News·4 min read

Daily Skimm: COVID-19: Americans at Home, DOJ and Emergency Powers, and an Astronaut on Isolation

Americans at home COVID
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Mar 23, 2020


The Story

Nearly one in three Americans are being asked to stay home.


California was the first. Since then, four others followed suit: New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and four more – Ohio, Louisiana, Connecticut, and Delaware – are joining the list. In all, an estimated 101 million Americans are being told to stay in their homes. It comes as New York City has become the epicenter of the US crisis.

What's happening there?

About half of the over 30,000 confirmed infections in the US are in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is asking the federal gov to use the Defense Production Act to order companies to produce medical supplies. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is asking President Trump to send medically trained military personnel.

When will federal help come?

It's in the works. Trump approved a disaster declaration for New York, California, and Washington, allowing him to give the states federal funding. He also deployed the National Guard there and said "hundreds of tons of supplies" including masks and gloves are on their way.

What about Americans suffering financially?

Lawmakers are working on a $1.8 trillion coronavirus bill that would give $1,200 checks to most Americans (with more for families). But yesterday, a procedural vote failed in the Senate. Dems aren't on board, since the Treasury Dept would get a ton of say on where industry loan money goes. They also say the bill doesn't sufficiently protect workers' jobs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there's no time to "play games" and is planning a re-vote. But Dems are already working on a plan of their own.


Stay-at-home orders like the ones we're seeing now are unprecedented, designed to help stem a pandemic that's raised alarm bells around the world. But many Americans are suffering from medical shortages as well as the economic fallout. And help cannot come fast enough.


Several senators are facing accusations of insider trading ahead of the coronavirus-related market downfall: Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

They or their partners are accused of selling off hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in stocks, based on not-so-public info on the severity of the virus (think: from briefings). They all deny wrongdoing. But if found to have violated the law on this, they could face fines.

In the meantime, many are furious over the appearance of elected reps out for themselves while the country could be heading toward a recession. Especially since at least two senators – Burr and Loeffler – seemed to downplay the virus in public. The news is renewing a debate about whether congressional reps should be allowed to hold stock in companies at all.


What's keeping busy while COVID-19 dominates the news…

The Justice Department. A report from this weekend says the DOJ proposed new emergency powers to Congress amidst the coronavirus pandemic. If Congress grants these powers, the DOJ could ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely during an emergency (like a natural disaster or...other emergency situation like a pandemic). They'd also be able to pause court hearings and ban certain people who can apply for asylum. The DOJ said it would help make proceedings during emergencies "consistent." But lawmakers and civil liberties advocates called out the proposal, accusing the admin of taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to make major policy changes. The proposal isn't expected to get past the Democratic-led House.

Kentucky. Last week, the state's Republican-controlled legislature approved a new measure that would require citizens to have a gov-issued photo ID in order to vote. Currently, the state only requires some form of ID (think: credit card or mail). But if the governor signs it, this bill would change that. Its lead author reportedly said the changes would help "build confidence" in elections. But it's being slammed by civil rights advocates, who say the state should be making it easier for voters to hit the polls during a moment of crisis. Kentucky's primaries have already been moved from May to June amid the coronavirus outbreak, and many gov offices have been closed. Meaning, those who will need to get a photo ID could face even more hurdles.

Who's being remembered…

Kenny Rogers. Last week, the country music icon died of natural causes at the age of 81. Rogers's six-decade career included 24 no. 1 hits, 100 million album sales, six CMA awards, and three Grammys. His hits included "Lady," "The Gambler," and his famous duet with Dolly Parton "Islands in the Stream." Parton called him "a wonderful man and a true friend." RIP.

Who came back from the past to distract you from 2020…

Kanye and Taylor.

Who's sharing out-of-this-world tips…

Former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly.

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