Tuesday, March 31, 2020
"Hostility toward immigrants is hurting the fight against the pandemic.
The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.
Three weeks ago, with much of the United States already gearing up to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration’s chief immigration judge sent out a stern order to immigration courts nationwide to take down all public health posters, printed in English and Spanish, on how to deal with the pandemic. “Per our leadership,” the order said, immigration judges did not have the authority to post fliers. “If you see one (attached), please remove it.”
Soon after the order was revealed by The Miami Herald, the Department of Justice, which oversees the immigration courts, reversed course and told the paper that “the signs shouldn’t have been removed.”
A bureaucratic blunder? More like a case in point of how the administration’s obsession with immigrants, undocumented, legal or aspiring, has infected its efforts to control the spread of a pandemic, exacerbating the crisis.
Tough times call for tough measures, to be sure, and the administration’s anticipated order to turn back all asylum seekers and other foreigners trying to cross the southwestern border illegally makes sense in the context of measures already taken to severely restrict movement across other American borders, land and sea.
The immigration system along the southern border is overtaxed, and detention centers across the United States are already bursting with nearly 40,000 people, at enormous risk of contagion. The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between carriers who are held behind bars and those whose job it is to guard them. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has continued to make arrests and has shown no intention of releasing nonviolent detainees, though judges in some states have ordered some released out of health concerns.
Rounding up undocumented immigrants and shutting down the border is something President Trump has yearned to do since long before the coronavirus began its fateful spread. And his animosity toward undocumented immigrants is affecting the efforts to contain the coronavirus far beyond the border.
As Miriam Jordan of The Times reported, the virus has spread more fear among immigrants, legal and undocumented — the fear that seeking medical or financial help will put them in the cross-hairs of the administration’s repressive immigration policies.
At the beginning of March, more than 700 public health and legal experts addressed a petition to Vice President Mike Pence and other federal, state and local leaders asking, among other things, that medical facilities be declared enforcement-free zones (ICE currently classifies them as “sensitive locations,” where enforcement is avoided but not precluded). The Citizenship and Immigration Service subsequently appeared to signal that it was suspending enforcement of a new “public charge” rule, which makes it harder for immigrants to obtain the green card of a permanent resident if they tap federal benefits, but the suspension has not been publicized.
Those who are not documented are afraid that going to a public health facility will expose them to ICE agents. Immigrants in the country legally and hoping to obtain a green card fear that seeking help will ruin their chances under the public charge rule, which went into effect in February after injunctions blocking it were lifted by the Supreme Court.
These immigrants are particularly at the mercy of the pandemic. They often live in crowded conditions, have little money and no paid sick leave, and so lack the ability to self-quarantine. And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 23 percent of noncitizens lawfully in the country and 45 percent of those who are undocumented lack health insurance.
Most immigration courts, meanwhile, were still working at full steam long after state and federal courts across the country sharply scaled back their activities. On Monday, several groups representing lawyers who work with immigrant clients sued the administration to stop in-person immigration hearings during the pandemic. It was only last week that the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department agency that oversees immigration courts, closed down some courts and suspended hearings for immigrants not in custody.
The coronavirus does not care which passport its human hosts may carry or tongue they speak. Nor does it serve global public health for only American citizens to wash their hands and practice social distancing. Those are best practices that should transcend borders and walls and help us acknowledge our common plight, and humanity."
Opinion | The Wall That Didn’t Stop the Coronavirus - The New York Times
The coronavirus studies that appear to have convinced President Trump to prolong disruptive social distancing in the United States paint a grim picture of a pandemic that is likely to ravage the country over the next several months, killing close to 100,000 Americans and infecting millions more.
White House officials have not specifically said which of several epidemiological models by researchers around the world they used to persuade Mr. Trump to extend federal guidelines that call for people to remain in their homes, limit travel, work from home and refrain from gathering in groups of 10 or more. But the administration’s leading scientists — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the coronavirus response — have said that several of the publicly available studies generally match their own conclusions about the deadly impact of the virus.
“We’ve reviewed 12 different models. And then we went back to the drawing board over the last week or two, and worked from the ground up, utilizing actual reporting of cases,” Dr. Birx told reporters during a briefing in the White House Rose Garden on Sunday. She said the evidence collected by the government experts “ended up at the same numbers.”
Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci are expected to provide a detailed presentation about their conclusions during a briefing from the White House Tuesday evening. A senior administration official declined to reveal any information about those studies in advance. But the publicly available research suggests that even with the isolation efforts already underway to limit the spread of the virus, infections are almost certain to soar, straining the ability of hospitals to care for infected patients and leading to a growing number of deaths.
One of those models, created by scientists at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, predicts that deaths from the virus in the United States will rise rapidly during the month of April, from about 4,000 to almost 60,000, even with the many restrictions on movement now in place. The study suggests that the pace of deaths will eventually slow down, reaching a total of about 84,000 by the beginning of August.
The model assumes that social distancing measures will be broadly effective across the country and uses the severe lockdown in Wuhan, China, to calibrate how the outbreak might play out in the United States. That approach has some critics because control measures imposed in the United States have generally been less stringent than those in Wuhan. While officials have told more than 250 million people to stay at home, some parts of the country, especially in the South, have resisted or delayed similar measures for fear of the economic consequences.
A second study, released on March 17 by the epidemic modeling group at Imperial College London and authored by 30 scientists on its coronavirus response team, predicted that if the United States had done nothing to prevent the spread of the virus, 2.2 million people could have died. If, however, the government tried to isolate people suspected of having the virus and people they were in contact with, the number of deaths could be cut in half, the researchers said.
They concluded that only a suppression effort across the entire country — an expanded version of efforts now underway across wide swaths of the country — might significantly further reduce the death toll. But they warned that such efforts might have to be maintained for long periods of time in order to ensure that the threat is over.
“The major challenge of suppression,” the British scientists concluded, is the length of time that intensive interventions would be needed, given that “we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed.”
Mr. Trump appears to have been affected by the grim statistics. During his appearance in the Rose Garden on Sunday, the president repeatedly mentioned the worst-case scenario from the Imperial College study, saying that hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved by making the decision to continue social distancing.
“Think of the number: 2.2 — potentially 2.2 million people if we did nothing. If we didn’t do the distancing, if we didn’t do all of the things that we’re doing,” Mr. Trump told reporters. He acknowledged that even 100,000 would be a “horrible number,” but that bringing the deaths down from possible millions would show “we all, together, have done a very good job.”
Monday, March 30, 2020
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Inside the White House during '15 Days to Slow the Spread' Staffers described a time of reassessment as the West Wing reoriented itself entirely around a singular mission. They witnessed historic moments. They wondered what it would all mean.
“Staffers described a time of reassessment as the West Wing reoriented itself entirely around a singular mission. They witnessed historic moments. They wondered what it would all mean.
This account of the last two weeks inside the White House is based on over half a dozen interviews during that period with staffers and outside advisers, as well as prior POLITICO reporting. Collectively, staffers described a time of uncertainty and reassessment as the West Wing reoriented itself entirely around a singular mission. They witnessed historic moments from the center of power — the biggest one-day plunge ever in for the Dow Jones Industrial Average; followed by its biggest one-day gain since 1933. They wondered what it would all mean for the election — would there even be in-person voting in eight months? Is campaigning as we know it over?
Meanwhile, Americans everywhere grappled with their changing realities: Will the way we celebrate, congregate and pray change forever? Will we become a more isolated society, connected by video conferences rather than in-person gatherings?
“Should I even be here?” a White House official said squeamishly after multiple high-level staffers were exposed to the virus and forced to stay home.
On Tuesday, the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative will come to an end. The country will look to Trump to tell people how much longer daily life will be paralyzed, how much longer they’ll be out of a job.
What he will say, though, is still unknown.
THE BEGINNING: JANUARY 2
U.S. cases: 0
U.S. deaths: 0
Stock Market: 28,868.80
As with many Americans, the magnitude of the situation didn’t initially set in at the White House.
As early as Jan. 2, the Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contacted the National Security Council to discuss a developing situation in China regarding a respiratory illness they had yet to confirm as a novel coronavirus, according to a White House timeline reviewed by POLITICO. Ten days later, China reported its first death from the virus.
Then, like a dry brush fire, it spread.
The first coronavirus case in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21. Days later, the president developed a task force to address the potential spread. But publicly, the president and his advisers maintained that the situation was under control, as the president cut off most travel from China at the start of February.
Internally, some White House officials monitoring the situation abroad felt frustrated the virus was being shrugged off by senior officials, including the president. Reducing travel from China was not enough, they argued. They pressed for Trump to take more aggressive action, citing forecasts that indicated the United States could face a trajectory of cases mirroring places like Italy, which saw a sudden spike in mid-February.
Trump came around in late February during an 18-hour trip back from India, where he had spent two days amid cheering throngs, miles away from coronavirus concerns. On the flight, he saw the round-the-clock media coverage of the disease. According to his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Trump didn’t sleep on the entire ride back.
Minutes after landing on the morning of Feb. 26 in Washington, D.C., Trump tweetedthat he would be holding a briefing to address the situation. He hastily tapped Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the coronavirus task force and predicted that the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. would soon be “close to zero.”
The opposite happened.
In early March, the president and his team recognized the writing on the wall, besieged by concerns from allies across the country. There were now over 1,000 cases in the U.S. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic. The stock market plummeted, even halting trading for 15 minutes on March 9 to avoid a market-crashing slide.
Trump and his team scrambled to address the nation’s concerns in an Oval Office address — only the second one Trump had ever made.
“If tonight isn’t Trump saying, ‘This is bad and could get very worse, you need to take every precaution necessary,’ then he can kiss a second term goodbye,” an administration official said at the time.
He didn’t say that. Instead, the president, in hastily arranged remarks, said he was barring all travel from Europe and promised that health insurers had agreed to cover all coronavirus treatments. Investors panicked — would necessary cargo still be allowed to come into the U.S.? Insurers were taken aback — they had only agreed to cover coronavirus tests, not all treatment.
The White House rushed to clarify. Stocks tumbled further.
Morale bottomed out in the White House.
One White House official said that was the week it all changed. In addition to the president’s prime-time remarks and the stock market pauses, the virus unexpectedly overturned America’s collective culture. In a span of several minutes that Wednesday night, Hollywood star Tom Hanks announced he had tested positive for the virus, the NCAA’s March Madness tournament was cancelled, the NBA suspended its season.
“That week made the Democrats' b.s. impeachment seem trivial,” another White House official quipped.
Daily life was not going to be the same.
Within a week, most of the U.S. would be shut down.
A week later, Congress would pass the largest economic recovery bill ever assembled.
Here’s what those two weeks felt like inside the White House.
DAY 1: MARCH 16
U.S. cases: 6,400
U.S. deaths: 83
Stock market: 20,188.52
The president and his team decided dramatic action was needed to blunt the spread of the virus.
They had seen horrifying new projections from the Imperial College in London that showed millions dying if more extreme measures were not taken. Chastened by the new data, the president’s demeanor changed.
On March 16, a Monday, the president announced new recommendations that Americans should not gather in groups larger than 10 — five times more extreme than guidelines introduced by the CDC just the day before.
It was the start of the White House’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread.”
“With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly,” Trump said. “Our government is prepared to do whatever it takes.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, a global health specialist tasked with leading the coronavirus task force’s efforts, made a direct plea to the American people to heed the guidelines.
“We really want people to be separated at this time, to be able to address this virus comprehensively that we cannot see, for which we don’t have a vaccine or a therapeutic,” she warned.
The president dispatched Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hammer out a stimulus bill with Congress to give a boost to the economy. Mnuchin gave a dire, but prescient, warning to Senate Republicans during a lunch on Capitol Hill: act now or the U.S. could see double-digit unemployment numbers.
DAY 3: MARCH 18
U.S. cases: 13,700
U.S. deaths: 150
Stock market: 19,898.92
On Wednesday, the streets in major cities like San Francisco and New York began to empty.
At the White House, the president cast had a new message: The country is at war.
“To this day, nobody has seen anything like what they were able to do during World War II,” Trump said at the press podium. “And now it’s our time. We must sacrifice together because we are all in this together and we’ll come through together.”
He invoked a wartime law — the Defense Production Act — granting him broad authority to direct manufacturers to make the equipment needed in a crisis. But he said it would only use the law in a “worst case scenario.”
America was facing an encroaching, lethal, “invisible enemy,” Trump said.
At the White House, the enemy was already within.
Members of the president’s inner circle kept getting exposed to people with coronavirus. Several top staffers, including Ivanka Trump and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, had to isolate themselves.
Members of Congress closest to the president — including his incoming chief of staff Mark Meadows — were forced to self-quarantine. And even as the president began to use the press briefing room day after day, his own press secretary Stephanie Grisham, was conspicuously missing. She, like others in the White House who were exposed, were following the very same advice being dished out at the podium: stay home.“
Who Should Be Saved First? Experts Offer Ethical Guidance - The New York Times
Saturday, March 28, 2020
"WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.
E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters - The New York Times
Trump touted an anti-malarial drug as a cure for Covid-19. Don't believe the hype | World news | The Guardian
What is hydroxychloroquine?
Why is Trump touting it?
What does the evidence show?
Are there any downsides to this drug being in demand?
What should people do instead?
Opinion | Trump Chooses Disaster as His Re-Election Strategy - The New York Times