The Presidential Daily Brief

Important

  1. Virus Hit California Earlier Than Thought

    Until yesterday, the first COVID-19 fatality in the U.S. was thought to be in Washington state on Feb. 26, but new autopsies have revealed that two California residents died at home of the virus on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17. Those and other early deaths had no connection to travelers from China, which means the virus had been spreading undetected in the U.S. for far longer than previously thought. Meanwhile, the state of Missouri is suing China for allegedly concealing the outbreak's seriousness, though legal experts say the case is unlikely to stick.

    OZY explores how local leaders are responding to the virus.

  2. UN Warns of Pandemic-Spawned Famine

    Virus-fighting restrictions could nearly double the number of people facing acute hunger to 265 million, risking famines of "biblical proportions" and killing some 30 million, the U.N.'s World Food Program warned yesterday. As travel bans and lockdowns choke economies, struggling farmers may be forced to sell equipment, which could impact food production for years to come. Shortages will especially affect conflict zones and areas of East Africa and South Asia that are already battling huge locust infestations. WFP head David Beasley said aid agencies need to mobilize quickly, or mass starvation deaths will occur within months.

  3. Malaria Drug May Make Coronavirus Worse

    Have a dose of reality. Though some, including President Donald Trump, have touted malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus cure, a new analysis of data from 368 patients found that the death rate was significantly higher for those who received the drug, even when combined with the antibiotic azithromycin. A panel of experts from the U.S. National Institutes of Health has recommended doctors not use the malaria drug, which has the potential to induce heart problems. They noted that no drug is yet known to be effective against COVID-19.

    OZY examines chloroquine's biggest booster.

  4. Senate OKs Small Business Fund Refill

    The U.S. Senate passed a fourth pandemic relief package of more than $480 billion, which Democratic House leaders have pledged to push through after reaching an agreement with the White House. The bill adds $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program after the initial $350 billion was quickly depleted — with most going to large, publicly traded companies instead of small businesses. At Democrats' insistence, it also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion to tackle virus test shortages. But they failed to secure aid for state and local governments, which President Trump tweeted would come in a subsequent bill.

  5. Also Important...

    Britain's Parliament is back in session, though largely via Zoom. Chipotle must pay a $25 million fine over food safety concerns. And it's the 50th anniversary of Earth Day today.

    Coronavirus update: Some patients in China appear to be unable to shed the coronavirus, remaining asymptomatic but continuing to test positive ... and possibly spread the virus.

    Speak up! Would you vote in person during the pandemic? Why or why not? Let us know by replying to this email — and we’ll feature the most interesting answer right here next week.

Intriguing

  1. shutterstock 150978596

    Bootleg Booze Killing During Lockdown

    Around the world, as people are unable to get real alcohol due to lockdowns, some are turning to homemade alternatives. And it's killing them, OZY reports. Hundreds have died in Iran after drinking wood alcohol, while in Turkey the killer is pure ethanol and in India it's other homemade booze. Legit alcohol could be a problem too: Experts in the U.S. and U.K. have warned that those waiting in long lines at liquor stores to stock up may be making themselves more vulnerable to the virus by drinking excessively.

  2. Hacked Emails Spread Virus Conspiracies

    Nearly 25,000 email addresses and passwords from groups fighting the pandemic — including the WHO, the CDC and the Gates Foundation — were dumped online this week. Now right-wing extremists are using them to sow discord by spreading coronavirus conspiracy theories. It's not clear who leaked the data, though many of the accounts had been compromised in previous breaches and some were insecure anyway: Dozens had "password" as a password. Watchdogs worry this will further enable “accelerationists” hoping to destabilize societies already stretched by the pandemic.

    Read all OZY's coronavirus coverage here.

  3. Milan, Italy, skyline shutterstock 500064190

    Milan to Discourage Cars Post-Lockdown

    They're steering into the skid. Milan, in hard-hit northern Italy, has been under lockdown for weeks and plans to start gradually reopening May 4. But during the quarantine, the famously smoggy city saw some air pollutants fall by 24 percent. So when the lockdown lifts, local authorities say, it'll be the beginning of a massive project to discourage driving, remodeling 22 miles of streets to be more focused on cyclists and pedestrians. It could backfire, though: The city's subway will be running a reduced schedule, likely encouraging car use.

    Read the account of a Milanese coronavirus survivor on OZY.

  4. Comic Book Virus Fighters Bomb in Singapore

    This is not a job for MAWA Man. Singapore hired art collective Band of Doodlers to create superheroes like Dr. Disinfector and Fake News Buster to promote its pandemic-fighting efforts. But the Virus Vanguard, launched this week, was no match for the powers of Twitter Tirade. The cutesy crew was deemed too insensitive considering Singapore's recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus cases. Must Always Walk Alone Man, described as a Manchester United soccer fan who hates Liverpool, was naturally slammed by that city's fans, whose anthem is "You'll Never Walk Alone" — a song said to provide comfort during lockdowns.

  5. Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots shutterstock 94388815

    Gronk Comes Off the Sidelines

    The Buc starts here. Rob Gronkowski, nine-season Patriots veteran and current WWE 24/7 champion, retired from the NFL last year at 29. But he just couldn't quit Tom Brady: In a shocking move Tuesday, New England agreed to reinstate the legendary tight end and trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth round draft pick. That reunites Gronk with BFF QB Brady, who signed with the Bucs a month ago. In an interview Monday — while the bombshell was still a secret — Gronk said, "I'm happy where I'm at and you just never know, man. You just never know."