Senate was hashing out legislation to combat the vast impact of the virus. Jane Sanders traveled to Washington with him … Pressure from Democrats to unify against a president they revile has been intensified by the sense of national crisis, which could make running a doomed race seem less appropriate. … As a longtime advocate of creating a Medicare-for-all system in which the government is the sole provider of health insurance, Sanders has said the pandemic shows precisely why universal healthcare needs to be enacted swiftly.”

Biden romped in Florida.

In the biggest prize of the night, with 219 pledged delegates, Biden leads Sanders 62 percent to 23 percent with 96 percent of precincts reporting. “He won every county in the state, claiming voters at least 45 years old by 6 to 1, according to a statewide voter poll by Edison Media Research. Sanders won voters younger than 45 by just over 10 percentage points, far too little to overcome Biden’s lead with older voters,” Michael Scherer, Annie Linskey and Sullivan report. “In Illinois, with 155 delegates at stake, over 6 in 10 voters said they trusted Biden more than Sanders to handle a major crisis, and nearly 7 in 10 said Biden has the better chance of defeating President Trump in November. … Reports of polling place disruptions — with unopened precincts, a dearth of cleaning supplies and long lines in some places — emerged across the country. … 

Voting in Ohio, the fourth state that was to cast ballots Tuesday, was delayed at the last minute by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) as a result of the growing viral infection, despite a court ruling that voting should take place. … Under Democratic Party rules, states have until June 9 to complete their delegate selection primaries or caucuses, and party leaders have the authority to seek rule changes to accommodate states that fail to meet the deadlines. Democratic Party Chair Tom Perez urged states to adopt vote-by-mail, no-excuse absentee voting and to expand polling place hours to prevent more delays in the primary calendar.”

The first congressional incumbent went down in a 2020 primary.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last antiabortion Democrats in Congress, lost his bid for a ninth term to liberal challenger Marie Newman. “With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Newman held a roughly 3,800-vote lead — about four percentage points. The Associated Press declared Newman the winner shortly after midnight,” Mike DeBonis reports. “The race was a rematch of the 2018 Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District, which is anchored in the working-class neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side but stretches westward along the Des Plaines River into more affluent suburbs. Lipinski won a two-point victory in the last primary by marshaling voters in Chicago precincts to overcome Newman’s strength in the suburbs … Lipinski’s unapologetic antiabortion views — and Newman’s outspoken support for abortion rights — had been the dominant topic in a district that is heavily Democratic but also has a socially conservative strain rooted in the largely Catholic ethnic communities of Chicago.”

A Democratic super PAC will spend $5 million flaying Trump for his coronavirus response.

“The campaign from Pacronym — a political action committee affiliated with the nonprofit group Acronym — represents the first major pivot to coronavirus-related advertising fewer than 250 days from the election,” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. “It is a bet that the pandemic, which is also causing a deep economic downturn, will be the defining issue of the campaign.”

Other news that should be on your radar

Tom Brady will sign with Tampa.

“The Buccaneers and Los Angeles Chargers were believed to have made contract offers to Brady worth $30 million per season or more,” Mark Maske reports. “But Brady apparently wanted to keep his family on the East Coast, and the Chargers were reported by early Tuesday evening to have resigned themselves to losing out. The Buccaneers were thought to be selling Brady on the prospect of playing for their well-regarded coach, Bruce Arians. Brady, 42, faces a potentially difficult transition, changing teams for the first time in the NFL during an offseason in which normal routines have been interrupted by coronavirus-related issues. The league has postponed teams’ offseason workouts indefinitely, potentially affecting Brady’s ability to adapt to Arians’s offense and to his new teammates.”

Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison.

The former California Republican congressman won reelection in 2018 while under federal indictment only to later admit wrongdoing in the case and resign. “The penalty brings to a close a dramatic case that saw prosecutors air publicly how the congressman used hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for family vacations, theater tickets and even to facilitate extramarital affairs,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “Prosecutors argued in court filings that his reelection, fueled by lies and attacks on the Justice Department, warranted a stiff sentence. They argued for a term of 14 months.”

The DHS inspector general’s office is nearly dormant under Trump.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog division has been so weakened under the Trump administration that it is failing to provide basic oversight of the government’s third-largest federal agency, according to whistleblowers and lawmakers from both parties,” Nick Miroff reports. “DHS’s Office of the Inspector General is on pace to publish fewer than 40 audits and reports this fiscal year, the smallest number since 2003 and one-quarter of the agency’s output in 2016, when it published 143 … The audits and reports cover everything from contracts and spending to allegations of waste and misconduct. … 

“Inspector General Joseph Cuffari ducked requests to appear on Capitol Hill for routine testimony, a decision congressional staffers describe as unprecedented. Adding to the turmoil, the office’s second-in-command and former acting director, Jennifer Costello, was placed on administrative leave last month for alleged ethical violations, three current DHS officials said. An attorney for Costello said her client was not given a reason for her removal, but Costello believes she has been retaliated against for trying to denounce Cuffari’s mismanagement and wrongdoing.”

Beijing pulled press credentials for three U.S. news outlets.

“Chinese authorities announced that U.S. journalists from The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal will effectively be expelled from the country as part of retaliation for Trump administration limits on U.S.-based Chinese state media,” Emily Rauhala reports. “The move widens another rift in U.S.-China relations already strained by trade disputes and questions over how the world’s two biggest economies will recalibrate their ties after the corona¬virus pandemic. In a statement published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the three U.S. outlets, plus Voice of America and Time magazine, will be designated as ‘foreign missions’ and must report information about their staffs, finances, operations and real estate in China. … The moves came after the United States took measures in February against Chinese Communist Party-controlled news outlets operating in the United States.”

Social media speed read

People across the country are finding ways to drink together, alone, online. “Raising a glass virtually is taking off as people are discouraged from leaving their homes,” Heather Kelly reports. “They are getting together with their regular happy hour crew, or with family members and people they haven’t seen in ages. Some are finding new friends to bond with over their shared unshakable sense of dread and a fondness for mezcal. There’s even a new cocktail emerging online: the ‘quarantini.’ Although its recipe varies, it is best served chilled in front of a laptop or smartphone camera and enjoyed with a twist of levity.”

Ivanka Trump is at home with her kids after coming into close contact with an Australian minister who tested positive:

Staying home today w/ kids?

Plan living room camp out!

Throw a bedsheet over some taped together brooms. Plan a menu & ‘pack’ sandwiches, salads (S’mores optional😜)

A fun activity that also brings family together for a meal!

Share your ideas & use the hashtag #TogetherApart pic.twitter.com/rgwCl8IIHY

— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) March 17, 2020

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a special plea to millennials, those between the ages of 23 and 39, to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people:

A message from @Surgeon_General to millennials: pic.twitter.com/L3407PXmDb

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 18, 2020

An evangelical leader denounced Trump for referring to covid-19 as “the Chinese virus”:

Mr. President: This is not acceptable. Calling it the “Chinese virus” only instigates blame, racism, and hatred against Asians – here and abroad. We need leadership that speaks clearly against racism; Leadership that brings the nation and world together. Not further divides. https://t.co/wPTcnoO5QU

— Eugene Cho (@EugeneCho) March 17, 2020

Hillary Clinton’s spokesman took a dig at Sanders after Tuesday’s primaries:

I feel the same way about Bernie Sanders still being in this race as I do about people buying a 12 year supply of toilet paper.

— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) March 18, 2020

Videos of the day

Over the past month, many Fox News anchors and personalities have gone from doubting the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic to calling it a public health crisis. Our video team captures the shift with this two-minute mash-up:

Mark Tonelli, a critical-care physician and bioethics expert at the University of Washington Medical Center, discusses how his hospital is getting ready for an expected surge of coronavirus patients:

The cancellation of Ireland’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities, to contain the spread of covid-19, inspired some creative alternative celebrations:

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