The Presidential Daily Brief
"There's going to be a lot of death." That summed up grim warnings from President Donald Trump and a top health adviser Saturday. While U.S. COVID-19 fatalities have jumped past 8,500 among nearly 65,000 worldwide, the coming week promises even greater tragedy, with hot spots in New York, Detroit and Louisiana peaking, while new clusters of contagion develop in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
What should people do? While Trump suggested he hoped Easter services and sporting events might be possible, his coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said, "this is the moment not to be going" out — even for supplies.
Western nations are battling the pandemic — and each other. A German official accused the U.S. of "piracy" after 200,000 virus-filtering N95 respirators in Thailand, bound for Berlin, were allegedly diverted stateside. Minnesota's 3M says it's been prohibited from shipping masks to Canada or Latin America. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends face coverings for everyone, but President Donald Trump says he won't wear one.
How bad is it? With a fourth of the world's 1.1 million known cases, America recorded a world record one-day death toll topping 1,000 Friday on its way toward total deaths surpassing 8,400 today.
Track OZY's coverage at Coronavirus Central.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt had become a floating coronavirus petri dish, but the Navy didn’t want to hear it. Capt. Brett Crozier wrote a memo to leadership saying that more than 100 of his sailors were infected, while reports of outbreaks in other military branches also filtered out. Now service members, seen as key combatants against COVID-19, find themselves facing preventative measures antithetical to military life.
Will those in charge step up? While Crozier was cheered by sailors after being relieved of command Thursday, his punishment is expected to chill similar cries for help.
China paused for three minutes Saturday, falling silent except for air raid sirens marking more than 3,300 acknowledged deaths from the coronavirus. Experts may question that figure as under-reported, but the country has determined that its outbreak is under control and that 11 million residents of SARS-CoV-2's birthplace of Wuhan resume their lives. Having begun Jan. 23, the lockdown will officially end Wednesday, although some movement restrictions have already been eased.
How are they preparing? Volunteers are spraying disinfectant in public spaces while officials warn that other prevention measures must continue to prevent a relapse.
OZY examines the lockdown class divide.
As human health is threatened, so too are human rights and other vestiges of democracy, as OZY has reported. Since then, strict measures have been imposed to slow the pandemic, which isn’t difficult in an autocracy. That’s what Hungary became last week, argues journalist Yasmeen Serhan, when its Parliament handed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán indefinite rule by decree.
But isn’t Hungary part of the European Union? Yes, and it appears the bloc, despite its liberal democratic ethos, is powerless to do anything about it, as any sanctions would need to be unanimous, and Poland appears intent on backing Budapest.
Bill Withers, whose 1972 hit "Lean on Me" has found new popularity amid the pandemic, died Friday at age 81 of heart-related complications. French police are investigating a stabbing attack that killed two people near Grenoble that's being called terrorism. And President Trump has named a White House lawyer to be the inspector general tasked with assuring that $2 trillion in coronavirus relief is allocated properly.
In the week ahead: On Tuesday, World Health Day, New York City plans to open one of several temporary hospitals in Central Park. Britain's Prince Charles, who was infected with the coronavirus, and his wife Camilla mark their 15th wedding anniversary Thursday. And Friday is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' breakup.
There’s been tantalizing progress — with crushing realities. The SARS-CoV-2 virus shares as much as 90 percent of its genome with the original SARS, along with the same spiky, lung-invading receptors. That means vaccine developers got a head start building on earlier work. But clinical trials take time, and bypassing them could mean side effects that include making recipients likely to become even sicker if infected.
So when could a shot be ready? The pandemic likely will “have peaked and declined,” one expert says, before that happens in 18 months or so.
Read OZY’s profile of the maker of 10-minute coronavirus test.
It’s a poverty of riches. In seven years, median housing prices in Ireland’s capital had nearly doubled to $415,000 by last year. That explosion caused another: In even less time, homelessness among families increased more than 350 percent, OZY reports, leaving 4,400 individuals without a roof. In one sense, it’s a math problem, with first-time homebuyers needing a $136,000 annual salary, when the median is only $55,000.
Is there any hope in sight? For now there is, as Dublin is providing the homeless with 350 unused hotel rooms and apartments so they can shelter in place.
On March 16, New York University's often-cited libertarian legal scholar Richard Epstein published “Coronavirus Perspective,” declaring that “public officials have gone overboard.” His skepticism appears to have infected the White House’s thinking, writes journalist Isaac Chotiner, who recently interviewed Epstein about his estimate of just 500 deaths in the United States (now climbing well past 7,000) and other ideas that fomented deadly delays in America’s COVID-19 fight.
What does Epstein have to say? While he calls the 500 figure “a simple, stupid mistake” and a “public relations gaffe,” he continues to espouse debunked scenarios of “strong” and “weak” coronavirus varieties.
OZY examines Republicans’ social distancing campaign strategy.
Faolán Gallagher was born into isolation. Despite living nearby, his grandfather could only see him through a window. Welcome to springtime 2020 — upended by the coronavirus. But Fáolan was lucky — he had a hospital birth. Amid the pandemic, many pregnant women have had to abandon delivery plans as health authorities urged more home births to limit the virus’ spread. Some moms are wary of setting foot inside a hospital that also houses COVID-19 patients.
Doesn’t home birth also pose issues? Yes, especially as there aren’t enough midwives or ambulances, which some health regulations require nearby.
It’s hand to mouth. The income isn’t enough and the risk to workers is too high to justify converting restaurants into food delivery services, New York City operators say. And slim margins are further eaten up by app fees. Places used to being packed every weekend now report plunging revenue despite community campaigns encouraging orders, like last month’s Great American Takeout.
Will delivery find a new normal? New initiatives set up in Chinatown focusing on delivery have had some success, but starting from nothing is a tough ask.
OZY takes a look at the war brewing between operators and apps.