Marriott CEO says coronavirus is more damaging to business than financial crisis, 9/11 combined
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the travel and hospitality industry.
That’s evidenced by Marriott’s decision to furlough two-thirds of its 4,000 corporate employees at its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, as well as two-thirds of its corporate staff abroad as the hotel company tries to trim payroll, The Wall Street Journal reports. For a period between 60 and 90 days, those furloughed will receive 20 percent of their salaries, while those who stay on will be subject to 20 percent pay cuts and reduced workweeks, a spokeswoman said.
Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson did not mince words in a video message to employees last week, telling them the company, which has been around for nearly a century, is now in its most devastating period ever as it runs about 75 percent below normal levels. Indeed, he said things are worse for the business than the 2008 financial crisis and the post-9/11 period combined.
Sorenson and board chair Bill Marriott won’t receive salaries during the furlough period, and the executive team will take a 50 percent salary cut. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O’Donnell
the coronavirus crisis
Rand Paul is the first senator to test positive for coronavirus
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) became the first known lawmaker in the upper chamber to test positive for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, his Twitter account revealed Sunday.
The tweet from his account said Paul is asymptomatic and was tested for precautionary reasons because of his extensive travel, adding that he did not have any direct contact with a known infected person. Paul will now work from his Kentucky home under quarantine, but he expects to back in the Senate when that period ends. Staffers at his office in Washington, D.C., began working remotely 10 days ago, and have subsequently had very little contact with the senator, though Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Paul’s colleagues in the Senate are seeking medical advice about whether they should self-quarantine.
He expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time. Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
Paul, a deficit hawk, delayed the Senate’s first coronavirus aid bill last week in an effort to include an amendment that would slash from other parts of the congressional budget so the government could pay for the relief package. The amendment failed, and Paul ultimately voted against the bill.
Two other members of Congress, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Ben McAdams (D-Utah), have also tested positive. Tim O’Donnell
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls Justice Department emergency proposals ‘abhorrent’
The coronavirus pandemic should not be an excuse for the suspension of civil rights, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Sunday.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez to respond to the emergency proposals submitted to Congress by the Justice Department, including one which would give Attorney General William Barr the power to ask chief district judges to pause court proceedings when the court is overwhelmed by an emergency like the ongoing pandemic.
That has set off some alarms because of what it could mean for habeas corpus, Politico reports. People have the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and ask for a release, but there are fears the emergency proposal would allow the court to detain people indefinitely without trial during times of crisis.
Ocasio-Cortez told Tapper she finds the idea “abhorrent” and said there’s a “long history” of governments using emergencies to strip away civil rights. She argued it’s particularly important now to keep an eye out for increasingly authoritarian measures. Tim O’Donnell
On #CNNSOTU @AOC tells @jaketapper it is “abhorrent” that DOJ proposed to Congress limiting the right to a speedy trial during the coronavirus crisishttps://t.co/S3Q8liJNMD
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) March 22, 2020
A coronavirus vaccine is the only thing that can make life ‘perfectly normal’ again, former FDA commissioner says
The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus may slow down in the United States in the not-so-distant future, but that doesn’t mean life will go back to normal.
In an appearance on Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS’ Margaret Brennan he expects a “slow transition” for society even if the epidemic peaks, as he expects, in late April and peters off in June. That’s because it could come back in the fall, so until there’s a vaccine “life’s never going to be perfectly normal.”
In the meantime, he said some antiviral drugs currently in trial look like they could be effective in combatting the virus, but he wasn’t ready to say that there’s any single development that’s been overwhelmingly convincing.
NEWS: @ScottGottliebMD says there’s no antiviral drug that is in proper trials that’s proven effective in preventing the #coronavirus
“Right now, there is no drug that looks like it’s proven so overwhelming in early stage clinical trials that we can say it’s highly promising. ” pic.twitter.com/CRzwVDaZZb
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 22, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who has been at the forefront of the pandemic, shared Gottlieb’s prediction that life will revert back to the way it was anytime soon. He rattled off a wide range of time, suggesting things may be altered for anywhere between nine and 12 months. Tim O’Donnell
Cuomo during his daily preser. How long will this last?
“It’s gonna be 4 months, 5 months, 9 months….we’re in that range.”
“Start planning accordingly.”
“Life is going to go. Different. But life is going to go on.”
Stop hoarding. “The toilet paper is going to be there.”
— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) March 22, 2020
Mnuhcin: Economy could stabilize if money injected now
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reaffirmed his belief Sunday that the U.S. isn’t facing a “financial crisis that’s going to go on for years” if the government acts swiftly.
In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mnuchin laid out the tentative plan for a coronavirus stimulus package for guest host John Roberts. He said step one is aiding small businesses with forgivable loans of two weeks cash flow to pay workers. Next comes the direct deposits, in which a family of four would receive around $3,000 as bridge money to get them through the downturn. The secretary also said there will be enhanced unemployment insurance, more money for hospitals, and up to $4 trillion in Federal Reserve liquidity.
Treasury Sec. Mnuchin on the latest in the stimulus bill:
-$3,000 check for family of 4 ($1k/adult $500/child)
-Small biz loans up to 2 weeks cashflow
-Enhanced unemployment insurance
-$100bn+ for hospitals
-Up to $4 trillion in Fed liquidity for hurt industries pic.twitter.com/pfUft0HKuU
— Heather Long (@byHeatherLong) March 22, 2020
He said he hopes the bill gets passed Monday by Congress and that the economy could start heading back to its pre-virus levels in a 10 to 12 week period if it does. But there’s no time to waste. “We need to get the money into the economy now,” he said. “If we do that, we think we can stabilize the economy. I think the president has every expectation that this is going to look a lot better four or eight weeks from now.” Tim O’Donnell
Powerful earthquake puts Croatia in a coronavirus conundrum
DAMIR SENCAR/AFP via Getty Images
The Croatian capital Zagreb experienced its strongest earthquake in 140 years Sunday, when a 5.3-magnitude tremor was felt in the city and across the Western Balkans.
Buildings were damaged, fires broke out, and multiple people were injured, including a teenager who is reportedly in critical condition, Al Jazeera reports. While the challenge of an earthquake on its own is difficult enough, Zagreb is also dealing — like the rest of the world — with the coronavirus pandemic, which left its citizens in a state of confusion and highlighted the fact that the outbreak doesn’t prevent other crises from arising and could indeed exacerbate seemingly unrelated problems.
Initially, Croatia’s Interior Minister Davor Božinović told people to remain on the streets out of concern for any aftershocks, but keep a safe distance from each other to avoid any spread of the virus.
Croatia currently has 206 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death. “We have two parallel crises that contradict each other,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said.
Božinović echoed Plenković. “There are rules for when there is an earthquake, but when there is an earthquake at the same time when there is a global pandemic, then it’s a much more complex situation,” he said. Read more at Al Jazeera. Tim O’Donnell
foreign policy tensions
Iran and North Korea reacted very differently to U.S. offers to help battle coronavirus
ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images
The United States has extended overtures toward two countries, Iran and North Korea, with whom tensions remain high, offering to cooperate in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Pyongyang and Tehran had very different responses.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday refused the United States’ assistance to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has been particularly harsh in Iran where tough economic sanctions preventing the sale of crude oil and access to international financial markets remain in place.
In his speech, Khamenei not only rejected U.S. aid, but he also trumpeted a conspiracy theory first touted in China that the virus was a man-made U.S. government weapon. He said he doesn’t know if the accusation is true, but wondered “who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication,” when that medication might be “a way to spread the virus more” before suggesting that the real reason U.S. medical personnel might want to come to Iran is to “see the effect of the poison they have produced.”
Meanwhile, North Korea seemed to appreciate the gesture a little more. Pyongyang said Sunday that President Trump sent another personal letter to Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un, this time reportedly expresseing his willingness to cooperate with the country on “anti-epidemic” work, referring to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister and policy aid, praised the letter as “good judgment and proper action” and said Trump was impressed with North Korea’s ability to curb the threat of the virus. North Korea has not reported any COVID-19 cases, but health experts fear the secretive nation is covering up an outbreak. The White House confirmed Trump sent Kim a letter, but did not comment on its contents. Read more at The New York Times and The Associated Press. Tim O’Donnell
coronavirus test developments
The FDA expedited the approval of a rapid coronavirus test
March 21, 2020
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Things continue to move at a breakneck pace in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the latest major development, which is largely being heralded as promising news, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday night approved the first “point-of-care” coronavirus test which can reportedly relay results in just 45 minutes, likely making it one of the fastest tests available. The FDA granted California company Cepheid an “emergency use authorization” for the rapid molecular test.
Currently, it can take days for results to be delivered, but, per The Washington Post, the Cepheid tests mean many people will not even have to leave their doctor’s office (or wherever the test is administered) before finding out if the test is positive or negative. Fast results could provide a big relief on the health-care system — which is on its way toward being overwhelmed by the pandemic — because doctors will be able to quickly decide which treatments are appropriate for patients.
Cepheid plans to begin selling the tests at the end of the month. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O’Donnell