May 7, 2020

The Daily 202: 11 states seek DOJ investigation of meat shortages and price hikes amid coronavirus contagion

with Mariana Alfaro

Where’s the beef?

President Trump signed an executive order last week that designated meat processing plants as critical infrastructure and their employees as essential. He used the Defense Production Act to compel continuing production through the coronavirus pandemic, after several plants closed when they became hot spots for the contagion. 

But the move did not come soon enough to avert shortages of pork and beef – and rising prices. 

About 1 in 5 Wendy’s restaurants across the United States do not have the meat to sell hamburgers right now. That’s more than 1,000 locations, according to Stephens Inc. Social media is packed with pictures like this, which a woman posted from a drive-through in Illinois:

“It is widely known that beef suppliers across North America are currently facing production challenges,” the fast-food chain said in a statement. “Some of our menu items may be temporarily limited at some restaurants in this current environment.”

McDonald’s said it has not had shortages yet. But companies like Wendy’s that use fresh beef in their burgers, as opposed to frozen patties, have taken a more immediate hit. Shake Shack executives said they’re more worried about rising prices for their core product than shortages. “We do not, today, expect a supply issue. However, costs have really jumped,” Shake Shack chief executive Randy Garutti said during a Monday call to announce first-quarter earnings. Chief Financial Officer Tara Comonte added that beef prices have risen significantly over the last month, “with the largest increase being realized over the last week,” according to CNBC.

Local news outlets from coast to coast are reporting on strains in the supply chain and restrictions in local stores, including Philadelphia, Detroit and Omaha.

Vice President Pence will visit Iowa on Friday to discuss the food supply, the White House announced this morning. In addition to meeting with religious leaders to discuss reopening churches, Pence plans to hold an event at the West Des Moines headquarters of Hy-Vee, which imposed limits on meat sales at its stores this week. Customers at the popular Midwestern grocery store chain are now allowed to buy just four packages of beef, pork and chicken. Trump also plans to discuss the food shortages this afternoon during a meeting with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) at the White House.

Hy-Vee is not alone. Costco has limited shoppers to buying three items of beef, pork or poultry. Kroger has limited beef and pork purchases at some, but not all, stores. Stop & Shops in New England have instituted a two-package-per-customer limit.

A bipartisan coalition of 11 state attorneys general sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr on Tuesday asking the Justice Department to investigate accusations of anticompetitive practices by meatpacking companies in the face of the growing shortages. “The U.S. beef processing market is highly concentrated, with the four largest beef processors controlling 80 percent of U.S. beef processing,” the officials wrote in their letter. “In short, with such high concentration and the threat of increasing consolidation, we have concerns that beef processors are well positioned to coordinate their behavior and create a bottleneck in the cattle industry — to the detriment of ranchers and consumers alike.” 

The attorneys general of Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming signed the letter, which noted that they may take state-level action if antitrust officials fail to take action. Fox Business reports that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has been asking for this since last month, alleging that the four big packing companies – Cargill, National Beef, Tyson Foods and JBS – are driving down the price of cattle while raising the price of packaged beef amid the pandemic.

The North American Meat Institute, which represents all four companies, denied that anything improper is happening and said the industry is transparent. “We are working together with livestock organizations to ensure meatpacking and processing plants continue to operate so that our products can come to market,” said Julie Anna Potts, the trade group’s president, in a statement. “At the outset of this terrible pandemic, we had to switch some of our production from foodservice to retail. We are learning lessons every day in unchartered territory.” 

Tyson Foods revealed on Monday that U.S. hog processing capacity has dropped by 50 percent. Three of Tyson’s six main U.S. processing facilities were forced to closed after coronavirus outbreaks, and others had to operate at reduced capacity because of infections. One of the three plants – the country’s largest pork processing facility in Waterloo, Iowa – plans to reopen on Thursday after an outbreak forced a two-week closure. The company said workers will be screened daily and will only be allowed to return to their jobs on the line after they test negative for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 180 cases were linked to the plant in Waterloo, which processes an average of 19,500 hogs a day, accounting for about 4 percent of the country’s pork production. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, their loved ones and our communities,” Tom Hart, plant manager of the Waterloo facility, said in a statement.

More than 700 employees at the Tyson plant in Perry, Iowa, tested positive for the coronavirus, or 58 percent of the workforce, according to an Iowa Department of Public Health report released Tuesday, per the Des Moines NBC affiliate. Last week, nearly 900 workers were confirmed to have the virus at a Tyson plant in Indiana. There have been other major outbreaks at Smithfield facilities, including in South Dakota. The Washington Post reported last month that multiple meat processors failed to provide masks to workers at plants like the one in Waterloo until April. Some workers said they were given confusing instructions about when to return to work or told to come in while sick.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden blasted the treatment of the meat packers during a video town hall for the League of United Latin American Citizens on Monday and criticized Trump for not doing more to help them. “They designate them as essential workers, then treat them as disposable. It’s quite frankly, inhumane and downright immoral,” said Biden, who proposed a $13-per-hour minimum pay raise for the processing plant employees, per PBS.

Americans eat more meat per capita than any other country in the world. Even as we face shortages, however, China is buying up our more limited pork supply. And Trump’s trade deal with Beijing that compels the regime to buy more American agricultural products is partly to blame. “American pork supplies are being shipped off to China at a breakneck pace, creating the perfect recipe for additional U.S.-China tensions,” Reuters reports. “China began slowly losing its hog herd, the world’s largest, in August 2018 as African swine fever began to spread through the country. This has curbed the country’s pork production by at least a third, forcing China to rely on imports more than usual.”

Local leaders and industry representatives are warning against panic buying, like we saw with toilet paper, which could quickly exacerbate the problem. But analysts say the problem is much bigger than hoarding. “The problems at Wendy’s are most likely only the beginning of fresh beef shortages that may reach their peak around Memorial Day, when many Americans will be firing up grills,” the New York Times reports. “Last week was the fourth week in a row that the number of cattle slaughtered fell below 500,000, down more than 35 percent from average beef production, according to Cassandra Fish, a meat industry analyst. … It can take about three weeks from the time cattle are slaughtered for the meat to be sold in the grocery store.”

The federal response

The White House may soon disband its coronavirus task force, despite the mounting death toll.

“Pence revealed that officials have discussed disbanding the White House coronavirus task force within a month because of ‘the tremendous progress we’ve made as a country,'” Matt Zapotosky, William Wan, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report. “‘I’m not saying anything is perfect,’ Trump said as he made one of his first forays out of Washington in weeks, visiting a mask factory in Arizona. ‘And, yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.’ … On Monday, a modeling group at Columbia University — whose work has been used by New York leaders, as well as the White House — released research showing that even a small increase in the contact rate among individuals will lead to a rebound in transmission and an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. ‘These findings indicate that most states are not well-positioned to reopen their economies and simultaneously control the spread of COVID-19 infections,’ the researchers concluded. …

On Tuesday, the United States recorded over 22,000 new coronavirus cases and more than 2,400 deaths. The total of those infected now stands at almost 1.2 million. More than 70,000 Americans have now died of covid-19 … Before revising his prediction recently, Trump had suggested that figure could be an upper limit of the potential death toll. Now the country is sweeping by it … Trump said that the government might convene a different group focused on ‘safety and opening,’ and that health experts such as Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, would remain involved in the government response.”

Rick Bright says he was demoted for putting “science and safety” over “political expediency.”

The former top vaccine official, removed from his post last month as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleges in an 89-page whistleblower complaint that he was demoted because he raised health concerns over the drug that Trump repeatedly pushed as a possible coronavirus cure. He also writes that his boss, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS Robert Kadlec, and other political appointees pressured him to buy drugs and medical products for the nation’s stockpile from companies that were linked politically to the administration and that he resisted such efforts. Bright was reassigned on April 20 to a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health. 

“The document describes one such clash in mid-March after Bayer offered to donate 3 million chloroquine pills to the national stockpile,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley report. “BARDA officials raised concerns over the donation because of a lack of evidence over the drug’s safety or efficacy. The Bayer pills came from facilities in Pakistan and India that were not approved by the FDA and therefore were not approved for use in the United States … The Bayer donation ultimately went forward. Bright received an ‘urgent directive’ from HHS general counsel Bob Charrow to make the drug widely accessible, outside of hospital settings and without close physician supervision, according to the complaint. But that raised safety alarms with certain FDA officials.”

Another whistleblower complaint spotlights problems within Jared Kushner’s operation.

The president’s son-in-law, a senior adviser in the White House, “has relied in part on volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks they were assigned, exacerbating chronic problems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs, according to numerous government officials and a volunteer involved in the effort,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Ashley Parker report. “About two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms have volunteered their time — some on paid vacation leave from their jobs and others without pay — to aid the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic … Although some of the volunteers have relevant backgrounds and experience, many others were poorly matched with their assigned jobs, including those given the task of securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals nationwide, according to a complaint filed last month with the House Oversight Committee.”

This second whistleblower’s report was submitted by a volunteer who has since left the Kushner group and who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Key elements of the complaint were confirmed by six administration officials and an outside adviser to the effort: “The document alleges that the team responsible for PPE had little success in helping the government secure such equipment, in part because none of the team members had significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations. In addition, none of the volunteers had relationships with manufacturers or a clear understanding of customs requirements or FDA rules. … Even as the volunteer group struggled to procure PPE, about 30 percent of ‘key supplies,’ including masks, in the national stockpile of emergency medical equipment went toward standing up a separate Kushner-led effort to establish drive-through testing sites nationwide … Kushner had originally promised thousands of testing sites, but only 78 materialized; the stockpile was used to supply 44 of those over five to 10 days.”

Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the virus is spreading. Others remain skeptical.

“A research paper from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, not yet peer-reviewed, reports that one strain of the novel coronavirus has emerged in Europe and become dominant around the planet, leading the researchers to believe the virus has mutated to become more contagious. The bold hypothesis, however, was immediately met with skepticism by many infectious-disease experts, and there is no scientific consensus that any of the innumerable mutations in the virus so far have changed the general contagiousness or lethality of covid-19,” Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achebach report

The federal scientists examined a global database of strains causing the disease, finding one strain featuring a mutation dubbed Spike D614G quickly dominated other strains after appearing in Europe. “The mutation affects the structure of a protein, called the spike protein, that is critical to the virus’s ability to infect human cells. The researchers believe this structural change enhances infectivity. … The paper will now have to survive the intense scrutiny of a research community trying to deliver urgently needed information while remaining scientifically rigorous. … The consensus has been that strains of the coronavirus are functionally the same, even if they look genetically different.”

Fifteen children in NYC have developed a serious inflammatory condition, possibly linked to the virus. 

“The children, ages 2 to 15, experienced persistent fever and elevated inflammatory markers, similar to a syndrome known as Kawasaki disease. More than half had a rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Fewer than half had respiratory symptoms. All of the patients described in a bulletin issued Monday were admitted to intensive care and required cardiac or respiratory support, including five who required mechanical ventilation. None have died,” Ariana Eunjung Cha and Chelsea Janes report. “‘We have long suspected that there may be different triggers for KD based on individual genetics. The emergence of this new problem suggests that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, may be a trigger for some children to develop KD,’ wrote Jane Burns, director of the Kawasaki Disease Research Center at the University of California at San Diego, in a letter to families of children who have suffered from Kawasaki disease before. … Four of the children in New York tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while 11 did not. ‘It would be a terrible mistake for parents to worry. The chance for a child up to this point of becoming critically ill is very, very rare,’ said Jeffrey Burns, chief of critical care at Boston Children’s Hospital.”

Trump’s demand for a payroll tax cut was rebuffed on Capitol Hill.

“The bipartisan opposition to a payroll tax cut has not deterred Trump, who has continued to tweet about his idea even as growing opposition from his own party that came into sharper view Tuesday,” Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner report. “Rather than indulging Trump’s insistence on a payroll tax cut, GOP senators have instead shifted their focus to liability protections for businesses, demanding that they be protected from what Republicans view are frivolous lawsuits as private employers try to reopen their doors in the coming weeks. Top Democrats have said they will oppose such sweeping protections, on which Republicans are insisting in exchange for another massive infusion of state and local aid. The standoff shows no immediate signs of abating, as House Democrats assemble a massive new rescue package expected to exceed $2 trillion. … Democrats have also discussed another round of checks to Americans and another extension of unemployment insurance.”

  • A massive drop in car sales has sparked a new push in Congress to aid the auto industry, Tony Romm reports. A car dealership owned by Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.) received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, but there are no rules barring lawmakers from accessing the fund, the Dallas Morning News notes.
  • Appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is embracing her wealth to jump-start her flailing campaign. The richest member of Congress launched a $4 million ad buy that notes that she deployed her private jet to help transport stranded cruise ship passengers and made a $1 million donation to a relief organization. (Politico)
  • Ex-Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) could wait to start his prison sentence until 2021 because of the virus. He was sentenced to 11 months earlier this year after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance law as he carried on multiple extramarital affairs. (Politico)
Trump’s pick to be special inspector general for coronavirus relief funds refused to answer basic questions.

“Several Democrats questioned [Brian] Miller’s ability to be independent, since he is coming from a White House job in which he was involved in defending Trump during the impeachment proceedings,” Erica Werner reports. “They also pressed him about some recent decisions by Trump to remove other inspectors general, including the intelligence community watchdog who had alerted Congress to a whistleblower complaint that came to be at the center of the impeachment inquiry. … [Miller] refused to say whether he had any involvement in the firing of Michael Atkinson … Miller also sidestepped several questions about other steps Trump has taken to remove inspectors general. … As special inspector general for pandemic recovery, Miller would be in charge of overseeing a roughly $500 billion Treasury Department fund created as part of Congress’s $2 trillion Cares Act in late March. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) predicted that Miller would get fired if he produced any conclusions the White House did not like. … Miller said: ‘I will be independent. If the president removes me, he removes me. If I am unable to do my job, I will resign. But I will not comment on the White House counsel’s operation.’”

  • U.S. companies shed 20.2 million jobs from their payrolls in April, according to new data from the ADP Research Institute. (Taylor Telford)
  • Businesses continue terminating thousands of workers while paying generous dividends to shareholders. Five companies – including Caterpillar, Levi Strauss, Stanley Black & Decker and the WWE – have paid a combined $700 million to shareholders while cutting jobs and closing plants. (Peter Whoriskey)
  • Starbucks will reopen 85 percent of its coffee shops – with new protocols. The company will emphasize mobile ordering, contactless pickup and cashless payments. (Abha Bhattarai)
  • The Norwegian Cruise Line said it may not be able to meet its financial obligations to remain a “going concern,” as the industry remains in limbo. (Rachel Siegel)

Quote of the day

“I have immunity,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told reporters at the Capitol when asked why he wasn’t wearing a face mask. “I’ve already had the virus. So I can’t get it again, and I can’t give it to anybody … Of all the people you’ll meet here, I’m about the only safe person in Washington.” Fact check: Scientists don’t know what level of immunity, and for how long, someone who has had covid-19 can bank on. (Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis)

Dispatches from the front lines

Americans are told to wash their hands. But some don’t trust the tap. 

“The pandemic is highlighting the yawning racial and socio-economic disparities in access to clean water and intensifying calls for federal investment in the nation’s troubled water system. One festering public health problem is exacerbating a new, more acute one, experts say. The entire population is endangered when communities are left without a basic resource: safe water,” Frances Stead Sellers reports. “Infection and death rates have ramped up in rural areas, particularly in the Deep South and other regions plagued by poverty. The Navajo Nation, for example, ranks close behind hot spots in the Northeast for infection rates. ‘Nobody is thinking about these pockets of vulnerability,’ said George McGraw, founder and chief executive of the nonprofit DigDeep, who noted a ‘strong correlation’ between the spread of the virus and communities that lack water. … More than 2 million Americans do not have indoor plumbing. Far greater numbers do not believe that their water supplies are safe or cannot afford to pay for them.” 

The violent arrest of a New York City bystander raises questions about enforcement of social distancing rules. 

“In the ninth week of the shutdown, New York City officials have repeatedly said there’s no template, let alone hard-and-fast rules, for how police should enforce social distancing orders,” Kim Bellware reports. “Reporters and police watchdogs called out what appeared to be the department’s uneven enforcement over the past weekend, during which they say officers handed out masks in parks largely packed with white residents but aggressively enforced social distancing orders in minority communities.” The incident in question, which was recorded, shows officer Francisco Garcia forcing 33-year-old Donni Wright to the ground, hitting him and kneeling on his neck, leaving him hospitalized with injuries to his back, ribs and chest, his mother told the Daily News. 

A Bronx pastor thought he knew hardship. Then the virus came.

Mike Carrion “leads the evangelical Promised Land Covenant Church in the south Bronx,” Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports. “[The church], in the poorest congressional district in the nation, sees about 250 mostly African American and Latino worshipers on a normal weekend. … In one month, 13 parishioners faced the deaths of close family members and a best friend. Carrion, 49, grew up in east Harlem and is no stranger to preaching to people who are facing tragedy. But before the pandemic that hit especially hard in this corner of New York City, he would receive a phone call to help someone with death maybe every four to six months, he said. Now pastors are getting back-to-back phone calls about urgent needs exacerbated by the coronavirus, from health issues to job losses to people who have lost loved ones or simply need food.” (Doctors, nurses, family and victims on the front lines are sharing how their lives have been disrupted with The Post. This updating collection of voices offers a window into the impact of a crisis that has touched every corner of the globe, and you can read it here.)

  • The New York Times told reporters the earliest day it will ask them to return to their offices in the city will be on Sept. 8, which is the Tuesday after Labor Day. (CNN)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) admitted the dangers of reopening the state in a private call with lawmakers. 

“Abbott admitted that ‘every scientific and medical report shows’ state reopenings ‘ipso facto’ lead to an increase in novel coronavirus cases, even as he publicly announced plans that same week to end an executive stay-at-home order in the state,” the Daily Beast reports. “‘The more that you have people out there, the greater the possibility is for transmission,’ Abbott said on the call, which a spokesperson confirmed was authentic on Tuesday. ‘The goal never has been to get transmission down to zero.’” 

  • Texas state Reps. Steve Toth and Briscoe Cain, both Republicans, broke state law by getting haircuts in a salon to demand that Abbott reopen these businesses. Hours later, Abbott said hair salons and barber shops were among the businesses that can open on Friday — several days earlier than he had previously signaled. (Texas Tribune)
  • A Dallas hair salon owner, who has been operating her business despite a temporary restraining order, chose to go to jail rather than close her doors. A county judge offered the woman a chance to lose the criminal and civil contempt of court charges she faced if she just admitted that her actions were selfish and wrong. She declined to do so. (Meagan Flynn)
  • Arizona’s health department told a team of university experts working on a robust public model to “pause” its work. The model had shown that reopening the state at the end of May was the only scenario that didn’t dramatically increase cases, but Gov. Doug Ducey (R) plans on easing social distancing in the coming days anyway. (Arizona Republic)
  • A new hot spot emerged in northeast Georgia, where the GOP governor overruled local stay-at-home orders. The outbreak in Gainesville – which has spread into neighboring Habersham County – is another indicator  the virus is far from contained in the state, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
  • The virus’s spread in Florida probably began in January, if not earlier. State health officials have documented at least 170 covid-19 patients reporting symptoms between Dec. 31, 2019, and Feb. 29, according to a Miami Herald analysis of state health data. The majority had not traveled.
  • Michigan is considering banning guns inside the state capitol building following last week’s protests. (Detroit Free Press)
  • California saw its first drop in weekly deaths, but the state still has not seen the sustained 14-day decline in cases the White House suggested to ease stay-at-home orders. (Los Angeles Times)
The U.S. military is attempting to secure “no-fail” missions. 

“In late February, Brig. Gen. Pete Fesler prepared about 130 troops under his command to mobilize for a new mission, one that would take them away from their families and involve extensive precautions to keep service members safe. Tapping his experience from deployments in Asia and the Middle East, the former fighter pilot made plans for adapting the unit’s sensitive mission to new hazards over an unknown period of time, as authorities scrambled to anticipate the moves of an unpredictable adversary. The difference from his previous assignments: At the end of the day, instead of being halfway around the world, Fesler can look out from the base where he’s lodging and see the neighborhood where his wife and kids are hunkered down during the coronavirus pandemic,” Missy Ryan reports. “The general is a senior commander at the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, where he heads a team that is attempting to sequester itself to ensure that covid-19 can’t cripple NORAD’s command center, responsible for preventing the United States and Canada from coming under attack from foreign missiles or other aerial threats. His is one of a number of U.S.-based units taking dramatic steps that officials hope will prevent the highly contagious disease from ravaging teams of specially trained personnel.”

D.C. will require landlords to accept rent payment plans.

“The latest relief bill includes measures to assist residents struggling to pay the bills and restaurants struggling to survive,” Fenit Nirappil reports. “The council capped commission fees that food delivery services charge restaurants at 15 percent of the meal cost. … The legislation also has a host of provisions to help tenants pay bills. Landlords would be required to allow residential and commercial tenants facing financial hardship because of the novel coronavirus to pay missed rent in monthly installments. Residents would also be able to have payment plans for water bills under the legislation.” 

  • Ocean City, Md., will reopen its beach and boardwalk to the public this weekend, a week earlier than expected amid mixed signals and orders from regional leaders. (Peter Jamison and Dana Hedgpeth)
  • New testing sites continue opening across the D.C. region. As more test kits become available, some locations are no longer requiring a doctor’s note, particularly in D.C. and in parts of Virginia. (Find a list of options here.)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg was treated at Johns Hopkins for a gallbladder condition. The Supreme Court’s public information office said the justice is resting comfortably and plans to participate in Wednesday’s teleconference oral argument. (Robert Barnes)

The foreign fallout

Baseball is back – in South Korea.

“At least the game sounded the same. The leathery pop of a strike into the catcher’s mitt was no different than before. A solid hit to center field still had that satisfying clap. But little else was familiar Tuesday as South Korea’s professional baseball league began play in the sports-starved season of covid-19 There were no fans — although there were cheerleaders, all wearing masks, dancing to 25,000 empty seats in Seoul’s Jamsil stadium,” Min Joo Kim reports. “The first ‘pitch’ was not thrown at all. It was walked to home plate by a 9-year-old boy inside a plastic balloon decorated with the seams of a baseball. It was quickly dubbed the first ‘socially distant first pitch.’ … ESPN plans to broadcast Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) games at least six days a week. … Baseball in South Korea is also a symbol of its aggressive health policies — including widespread testing and coronavirus contact tracing — that have managed to flatten the covid-19 curve without resorting to full-scale lockdowns. South Korea reported zero domestic cases of the coronavirus for a second consecutive day Tuesday.”

  • Residents in China made 115 million trips over the May Day holiday weekend, a promising sign of economic recovery. Chinese travel operators earned $6.74 billion over the five-day holiday, according to Reuters.
  • Kim Jong Un is alive. Why did so many otherwise reliable mainstream outlets (not us) report that the North Korean leader was on his deathbed? “The worldwide misreporting appears to have started with a South Korean website that has acknowledged that it mistranslated a single anonymous source’s account of Kim’s health,” writes Paul Farhi.
Britain surpassed Italy with the most coronavirus deaths in Europe. 

“Britain said 29,427 people have died of the coronavirus in the country, a count that for the first time exceeds the tally in Italy. Italy, which until now was the hardest-hit country in Europe, on Tuesday reported that the virus has killed 29,315 people there,” William Booth and Karla Adam report from London. The British scientist whose advice prompted Boris Johnson to lock down the country resigned from his government advisory position after the Telegraph reported that “he broke social distancing rules to meet his married lover”: “Neil Ferguson allowed the woman to visit him at home during the lockdown while lecturing the public on the need for strict social distancing in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The woman lives with her husband and their children in another house.”

Social media speed read

Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) shared a picture of herself flouting face mask guidance as she boarded Air Force One with two House Republicans:

Meanwhile, Kweisi Mfume, Elijah Cummings’s successor (who was also his predecessor), was sworn in – and members of the Maryland delegation posed for this socially distanced photo:

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court justices heard arguments against the state’s safer-at-home order while safely at home:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert contrasted the priorities of Trump with Andrew Cuomo’s:

Seth Meyers had some words for Democrats praising George W. Bush:

Trevor Noah can’t believe people are refusing to wear masks: 

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