CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is nearing a million and the number of deaths has risen to 53,922, according to figures released last night by the Centers for Disease Control. Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced phased plans to reopen his state yesterday. After Texas’ stay-at-home order expires on Thursday, retail stores, malls and theaters can operate at 25 percent capacity, possibly moving to 50-percent capacity by May 18; hair salons, barber shops and gyms can open as early as mid-May. Colorado yesterday aligned with four other Western states in a regional pact as it begins to reopen sectors of the state’s economy. Interstate travel presses the need regional partnerships, governors claim. Seven states created a pact in the Midwest and seven states have formed a Northeast advisory council. Meanwhile, researchers in China have released a new study that claims the coronavirus appears to linger in the air in crowded rooms that lack good ventilation. The study published yesterday in the journal Nature Research emphasizes the importance of ventilation, limiting crowds and meticulous cleaning.
TRUMP DISREGARDED CORONAVIRUS INTELLIGENCE… The Washington Post reported yesterday that U.S. intelligence officials warned President Trump about the coronavirus threat in at least a dozen classified briefings in January and February. The warnings were included in the president’s Daily Brief but drew no response. By the beginning of February, coronavirus updates accounted for most of the intelligence contained in the daily briefings but the president was publicly downplaying the risk of the virus.
HOUSE PANEL OPENS WHO-FUNDING INQUIRY… House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel announced yesterday that he is opening an inquiry into the Trump administration’s decision to withhold funding to the World Health Organization. The New York Democratic congressman wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the administration’s explanation for suspending the U.S. contribution in the midst of a pandemic “inadequate. Engel says the State Department has provided Congress with “a one-page talking points ‘fact sheet’ that contains few facts, no plan, and no explanation of how suspending funds for the WHO will save lives here at home or around the world” by way of justification for suspending the funds. In his letter, he requested a number of materials from the State Department by May 4, including “any and all documents” related to the decision and its impacts, lists of interagency meetings and officials consulted on the funding.
SUPREME COURT DECISIONS… The Supreme Court ruled in an 8-1 vote yesterday that the federal government owes insurers involved in the Affordable Care Act $12 billion under a program designed to encourage them to offer medical coverage to previously uninsured Americans. The decision reversed a lower court’s ruling that Congress had suspended the government’s obligation to make such payments. Between 2015 and 2017, Congress passed legislation barring the Department of Health and Human Services from using general funds to pay the government’s risk corridor obligations, prompting health insurers to file suit… In a separate ruling, the Supreme Court yesterday declined to re-visit a Second Amendment gun case it heard months ago after New York City modified the law in question to address plaintiffs’ concerns. The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association filed suit over a New York City law that barred licensed gun owners from taking firearms outside the city or to a second home elsewhere in the state. The city subsequently amended the statute to rescind the restrictions and state lawmakers later barred them from returning… Finally, the Supreme Court gave President Trump’s lawyers until May 8 to provide additional documents related to the House of Representatives’ efforts to obtain the president’s financial records. The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, accounting firm Mazars USA, and Capital One for Trump’s financial records last April. Justices are preparing to hear arguments about whether Trump is justified in preventing the financial institutions from complying. The court is expected to hear oral arguments via telephone conference on May 12. Lower court rulings previously upheld the legitimacy of the subpoenas.
FLYOVERS SALUTE CORONAVIRUS WORKERS… The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds precision flying teams will perform flights over four cities in a tribute to health-care workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Formation flights will be flown over New York City; Trenton and Newark, New Jersey; and Philadelphia. Six F-16C/D Fighting Falcon and six F-18C/D fighter jets are scheduled to perform maneuvers.
‘THE DAILY SHOW’ EXPANDED TO 45 MINUTES… Comedy Central announced yesterday that it is expanding episodes of “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” to 45 minutes beginning Monday. The show, which had been 30 minutes long throughout its 24-year history, will air at 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Trevor Noah has been hosting the show remotely from his New York home and leading an effort to support relief organizations, with different charities highlighted each night.
NETFLIX TO RELEASE MICHELLE OBAMA DOCUMENTARY NEXT WEEK… Netflix announced yesterday that it will release a Michelle Obama documentary on May 6. “Becoming” chronicles the former first lady’s 34-city book tour in 2018-2019 for her best-selling memoir. The tour produced a string of sold-out arenas. Obama said the experience of the tour “drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can’t be messed with.”
BLACKHAWKS FIRE JOHN McDONOUGH… The Chicago Blackhawks fired President and CEO John McDonough yesterday. McDonough was credited with helping revise the franchise, which captured three Stanley Cups after he took over in 2007. However, the Blackhawks haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 and haven’t won a playoff series since their 2015 Cup run.