Trump to tout virus testing, state openings during Pa. event today

by Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

President Trump heads to Pennsylvania today after targeting the state’s Democratic governor for what the president argues is a glacial effort to reopen during the COVID-19 crisis. Scores of protesters descended on the state capital last month to demonstrate against Gov. Tom Wolf‘s (D) stay-at-home directive, and the president on Monday voiced solidarity with Pennsylvanians who “want their freedom now.”

Nonetheless, Wolf is getting high marks in his state; a poll released this week showed 72 percent of adults polled in Pennsylvania approve of his handling of the pandemic. Trump today will tout the administration’s coronavirus testing scorecard, as he did in the Cabinet Room on Wednesday with the governors of Colorado and North Dakota (pictured above).

The president plans to tour a medical equipment distributor in Allentown, in the state where former Vice President Joe Biden was born and enjoys close ties. Pennsylvania will play a key role in deciding the outcome of November’s presidential election and Biden had a lead over Trump of more than 6 points in the state at the end of April, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average (The Hill).

CNN: New poll shows Trump leading Biden in 15 states that make the Electoral College difference, while Biden leads the incumbent nationally.

Trump this week is picking a fight over reopening schools, but also conceding it’s up to the governors. Why are schools an emerging argument now, nearing the end of the academic year? Parents will be unable or reluctant to return to jobs and workplaces if schools and child care centers remain closed through the summer and into the beginning of the new school year.

Studies show that loss of learning due to school closures reduces each student’s earning potential for life. The cost to the United States (as measured in future earnings) of four months of lost education is $2.5 trillion, or 12.7 percent of annual gross domestic product, according to a recent study released by the Brookings Institution. Well over half the country’s states decided to keep schools and universities closed until the fall at the earliest, continuing distance instruction.

Trump said he does not consider states truly open for business if schools are closed for in-person instruction. “I think you should absolutely open the schools,” he told reporters.

But parents, school administrators and teachers continue to be concerned about children’s potential exposure to COVID-19 in the absence of an effective, approved vaccine.

Public confidence is key to economic recovery. So it’s not rosy news that Americans have dialed back their expectations about when it will be safe for gatherings of 10 or more people, with about 2 in 3 adults now saying it will not be until July or later before those events can happen, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll (The Washington Post).

Trump chafes at rival messengers, especially those inside the administration, who counsel a go-slow approach to easing state restrictions. On Wednesday, the president took aim at Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who testified this week that states that open too soon and without adequate preparation risk new COVID-19 outbreaks and fatalities. Fauci also said he would be concerned about children returning to classrooms prematurely. Trump said he was “surprised” at Fauci’s comments and disagrees, adding, “He wants to play all sides of the equation” (NBC News).

Separately on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell described the central bank’s bleak outlook if Congress does not provide more fiscal relief to Americans at a time when 40 percent of U.S. households with annual incomes less than $40,000 have lost jobs since the pandemic began. The United States sustained the “biggest shock our economy has felt in modern times” and is likely to face an “extended period” of weakness, Powell said during remarks that sent financial markets into a swoon (The Washington Post).

Trump was asked on Wednesday if lawmakers should move forward on another stimulus measure in coming weeks. “I don’t know, it depends,” he said. The president brushed aside a $3 trillion recovery measure unveiled by House Democrats on Tuesday, which has been described by Republicans as a liberal wish list that has zero chance of picking up bipartisan steam as written. “It’s, as they say, DOA,” Trump told reporters.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended the Democrats’ mammoth proposed measure during an interview with The Associated Press, arguing that American families that have been economically devastated because of the contagion are “worth it” when measured alongside another $3 trillion in federal help. The House is expected to vote on the package on Friday.

The Hill: House Democrats unveil proposed rule changes to allow remote voting.

The Hill: Top House Republicans reject Democrats’ call for proxy voting.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus rapid tests by Abbott used at the White House and offered for use to Congress have a high error rate, according to a non-peer-reviewed study by a group at New York University.

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