The Morning Dispatch: At War With Coronavirus

Plus, holding China to account for its role in COVID-19’s spread.

Happy Thursday. To the many of you who have reached out and asked, Declan has not yet decided how he feels about the Bears trading for former Jaguars and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, potentially to supplant Mitch Trubisky. It’s a lot to process; please respect his privacy during this time.

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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • A new CDC report on Americans with coronavirus reveals that nearly 40 percent of those sick enough to need care in hospitals were between the ages of 20 and 54, demonstrating that while older Americans are at higher risk the virus can cause serious health challenges to younger Americans, too.

  • The CDC has issued guidance to medical professionals on how to proceed with the treatment of patients if they run out of PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks, including the possible use of “homemade masks (e.g., bandanas, scarfs)” if traditional masks are not available.

  • Detroit’s three automakers—General Motors Co., Ford Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—have agreed to temporarily close factories due to coronavirus concerns.

  • The Senate passed the House’s coronavirus stimulus package 90-8—with eight Republicans voting against it—and President Trump signed it into law. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ensures coronavirus testing is provided at no cost to patients, and bolsters paid sick leave for a portion of the workforce.

  • Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams both announced they tested positive for coronavirus, the first members of Congress to do so. 

  • The United States imposed additional economic sanctions on Iran. The move comes days after an Iranian-backed militia fired rockets at American forces.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager says the presidential candidate is “having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign” after a string of primary losses. 

  • Gov. Bill Weld, the only candidate remaining in the GOP field aside from the now-presumptive nominee President Trump, ended his campaign.

At War With Coronavirus

The White House’s coronavirus task force provided another update to the public about the government’s response to coronavirus on Wednesday. The biggest news item: President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, a law passed in 1950 at the start of the Korean War that gives the government the authority to direct production in private industries. The act was initially used to mobilize companies for the war effort, but Trump would use it to increase production of medical supplies. He clarified that he was invoking the act “just in case we need it” and later tweeted that the powers the act grants would only be used “in a worst case scenario in the future.”

When asked by The Dispatch what that worst case scenario could be, a task force official simply said the administration is “constantly monitoring supply levels of PPE [personal protective equipment], ventilators, respirators, and other equipment to determine if and when such a reallocation of resources is necessary.”

Does It Matter What You Call a Virus?

Wednesday’s briefing took several detours into the relatively unimportant battle over whether to include references to China or its Wuhan province in naming the pandemic. The president opened his prepared remarks by throwing chum in the water. “I would like to begin by announcing some important developments in our war against the Chinese virus.”

Moments later, the inevitable questions. “Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus … A lot of people say it’s racist.” 

Trump: “It’s not racist at all. No. Not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

Worth Your Time

  • Policymakers are currently trying to discern the best ways to mitigate economic harm to individuals and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. A team of writers over at the R Street Institute has put together a list of regulatory reforms for them to consider, tackling everything from suspending parking hours limits to waiving restrictions on alcohol trucks delivering to grocery stores.

  • Disinformation in the coronavirus era has been plentiful, with those downplaying the virus competing to be the loudest voice in the room vs. those predicting the end of times. For National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty has an article tackling the excesses of both groups. “Neither camp has been entirely responsible in its musings about the virus,” he writes. “But that doesn’t mean one side won’t turn out to have been closer to the truth.”

  • Some very solid reporting done by Caixin Global has made it clear that the Chinese government knew about the coronavirus much earlier than it let on. Chinese scientists identified the new virus in December, and the government ordered the destruction of lab samples on January 1. The Times has the full story and it’s especially important to read amid China’s efforts to change the narrative about the virus’ origins. 

  • Everyone’s lives have been dominated by news of the coronavirus for the past few weeks. Well, almost everyone’s. This New York Times piece from Charlie Warzel tells the story of a rafting group that went off the grid for 25 days, only to return to our current crisis.

Something Fun

Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills and the entire AFC East.

Toeing the Company Line

  • There’s a new Dispatch Podcast for your listening pleasure. Sarah, Steve, David, and Jonah all got together (remotely!) to discuss all things coronavirus: Is federalism working like it should? Are people taking the pandemic seriously enough? What’s the deal with the economic relief packages being debated on Capitol Hill? Plus, the gang shares how they’re talking to their kids about the virus. Tune in here!

  • Both Democrats and Republicans argue that the other side is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to push their existing agendas. And both Democrats and Republicans are right in arguing so. That’s the crux of Jonah’s latest Hump Day Epistle (🔒), for members only. “One of the funny things about national crises,” Jonah writes, “is that they tend to confirm everything intellectuals, politicians, and activists already believed.” Check out the whole thing here.

  • If you missed it yesterday, Daniel Vaughan looks at what Bernie Sanders’s legacy might be, and he finds that while Sanders might have given rise to a new socialism, it’s one that his passed him by. “He is being replaced by woke Marxism, though I doubt he sees it,” Vaughan writers. “Because he's the beloved grandfather of this newly constituted left, he gets a pass, even if he struggles with voters.”

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Alec Dent (@Alec_Dent), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).