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
coronavirus and the election
Democrats are divided over how Joe Biden should react to Trump amid pandemic
March 21, 2020
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
It’s clear the coronavirus pandemic is now overshadowing the 2020 election, and that’s left former Vice President Joe Biden, the favorite for the Democratic nomination, in a tough place. Democrats are split on how he should get out of it, Politico reports.
Jeff Hauser, the head of executive branch appointee watchdog Revolving Door Project, thinks Biden needs to make himself more visible and go after the Trump administration. “Biden is only in limbo if he keeps himself there,” Hauser told Politico. “He’s only in a predicament to the degree he chooses to view himself in one.”
In other words, Hauser is saying the vice president can either complain about a lack of media coverage or go out there and seize the coverage himself. “He needs to offer an alternative and offer a running play-by-play critique of the failings of this administration,” he said.
Joe Lockhart, the former White House spokesman for the Clinton administration, isn’t so sure that’s the best path, however. “It’s very tricky,” he said. “When you’re in a crisis, there can only be one president. Just attacking him every day is a bad strategy.” Read more at Politico. Tim O’Donnell
sigh of relief
DNI’s expected counterterrorism chief choice eases fears over politicization of intelligence community
March 21, 2020
Career U.S. intelligence officer Lora Shiao won’t lead the United States’ National Counterterrorism Center permanently, but the announcement that she’s filling the role of acting director sure sounds like it’s welcome news for those in the intelligence community, Bloomberg reports.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is expected to make the announcement Monday, with Shiao starting the job on April 3. She’ll remain in the position until President Trump’s nominee for the full-time position, Christopher Miller, is confirmed. It’s unclear how long that will take given the prioritization of the coronavirus pandemic at the moment, but the mere fact that Shiao was chosen should allow the intelligence community to exhale, at least for a bit.
Scoop: Two women will lead counter terrorism center for a spell.
Lora Shiao, a career intel officer, to be deputy NCTC director and, on April 3, acting director until Christopher Miller confirmed.
Clare Linkins executive director.
Story with @nwadhamshttps://t.co/v5r324btrl
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 21, 2020
There were fears when Trump appointed Grenell acting DNI — considering he lacked experience in the area and was widely viewed as a staunch Trump loyalist — that intelligence agencies were on a path of politicization, especially amid rumors Grenell had forced out Shiao’s predecessor, veteran counterterrorism officer Russell Travers. A person familiar with the situation said that wasn’t the case, and Shiao’s expected appointment bolsters the hope that no purge is coming.
Shiao will be the first woman to hold the post. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O’Donnell
Senate working overtime to put together stimulus package, but negotiations reportedly see ‘tremendous’ progress
March 21, 2020
Alex Wong/Getty Images
There’s no rest for the Senate this weekend, as lawmakers are set to dig in for a weekend session beginning at noon Saturday so the chamber can expedite an agreement on a stimulus package to provide relief from the coronavirus pandemic. The final bill could reportedly cost at least $1 trillion.
Negotiators said they’re getting closer to an agreement, but they missed the original Friday night deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after haggling for about 12 hours over issues like increased unemployment insurance payments, financial assistance for hospitals and health-care providers, and funds to cover for state governments’ revenue shortfalls, Politico reports. But Congress remains under pressure to get something done quickly, and Republicans — who hold the majority — reportedly believe Democrats won’t block any rescue bill with time running short.
Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, is optimistic consensus is right around the corner. He singled out the debate over unemployment as an area where “tremendous” progress has been made thanks to bipartisan support for rebate checks. Read more at The Hill and Politico. Tim O’Donnell
early warning signs
Government officials reportedly ‘just couldn’t get’ Trump to do anything about coronavirus early on
March 21, 2020
Alex Wong/Getty Images
The Trump administration has taken some heat for what many consider a delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic that’s now sweeping through the country. But, The Washington Post reports, there were apparently numerous government officials who tried to warn the president about the repercussions as early as January.
U.S. officials familiar with spy agency reporting told the Post the intelligence community issued warnings that China, where the new virus originated, was minimizing its own outbreak earlier in the year and that the U.S. could be facing a crisis. “Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” one official said. “The system was blinking red.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reportedly couldn’t get Trump to speak with him about the virus until mid-January, two weeks after officials were alerted about its spread in China. Even then, Trump was reportedly more interested in when flavored vaping products were going to return to the market.
In late January, Joe Grogan, the head of the White House Domestic Policy Council, argued the virus could cost Trump re-election, while Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger began calling for a more forceful response in early February. But despite all that, Trump maintained his belief the threat would dissipate before it became serious in the U.S. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O’Donnell
Kenny Rogers dies at 81
March 21, 2020
Country music star Kenny Rogers died Friday night from natural causes, his family said in a statement early Saturday. He was 81.
The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25PM at the age of 81. Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family. https://t.co/adxAgiMW2s pic.twitter.com/nggWiiotMT
— Kenny Rogers (@_KennyRogers) March 21, 2020
Rogers’ career spanned six decades and included 24 number-one hits, such as “The Gambler,” and more than 50 million albums sold in the United States alone. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Two years later he announced his farewell tour, with his last performances taking place in 2017 before his health began to take a toll.
“Kenny Rogers left an indelible mark on the history of American music,” his publicist Keith Hagan said in a statement. “His songs have endeared music lovers and touched the lives of millions around the world.” Read more at CNN and Fox News. Tim O’Donnell
Bloomberg’s last FEC filing shows he spent nearly $1 billion on his failed presidential run
March 20, 2020
Yana Paskova/Getty Images
Michael Bloomberg couldn’t buy himself the presidency, but he sure as heck tried.
According to a Federal Election Commission filing made public Friday, the former New York City mayor transferred $936,225,041 of his own money to his campaign account throughout his presidential run. His campaign ended up spending $875,369,840 of that money, revealing an unprecedented amount of individual spending for a campaign that only lasted about three months.
Bloomberg took no money from individual contributors during his quest for the Democratic nomination. But as Friday reports indicated and Bloomberg’s campaign later confirmed, Bloomberg decided to reverse his earlier campaign promise to pay his staffers through election day even if he dropped out. Instead of redirecting them to propel former Vice President Joe Biden to the nomination and presidency, Bloomberg’s campaign is surpassing individual donor limits and shifting $18 million to the DNC instead. Kathryn Krawczyk
Netflix establishes $100 million fund for entertainment industry workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic
March 20, 2020
Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images for Netflix
Netflix has announced an emergency relief fund for the “hardest hit in our industry” amid the “devastating” COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The company said Friday it’s setting up a $100 million relief fund to “help with hardship in the creative community,” noting that “hundreds of thousands of crew and cast” have been left without jobs as film and television productions are forced to shut down around the world, per Deadline.
“These include electricians, carpenters and drivers, many of whom are paid hourly wages and work on a project-to-project basis,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos noted.
An estimated 120,000 below-the-line entertainment industry jobs have already been lost as a result of the pandemic, according to numbers from the International Cinematographers Guild earlier this week. “Although some of our members are being paid for up to two weeks after their shows shut down, based upon the reality of the health care crisis we now face, it is highly unlikely that productions will resume after so short a period of time,” the guild said.
Netflix said most of its fund will go toward workers on its own productions, which is “in addition to the two weeks pay we’ve already committed to the crew and cast on productions we were forced to suspend,” but $15 million will also go toward third parties and non-profits helping film and TV professionals who have lost work, including $1 million for the SAG-AFTRA COVID-19 Disaster Fund.
Mike Flanagan, the creator of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, praised the streamer for its announcement on Friday, tweeting, “WOW … thank you @netflix, on behalf of my crew, and all the others.” Brendan Morrow
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The Week · by Authors · March 21, 2020