The U.S. could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths from COVID-19. That’s what National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jake Tapper on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
President Trump extends federal stay-at-home direction to April 30. The president, who said a month ago that America’s 15 cases would soon be “close to zero,” backed off his suggestion that the country could get largely back to work on Easter. CNN, here.
A planeload of desperately needed medical supplies arrived from China to New York on Sunday, “the first in a series of flights over the next 30 days organized by the White House to help fight the coronavirus,” Reuters reported.
Let’s hope that equipment works, unlike this stuff from China sent to Turkey, Spain and the Czech Republic — who collectively had to throw out thousands of tests sent by China because they don’t work. Oh, and the Netherlands also announced late last week nearly half of its Chinese masks (600,000 of 1.3 million acquired) are actually defective.
Meanwhile, the federal government is beginning to release gear from “a beleaguered national stockpile.” As of Saturday, the Washington Post reported, Massachusetts had received 17% of its requested equipment; Maine, about 5%; and Colorado, enough “for one day.” Florida, whose governor enjoys a good relationship with President Trump, has received a whopping 200%, with more on the way. Read on, here.
Kiss the ring. During his Friday press conference, the president warned governors to be “appreciative” of his efforts, and “said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence not to call the governors of Washington or Michigan — two coronavirus hotspots — because of their public criticism. ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,’ Trump said.” More, here. And read the transcript, here.
Mercy on the job in Calif. The crew of the U.S. military hospital ship, USNS Mercy, are working today with the county of Los Angeles, and the City and Port of L.A., the Navy says today.
ICYMI: President Trump issued an order late last week that permits the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Guard and Reserve back to active duty. The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe explains, here.
From the information-wars beat: President Trump said today on Fox when asked about Chinese misinformation about coronavirus, “They do it and we do it… Every country does that.”
See also: How to Counter China’s Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign by Natasha Bajema and Christine Parthemore.
Don’t miss the Defense Department’s own mythbusting website, “Coronavirus: Rumor Control,” here.
BTW, you are being tracked: “Government officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones in a bid to better understand the movements of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic and how they may be affecting the spread of the disease.” The Wall Street Journal has the story, here. (Below the fold: Saudi Arabia is also reportedly tracking people in the United States using cellphone data.)
From Defense One
Military Leaders Ask to Delay Budget Planning To Focus on Coronavirus, Let Staff Stay Home // Marcus Weisgerber and Katie Bo Williams: But the Defense Department’s No. 2 told Army, Navy, and Air Force budget planners to figure a different solution.
How to Counter China’s Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign // Natasha Bajema and Christine Parthemore: Beijing is using lies to undermine America’s standing; the U.S. should fight back with science and truth.
It Wasn’t Just Trump Who Got It Wrong // Zeynep Tufekci, The Atlantic: America’s coronavirus response failed because we didn’t understand the complexity of the problem.
DHS Makes a Master List of Coronavirus Knowns and Unknowns // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: The list is meant to help government decision-makers make better choices about policies and actions.
White House Releases National Strategy for 5G Security // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: The strategy focuses on four lines of effort and will guide how the government approaches 5G for the near future.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 2017, SpaceX achieved its highly-sought goal of reusing a booster rocket to put a satellite into orbit — an accomplishment that takes millions of dollars off the cost of putting items into orbit. Learn more about the implications of reusable rockets in the documentary “MARS: Inside SpaceX,” now streaming on Disney+.
ISIS detainees broke out of a prison in Syria’s far northeast, the Syrian Democratic Forces said Sunday evening. And now it’s hard to tell if everything is indeed back to normal today, as one SDF official alleges — or if, in fact, “about 1,000 prisoners were still on the loose inside the facility after they broke down prison doors and internal walls,” as the Washington Post reports this morning from Beirut.
“The revolt took place at a prison in the city of Hasaka that houses about 5,000 Islamic State fighters of multiple nationalities who were captured after the group’s final stand in the village of Baghouz,” the Post writes. “U.S. officials say about 10,000 foreign fighters and family members are being held in prisons and camps across the area, along with tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis.”
“Even the Assad regime couldn’t deal with such prison riots for long,” Middle East analyst Hassan Hassan tweeted Sunday evening, “and these events are a sign of increased organization, and of a downward trajectory for how such problems are handled.”
The U.S.-led counter ISIS coalition lended aerial surveillance assets to the SDF to catch stragglers or conspirators, according to spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III. It’s not clear yet if any more is being done by the coalition to ensure such breakouts do not happen again, which is something the Kurds in Syria more or less expect because, as the Post reports, “they lack the resources to hold the militants indefinitely.” More here.
The White House wants a plan to crush Iranian-backed militias in Iraq from its military commanders in that country, the New York Times reported Friday since “an Iranian-backed militia group [Kataib Hezbollah]… has threatened more attacks against American troops.”
“Bloody and counterproductive.” That’s how the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Robert P. White, described such an escalation, according to the Times. That’s reportedly because “a new military campaign would also require thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq and divert resources from what has been the primary American military mission there: training Iraqi troops to combat the Islamic State.”
Said the Pentagon: Very little, short of this formal response, “Operation Inherent Resolve is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government and remains focused on partnering with Iraqi security forces for the shared goal of permanently defeating ISIS remnants. We are not going to discuss hypotheticals or internal deliberations.”
Worth noting: More direct tensions with Iran could be coming. That’s because the Pentagon directive ordering these escalation plans also “said that Iranian paramilitary forces — members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — could be legitimate targets if they are located with the Kataib Hezbollah fighters.” Read on, here.
America’s drawdown in Iraq continues apace. The U.S.-led coalition just handed over its third base to the Iraqis — this time at K1 Air Base, a couple miles NW of Kirkuk.
The growing list of “pre-planned base transfers” looks like this:
- March 17: Al Qaim
- March 26: Q-West
- March 29: K1
The Saudi-led war in Yemen continues today with Reuters reporting airstrikes are hitting the Houthi-held capital city of Sanaa today.
Also: Riyadh suspected of tracking its citizens’ movements in the United States using cellphone data. “Saudi Arabia appears to be exploiting weaknesses in the global mobile telecoms network to track its citizens as they travel around the US, according to a whistleblower who has shown the Guardian millions of alleged secret tracking requests,” the news site reports.
Related reading: The NYTs Ruth Maclean and Finbarr O’Reilly went “Riding along with French troops hunting Islamist militants in France’s unwinnable West African war,” here.