Coronavirus Continues To Spread in Florida
As of 12 AM Tuesday, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected some 1227 Floridians and left 17 dead. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties are considered to be ground zero for the outbreak, and from the looks of things on the ground, state and local officials are planning for a worst-case scenario.
Broward General in Fort Lauderdale has erected an exclusive Coronavirus triage/confinement tent just feet from the entrance of its emergency room. READ MORE/IMAGES
Well, he is a Republican, and she is a Democrat, so do you find it hard to believe that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not too happy with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response to the pandemic?
According to Rep. Wasserman Schultz, DeSantis is the Coronavirus Grim Reaper of Florida. READ MORE
Coronavirus Around The World
It’s everywhere and most countries have all-but been completely crippled by the disease. Even Venezuelan Dictator Nicholas Maduro is trying to do whatever he can to look like he actually cares about the Venezuelan people. The bigger pandemic in Venezuela could be the potential Russian and Chinese take over of this important industry. READ MORE
Here is a snapshot of the most up-to-date numbers from the Florida Dept. of Health:
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“Broward hospital erects Coronavirus confinement tent” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – As of 12 AM Tuesday, the Coronavirus pandemic has affected some 1227 Floridians and left 17 dead. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties are considered to be ground zero for the outbreak, and from the looks of things on the ground, state and local officials are planning for a worst-case scenario. In what looks like a scene out of a Hollywood motion picture, Broward General in Fort Lauderdale has erected an exclusive Coronavirus triage/confinement tent just feet from the entrance of its emergency room. The hospital is not taking any chances that infected people could pass along the COVID-19 virus to employees and patients, and have now positioned healthcare monitors just outside of the emergency room doors. Before being allowed to enter the hospital, these monitors first ask potential patients if they are feeling any symptoms related to the virus, and then proceed to check their temperature for fever. If a fever is found, and/or the potential patients present symptoms of the virus, they are quickly redirected to the confinement tent where workers dressed in fully virus preventive gear will receive them. Upon entering the “tent,” which appears ready to accept up to 25 patients, the protected triage nurses interview the patient before admitting them for treatment. Respiratory medical equipment is already positioned and operational. This is where Florida, America is in regard to the spreading pandemic.
“Rep. Garcia criticizes Republicans as Senate Democrats block COVID-19 funding” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – No sooner than Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D) accused Senate Republicans of pushing a Coronavirus stimulus “slush fund” and that “Texans deserver better from Senator John Cornyn (R) ” for his “Blah Blah Blah” tweet in response to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s assertion that Senate Republican Coronavirus stimulus bill included “huge bailouts” for corporations, Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced her new stimulus bill that offers funding for what Republicans call liberal pork-barrel projects. One of the items Speaker Pelosi’s bill offers is the funding of the infamous “Obamaphone” program that provides discounted cell phones and services for low-income Americans. In addition, the Garcia-supported Pelosi bill is also said to fund the U.S. Postal Service union pension and a “Cash For Clunkers” program where the federal government purchases planes from ailing airlines. Here is a liberal “Wish list” the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says that Pelosi wants to saddle the Coronavirus stimulus effort…
“OPINION: Pandemic, oil glut leave Venezuela more vulnerable to Chinese, Russian advances” by Ken Blackwell and Jerry Boykin – Venezuela is vulnerable. The White House in August imposed new economic sanctions on the country, and the oil glut caused by the coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, is rendering Venezuela’s vast supply of recoverable oil near worthless. “[N]o other country in the region will be as hard hit as Venezuela, which relies on oil sales for 85 percent of its government spending,” writes Andres Oppenheimer, a columnist for the Miami Herald. “Last year, Venezuela’s oil exports had already fallen to $9 billion, from $73 billion in 2011.” All these factors — U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil, the coronavirus pandemic and consequent oversupply of oil on the global market — combine to make a perfect storm that leaves Venezuela susceptible to further bankrolling by China and Russia. President Donald J. Trump can’t allow these opportunists to swoop in and exert more control over a crumbling Venezuela. If he does let China and Russia further wrap their tentacles around socialist President Nicolás Maduro’s finger, he runs the risk of surrendering important strategic ground in the struggle for energy security. Venezuela is already indebted to both countries; for more than a decade, China and Russia have poured billions into the collapsing country. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “China and Russia are Venezuela’s two main creditors, and they have been the principal economic force keeping the Maduro government afloat, making the difference between solvency and bankruptcy, financial experts say.” That was at the beginning of 2019, well before the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping the globe.
“Biden Slams Trump’s Response to Coronavirus in Shadow Briefing Broadcast” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – Former Vice President Joe Biden emerged from the political shadows to address his supporters virtually for the first time in nearly a week, accusing President Trump for a slow and ineffective response to the coronavirus crisis. “For too long, the warning signs were ignored,” Biden said from his basement makeshift broadcast studio in his Wilmington, Delaware home. “For too long, the administration said the threats were under control, contained, or like the flu. The president said no one saw this coming. That’s just not accurate. Our intelligence officials were warning about the coronavirus threat in January. Just based on public information I had, I warned the threat was getting worse way back on January 27.” He added, “My point is that the mindset that was slow to recognize the problem in the first place — to treat it with the seriousness it deserved — is still too much a part of how the president is addressing the problem. That’s a failure of planning and preparation by this White House.” In a virtual event live streamed on his campaign website, Biden, who is planning a regular “shadow briefings” to offer alternative ways on how he would handle the coronavirus crisis and address the lies and failures of President Trump. In the past week, he has stayed away from the television spotlight and only has held telephone calls with reporters as well as holding virtual fundraisers.
“Scott Pens Letter to DeVos Over COVID-19 Education Concerns” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the sunshine state, Florida Senator Rick Scott (R) directed a letter today to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wherein he requests additional information regarding available resources for schools to help students remain safe and continue their education during this time of crisis. In the letter, Senator Scott writes that he is “extremely concerned about the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the effect it is having on our nation, including our schools.” He expressed that “our hearts break for the families of the individuals lost to this horrible sickness, and we must do everything we can to stop the spread of the Coronavirus and save lives.” Since the state of Florida has already announced that schools will continue to operate remotely, the former Florida Governor detailed that “while Florida has temporarily closed schools, there is a potential that schools may be closed for a longer period of time – requiring distance learning.” And, the lawmaker, who’s currently self-quarantining, posed three questions to the Secretary of Education. He asked, “what resources are available to schools to detect and respond to cases of Coronavirus within the school? Does the Department provide guidance or best practices to schools regarding how to effectively perform online class at various grade levels? What steps should states be taking to more seamlessly transition to online education?”
“Wasserman Schultz accuses DeSantis of “causing more sickness and death”” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – During a conference call with reporters and fellow Democratic Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz used the opportunity to take a pound of flesh out of President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Late last week, Rep. Wasserman Schultz called Gov.DeSantis’ leadership a “failure” for not closing down all of Florida’s beaches, and now she’s has called his actions “really irresponsible,” and that his actions were “causing more sickness and death” for keeping many of the beaches open. Wasserman Schultz then stated that DeSantis “should not have run for an executive office” if he was prepared to make tough decisions. The South Florida congresswoman then asserted that her belief that DeSantis’ reason for issuing a mandate to close down all beaches was because he was “afraid of getting called a socialist” or that he would not be able to call Democrats socialists. DeSantis responded to the criticism over his hesitation of closing down all of Florida’s beaches. “At the end of the day, I can issue a mandate, but if the local communities’ folks don’t want to enforce it, then it’s toothless,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “I want to do things that will be followed,” he said. “If you go too hard, then I think people lose confidence and they rebel against it.”
“Senate Democrats Block ‘Phase 3’ Coronavirus Stimulus Bill For Second Time” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama – The Senate on Monday failed to move ahead with a massive coronavirus stimulus package aimed at helping the economy amid for the second time in two short days due to Democrats blocking the bill in an effort to include “an ideological wish list.” The vote was 49-46, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance. Five Republican senators decided to self-quarantine, with one senator — Rand Paul (R-KY) announced that he tested positive for the coronavirus. Democrat Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama broke with the party to vote in support of the measure. He voted “no” in the first procedural vote Sunday evening. The draft legislation aims to flood the economy with money, from individuals to small businesses to large industries amid a wave of layoffs. It would direct payments of up to $1,200 per person and a $500 payments for each child. The payments would be phased out for individuals who earn more than $75,000. Central to the package is as much as $350 billion for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home, and billions in loans to airlines and other industries. Senate leaders and the Trump administration officials have been in around-the-clock meetings over the past four days to try to close an agreement. Despite the long weekend negotiations, Senate lawmakers missed their own deadline of wrapping up legislation before the end of the weekend. The package first failed Sunday evening in part mostly from Democratic opposition. They argued arguing the Senate stimulus bill had nine “major problems” as drafted and the Republican proposal does not do enough to prioritize workers over corporations.
“Republicans Blast Democrats for Blocking COVID- 19 Stimulus Aide” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Democrats are at the receiving end criticism during a time when Americans are facing the growing threat of COVID-19. Last night, lawmakers were scheduled to vote on the CARES Act, which would provide substantial help to Americans that are out of work as the threat of COVID-19 looms over the United States and the globe. In what many are criticizing as a disappointing move, Democrats halted the passing of the bill because of unmet demands, including solar and wind tax credits and new fuel emission standards. As a result, Republican lawmakers are taking Democrats to task, calling the move failed leadership. A Republican aide commented on the vote, saying that “as Leader Schumer continues to hold up the desperately-needed relief package, the last-minute list of demands from Pelosi’s and Schumer’s ideological wish list are coming into focus.” Senator Tom Cotton (R) also slammed Democratic leadership, noting that “Pelosi & Schumer are willing to risk your life, your job, your retirement savings for a radical, left-wing wish list that has nothing to do with this virus.” Simply put, Cotton called the move “disgraceful.” Lawmakers are set to vote again today in order to respond quickly to the concerns of the American people, so citizens and voters will be watching as lawmakers cast their vote and determine the future for Americans in need.
“Florida Democrats celebrate the ACA, push to make it “more affordable”” by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres – House Democrats are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and outlining how 1000’s of Americans have benefitted from the controversial healthcare law that President Barack Obama signed into law back in 2011. At the same time, these very same proponents of the law are railing against congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump for continued efforts to “repeal and replace” the healthcare law commonly known as “Obamacare.” During a conference call with reporters, Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Donna Shalala, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, all took turns praising the ACA while in the same breath, called out state and national Republicans that want to scrap the healthcare law. Without question, Rep. Wasserman Schultz, who co-sponsored the ACA, has been the loudest voice of support for the ACA, and the loudest voice of opposition against the GOP repeal effort. “It is unconscionable that this administration still wants to repeal the affordable care act,” said Wasserman Schultz Wasserman Schultz added that “Democrats won’t put more people in danger” like the Trump administration and the DeSantis administration has in Florida, adding that they (Democrats) will “remove that political health hazard” in The White House. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell wants the administration to drop the existing lawsuit it filed against the ACA, and reminded reporters that Trump was “using the ACA’s own tools to combat” the current Coronavirus pandemic that has infected 1171 Floridians to date.
“Cornyn Slams Democrats for Blocking COVID-19 Bill” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) unleashed his frustration on Democrats this morning after it was announced that Democrats had halted a Coronavirus relief package for Americans. The CARES Act is critical legislation that comes at a moment when Texans need it the most, and it was halted because, according to the Washington Times, Democrats are asking for unrelated policy reforms that include solar and wind tax credits and new fuel emission standards that are not included in the bill. While speaking on the KFYO’s “The Chad Hasty Show,” the Texas Senator expressed that he’s “pretty frustrated and downright angry at Sen. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi sitting on the sidelines receiving a government paycheck while hundreds of thousands of Americans are out of work because they’ve been told they can’t go to work and they’re not receiving a penny.” Cornyn added that “we’re trying to get them some help as well as the small businesses that we hope will still be in existence when this virus passes, as well as try to provide some loans that will be paid back to large employers that employ hundreds of thousands of people so our economy can jump back after this temporary crisis.” He concluded by saying that what Democrats are “doing is using this crisis to advance their ideological and political agenda.” To him, this is disappointing because “we need to get people help immediately who need help the most, particularly those who don’t even have a paycheck coming in to pay for the necessities of life.”
“Florida implementing mandatory 14-day isolation for anyone traveling from New York or New Jersey” by The Hill’s Julia Manchester – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced on Monday he will sign an executive order that imposes a two-week quarantine on people traveling to Florida from New Jersey or New York amid the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. “Anybody traveling from those regions in New York or New Jersey to the state of Florida is going to have to do a mandatory 14-day self-isolation,” DeSantis said in a press briefing. “That’s the only way that we can be sure that that virus is not going to be reintroduced in the state of Florida and then spread.” DeSantis said he has spoken with President Trump on the matter. The governor’s comments come as he faces growing pressure from the public and Democrats in the state to implement a stay-at-home order, similar to what has been done in New York and New Jersey. DeSantis said earlier Monday that “huge amounts” of New Yorkers are flying to the Sunshine State as a result of the stay-at-home order. “If you look at what happened in New York, when they did the stay at home order, what did people do?” the governor said. “Well, a lot of people fled the city. We’re getting huge amounts of people flying in.”DeSantis faced criticism last week for his lack of action on crowded Florida beaches amid the pandemic. The Miami Herald’s editorial board published a scathing op-ed on Sunday that accused the governor of “working overtime to preserve our status as the world’s leading exporter of political comedy.”
“AG Ashley Moody: Florida Supreme Court Should Consider Marijuana Issue” by CBSMiami – Splitting from the Senate, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office says the Florida Supreme Court should decide whether a recreational-marijuana constitutional amendment can go before voters. Moody opposes the proposed amendment, which would allow recreational use of marijuana, but lawyers in her office said in a 21-page brief Friday that the Supreme Court should consider whether the measure meets legal standards to potentially go on the November 2022 ballot. The Senate in January filed a motion contending that the Supreme Court should dismiss the issue because the political committee backing the proposed amendment did not submit enough petition signatures to get on the 2020 ballot. Senate attorneys described the issue as “moot.” The Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in the case May 6 and directed attorneys to be prepared to discuss the Senate’s request to dismiss the issue. Backers of ballot initiatives need to meet an overall signature requirement to put issues before voters. They also must meet a lower threshold to trigger Supreme Court review of proposed ballot wording, a critical step in the process. The committee Make It Legal Florida, which is behind the recreational-marijuana amendment, met a requirement of submitting 76,632 valid signatures to trigger the Supreme Court review. But it did not meet a Feb. 1 deadline for submitting an overall 766,200 signatures to get on the 2020 ballot. Instead, it announced it planned to focus on getting on the 2022 ballot. Part of the dispute centers on the fact that the number of petitions needed to get on the 2022 ballot will increase from the current 766,200 signatures. The numbers are revised after each presidential election and are based on a formula involving the total votes cast in the presidential election.
“Gov. DeSantis asks President Trump to declare major disaster as Florida responds to COVID-19” by News4Jax’s Lexi Suda – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday asked President Donald Trump to declare Florida’s response to COVID-19 a major disaster, according to a release from the Governor’s Office. The letter called for assistance from several Individual Assistance Programs in the state of Florida, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Community Disaster Loans and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Program. It also called for additional resources and support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. DeSantis requested that the president’s declaration date back to Jan. 20. The governor also asked that it include all of Florida’s 67 counties.
“Florida labs facing backlog in coronavirus testing, patients wait for results” by CBS 12’s Jay O’Brien – As Florida pushes to open more drive-up COVID-19 testing facilities, a number of laboratories in the state are still facing a backlog in tests and delayed results, according to health officials and patients. Test sites in Florida can be difficult to come by. In Palm Beach County, which was confirmed to have community spread of the coronavirus on Friday, there are only a handful drive up testing facilities. The first clinic to open stopped taking new patients after their first day, facing an onslaught of appointments. Palm Beach County officials have been pleading with hospitals and labs to open up self-sufficient testing centers that can swab patients and run the test. “We need labs that are able to do the swabbing and the testing all in one,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County. “What we’re seeing is a backlog at the labs.” In neighboring Martin County, retired firefighter John Stumbo is seeing the national backlog firsthand. As of Monday night, he had yet to receive his test results, despite being swabbed at the Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital drive-up testing center more than a week ago. “I was told the testing is taking longer, they’re backed up,” said his daughter, Pamela. “They had hundreds of specimens that were untested.” “We understand that as more testing takes place across the nation, that increased volume can affect how long it can take for test results to be provided,” a spokesman for the Cleveland Clinic told CBS 12 News. “We are working with our laboratory partners to ensure we are receiving results within a reasonable time. We are also maintaining relationships with other laboratories to ensure we have as many options as possible to obtain results for patients as quickly as possible.”
“Petition calls for suspension of Florida’s tolls” by WESH’s Greg Fox – On the 125 miles of Central Florida toll roads and the nearly 400 miles of turnpike roads, drivers pay nearly $500,000 a day and $1.5 billion a year. WESH 2 News first reported March 19, all cash collections on toll roads were suspended to protect workers and drivers from handling money and potentially spreading Coronavirus. Now, a petition is being circulated by Linda Sibley, an Orange County woman, to try to persuade Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend tolls statewide. The petition has more than 1,200 signatures. It wants to suspend collecting tolls on all Florida toll roads until service and entertainment industries reopen for business, once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. The request, aimed at DeSantis, is calling this a national crisis. “It’s a tsunami of a financial nightmare,” Sibley said. Sibley launched the petition drive to relieve workers who may be laid off, earning less, or trying to work several jobs to pay bills, and need the fastest way to get around. “Instead of looking at how much the state is going to lose if he stops toll road collections, look at how much is going to be saved by all of these people who need to be counting their pennies now,” Sibley said.
“Florida Keys residents adjusting to life without tourists following closure due to coronavirus” by Local 10’s Glenna Milberg – The Florida Keys are closed, officially shutting down to visitors Sunday at 6 p.m. That coming as Monroe County opened its first mobile COVID-19 testing site. For now, the roads remain open, but areas normally busy with tourists are dark and empty. Those for locals, however, are open and busy, and residents seem to want it that way. “I think they should still stay open for the locals down here because we only have so many places to shop to go to, and we still need to get things, so I think they should keep non-essential places open,” said Keys resident Jim McCarthy. Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers explained the importance of taking preventative measures. “Part of why we took the step we took was not because of what we’re seeing within the City of Key West and County of Monroe, but what we were seeing from our neighbors to the north,” Carruthers said. “That’s why we chose to close the keys to visitors and to tourists.” Monroe County opened its first drive-thru testing site Monday, by a private contractor. A few dozen cars lined up, but only two residents met the criteria to get the COVID-19 swab. “Initially we were going to do it for our patients in our center, but we decided to open it up to public,” said Marianne Finizio with Community Health of South Florida.
“Pence calls out congressional Dems on coronavirus aid, says it’s time to ‘step up’ and ‘reach an agreement’” by Fox News’ Victor Garcia – Vice President Mike Pence called into “Hannity” Monday to address the ongoing battle over the coronavirus response bill in Congress, as well as America’s ongoing fight against the pandemic. “What I can tell you is that it is time for Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives to step up, reach an agreement and pass the CARE Act,” Pence told host Sean Hannity. “This really is a moment where where the American people want to see the Congress come together.” Tensions flared on the Senate floor Monday as lawmakers clashed over phase three of a coronavirus response package, with Democrats blocking Republican efforts to open debate on the massive stimulus bill for the second day in a row. “My hope, and I think the president’s hope, is that we’ll work out the final details, we’ll get this thing on the floor, we’ll speed relief to the American people and the bill will stay focused right where it should be,” Pence said. “And that is on on helping working Americans, families, businesses across this country, weather the storm of the coronavirus.” Hannity also asked Pence about the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and its potential to fight the virus. The vice president said he was optimistic about its possibilities and vowed to work closely with infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci to determine its effectiveness. “As we make the chloroquine available for Americans — and other medications — we’re going to study it. We’re going to figure it out. But that’s not going to get in the way of making it available. Doctors will be able to prescribe it,” Pence said. “And based upon the studies … and anecdotal evidence, it appears, in many cases that it brings real relief.”
“Trump privately says he’s facing pressure over refusal to use Defense Production Act” by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins – President Donald Trump has told people around him that he’s under pressure to utilize the authorities given to him under the Defense Production Act, after he spent the weekend fielding criticism over why he hasn’t mandated that private companies mass produce needed medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, Trump’s coronavirus task force had a briefing scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET, but the President wanted it moved to “prime time,” according to two people familiar with what happened. The White House pushed the briefing until 5:00 p.m., then 5:30 p.m. and the President finally entered the room nearly an hour and a half after it was initially scheduled to begin. Trump told aides he wanted to be at the microphone during optimal viewing hours — and his appearance came after he spent the day paying close attention to appeals from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called on him to use the Defense Production Act instead of having states get into “a mad bidding war” over supplies. Trump signed the act that grants him authority to direct private companies to ramp up production of needed supplies last week, but has refused to wield his powers for now. Shortly after announcing he would be invoking the Defense Production Act, the White House received pushback from business leaders who expressed concern that the act which could cause major unforeseen problems, including profit loss.
“Pelosi’s coronavirus stimulus includes return of ‘Obamaphones,’ other unrelated items, GOP says” by Fox News’ Gregg Re – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced her own emergency coronavirus stimulus bill on Monday, leading furious Republicans to argue that much of the proposal contained a progressive wishlist seemingly unrelated to the crisis — including several provisions that amount to a resurrection of the notorious “Obamaphone” program, GOP officials said. The bill proposed by Pelosi, D-Calif., additionally seeks to eliminate debt held by the U.S. Postal Service, require same-day voter registration, pay off $10,000 in student debt per person, mandate that airlines reduce their overall carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050, and force federal agencies to explain to Congress how they are increasing their usage of “minority banks.” And, the legislation would provide for the automatic extension of nonimmigrant visas and restrict colleges from providing information about citizenship status. It would also allocate $35 million to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “People are dying and all Nancy Pelosi and Democrats can focus on is ripping off the American taxpayer to help pay for their liberal wish list of government handouts,” National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement. “As long as the White House keeps the checkbook open, Democrats will keep taking things,” a senior Senate GOP leadership source told Fox News late Monday. The NRCC went on to accuse Pelosi of cramming the bill “full of unrelated liberal goodies, including a return of the ‘Obamaphone.'” Pelosi, the NRCC pointed out, wants $1 billion “to build on program expanded by President Obama that provides discounted phone service for low-income consumers.”
“U.S. Domestic Passenger Flights Could Virtually Shut Down, Voluntarily or by Government Order” by WSJ’s Andy Pasztor and Alison Sider – Major U.S. airlines are drafting plans for a potential voluntary shutdown of virtually all passenger flights across the U.S., according to industry and federal officials, as government agencies also consider ordering such a move and the nation’s air-traffic control system continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus contagion. No final decisions have been made by the carriers or the White House, these officials said. As airlines struggle to keep aircraft flying with minimal passengers, various options are under consideration, these people said. But amid the quickly spreading pandemic and mandatory stay-at-home orders covering some 80 million U.S. residents, airline executives, pilot-union leaders and federal transportation officials said they increasingly view as inevitable further sharp reductions from already-decimated schedules in passenger flights. U.S. airlines have already eliminated the vast majority of international flying and have announced plans to cut back domestic flying by as much as 40%. Travelers are staying home at even greater rates. The Transportation Security Administration reported that passenger flow at its checkpoints was down more than 80% Sunday from the same day a year earlier. On Monday, thousands of flights were canceled, in some cases because planes weren’t full enough to justify the trip, with passengers numbering in the single digits. Some planes that did take off have been emptier than ever before. For example, a flight between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and Washington DC had just three passengers. American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. canceled over 40% of scheduled flights Monday, according to Flightaware.com, a flight tracking site. Some airline officials expect planes to be even emptier as the week goes on. Officials at Airlines for America, the leading trade association representing domestic carriers, didn’t immediately respond for comment.
“Rand Paul defends decision to not self-quarantine while awaiting coronavirus test results” by CNN’s Devan Cole – Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Monday defended his decision to not self-quarantine while he awaited the results of his coronavirus test, a move that has been met with criticism and concern after he announced a day earlier that he had tested positive for the virus. “For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,” Paul said in a statement. “The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined. It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested.” Paul’s office announced on Sunday that he tested positive for the virus and that he was “feeling fine,” but some senators and aides are angry at him for not doing more to self-quarantine earlier and for potentially exposing senators to the coronavirus. In the wake of Paul’s diagnosis, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah self-quarantined on Sunday. GOP senators told CNN Paul was in the gym with colleagues Sunday morning, and several pointed out how close Paul had sat to others during Senate lunches in recent days. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said he saw Paul in the Senate swimming pool Sunday, according to a source in the GOP lunch. Paul is the first senator to test positive for the virus. The senator had attended a major black-tie social event in Louisville, Kentucky, two weeks ago where several attendees have subsequently tested positive, including the wife of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. His office said he sought to get tested “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Rahm Emanuel on coronavirus response: ‘Never allow a crisis to go to waste’” by Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly – Amid negotiations over how lawmakers should respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Rahm Emanuel has reprised his famous rallying cry from his 2008 financial crash: Never let a crisis go to waste. Speaking during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, the former Chicago mayor and chief of staff to President Barack Obama brought back his infamous quote from the 2008 financial collapse in an attempt to highlight that the government can learn from its mistakes when dealing crises. “Never allow a crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said Sunday. “Start planning for the future. This has to be the last pandemic that creates an economic depression. We’re going to have more pandemics, but this has to be the last economic depression.” Emanuel’s famed comment – which has since become an often repeated catchphrase by economists and policymakers when discussing stressed financial and economic systems – quickly drew heat from Republicans who accused Democrats of trying to push forward unrelated polices into the $2 trillion stimulus bill currently being negotiated in the Senate. “Democrats are using Rahm Emanuel’s playbook of never letting a crisis go to waste,” Marc Lotter, the director of strategic communications for President Trump’s reelection campaign, tweeted. “Their demands have NOTHING TO DO with helping the American people – this is about fulfilling their liberal wish list/Green New Deal.” Arguably the most controversial aspect of the proposal, the initial GOP plan called for $208 billion in loans to larger businesses like airlines, which would have to be repaid, and a subsequent version released over the weekend called for $500 billion.
“Grocers Stopped Stockpiling Food. Then Came Coronavirus” by WSJ’s Annie Gasparro, Jennifer Smith and Jaewon Kang – Food sellers in the U.S. spent years making their supply chains efficient. Then a pandemic hit, and the strategy backfired. In the past two decades, producers and grocery stores such as Kroger Co. have gone from keeping months of inventory on hand to holding only a four to six weeks’ supply. For many items this month, though, that amount sold out in days. The run has exposed the downside of the food industry’s push to hold less stock in warehouses and operate fewer, fuller trucks to increase profit margins. Abruptly, manufacturers, distributors and retailers have thrown that strategy into reverse. Now they are making as much food as they can, delivering it as fast as possible and adding staff, all to restock shelves denuded by folks stocking up for weeks at home. “We were all surprised. We did not come into the quarter with elevated levels of inventory in the U.S. or frankly anywhere,” said General Mills Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Harmening. General Mills is trying to skip steps in a carefully calibrated process. It is delivering truckloads of Cheerios, Gold Medal flour and Annie’s Homegrown pasta straight to stores’ warehouses, instead of first sending products to its own warehouses, to eliminate a link in the supply chain. Retailers, meanwhile, are overriding the sophisticated algorithms that say how much of what products they should buy, after seeing how those models failed to account for this month’s demand surge. Instead, retail executives are talking directly to manufacturers and making decisions in real time, Mr. Harmening said. After a brief recession in the early 1990s, the industry came under pressure from investors to improve profit margins. Companies settled on a strategy called “just in time” that aimed to produce, ship and stock as few goods as possible to meet demand.
“Democrats block coronavirus response in fear of 2008 redux” by CNN’s Alex Rogers and Phil Mattingly – For the second time in two days, Democrats voted against advancing the colossal bill to mitigate the global health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that Congress needed to avoid the errors made during the Great Recession of 2008. Republicans lambasted Democrats for expanding the negotiations, growing angry and frustrated with them as the stock market continued its plunge and the projections of this week’s initial jobless claims soared to the largest on record. But Democrats feared the bill was too friendly to businesses and not friendly enough for workers. “The fact is, we need to learn from 10 years ago,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, on the Senate floor. “The same people came to us and said, ‘We need this bailout.’ They promised that it would help people stay in their homes. They promised that it would be money in the pockets of workers. The banks have done well. The executives have done well. But since then wages have basically remained flat.” “The American people don’t want another corporate bailout,” added Brown. “They don’t want a bailout for Wall Street. They don’t want a bailout for the airlines. They want money. If we’re going to do a relief package, the money needs to go in the pockets of workers.”
Democrats are pressing for the package to give less discretion to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and more oversight on how the loans are disbursed and utilized. There are also objections to a six-month waiting period before public reporting of companies that tap into the program — something defenders say is intentional in order to prevent negative market reaction for firms that go for assistance. Yet it significantly limits the transparency attached to the program. The Senate bill is expected to cost roughly $2 trillion dollars. The majority of that, Republicans pointed out, would not bail out corporations. Sen. John Thune, the Republican whip, preempted Brown’s critiques on Monday, saying that about $1.2 trillion of the bill is targeted for individuals and families, health care workers and hospitals, health care providers and unemployed people.
“Rep. Matt Gaetz slams Sen. Richard Burr amid stocks controversy: ‘It’s not fair’ he remains intel chair” by Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn – Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida took aim at GOP colleague Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina after he and other lawmakers were swept up in controversy after it was discovered that they had sold millions of dollars in stock ahead of the market crash during the coronavirus outbreak. A report last week alleged Burr “sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 29 separate transactions” in filings listed in the U.S. Senate Financial Disclosures website as he was regularly being briefed on the rising threat of the virus. Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as a member of the Senate Health Committee, has had numerous closed-door briefings on the spread of the coronavirus overseas weeks before a national emergency was declared in the U.S. “Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” a Burr spokesperson told Fox News. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy. He supported Congress’ immediate efforts to provide $7.8 billion for response efforts and this week’s bipartisan bill to provide relief for American business and small families.” Gaetz blasted the chairman on social media, invoking the controversy that drove Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., out of office. “@KatieHill4CA gets run out of Congress for screwing a campaign staffer absent any complaint. @SenatorBurr stays as Intelligence Chairman after screwing all Americans by falsely reassuring us w opeds on #COVID while he dumped his stock portfolio early. This is not fair,” Gaetz tweeted.
“Coronavirus Sparks Hiring Spree for Nearly 500,000 Jobs at Biggest Retailers” by WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer and Jaewon Kang – Walmart Inc., WMT 0.27% Amazon.com Inc. AMZN 3.07% and CVS Health Corp. CVS -2.94% are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks, a spree that would mark a major shift of the U.S. workforce from smaller businesses and others that have cut staff to survive the coronavirus. The companies are managing a surge in demand for food and other household products that have taxed their stores and warehouses. At the same time, they are seeking to lure hourly workers to front-line or logistics jobs where they face risks of being near co-workers or consumers who could have been exposed to the deadly respiratory virus. “There are too many customers for our staffing to handle most of the time,” said Cody Clark, who works at Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy in Tyler, Texas. Ms. Clark, 22 years old, said she has been nervous about going to the store. “Customers come in and get frustrated whenever we don’t have something. They don’t understand we’re putting ourselves out there.” Many of the big chains have started offering enhanced benefits, such as paid sick time and child-care services, even for temporary or part-time workers. They have also temporarily boosted their hourly wages or promised cash bonuses for the people who run cash registers, unload trucks or work in e-commerce warehouses. Separately, Instacart Inc., a grocery-delivery company, said Monday it plans to add 300,000 workers over the next three months, more than doubling the size of its current workforce of about 200,000. As part of the effort, the closely held company is looking to bring on 54,000 workers in California and 27,000 in New York. Instacart shoppers, who fill grocery orders for customers, are independent contractors who get paid per delivery. In recent weeks, Instacart’s number of orders has more than doubled, and the size of its orders from the year prior has increased by 15%. The company also started offering up to 14 days of pay for its shoppers affected by Covid-19 or placed in mandatory quarantine.
“Trump predicts ‘this is going to be bad’ but vows to reopen America” by CNN’s Stephen Collinson – President Donald Trump appears to have made his choice in the awful dilemma posed by the coronavirus pandemic — whether to destroy the nation’s economic foundation in order to save lives. In his zeal to fire up American prosperity after helping to trigger an unprecedented self-inflicted economic meltdown, Trump is already losing patience — weeks before the virus may peak. “Our country was not built to be shut down,” the President warned on Monday. “We are going to be opening up our country for business because our country was meant to be open.” “We are going to get it all going again very soon,” he said, without setting a timeline — though he previously called for rethinking the White House’s guidance on social distancing next week. His comments came on day when the number of confirmed cases soared past 40,000 and 100 people died in a single day for the first time. Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, warned that the “attack rate” of the disease in New York, America’s dominant economic and financial powerhouse, was five times that of elsewhere. The President admitted Monday that “certainly, this is going to be bad,” on the deadliest day in America’s struggle with the pandemic, but he argued that “if it were up to the doctors, they may say let’s keep it shut down — let’s shut down the entire world.” Trump’s change of emphasis previewed a building confrontation inside his own administration — between public health officials using the science of epidemiology to battle Covid-19 and political and economic officials desperate to save an economy that is fundamental to basic life and Trump’s reelection hopes. The President’s upbeat prediction of a return to full speed ahead directly contradicted the actions of state governors nationwide — who are imposing stay-at-home orders, closing businesses and ordering schools out for summer in March.
President Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump – Republicans had a deal until Nancy Pelosi rode into town from her extended vacation. The Democrats want the Virus to win? They are asking for things that have nothing to do with our great workers or companies. They want Open Borders & Green New Deal. Republicans shouldn’t agree!
Nancy Pelosi @SpeakerPelosi – The Senate Republicans’ bill put corporations first, not workers & families. Today, @HouseDemocrats will unveil a bill that takes responsibility for the health, wages & well-being of America’s workers: the Take Responsibility for Workers & Families Act.