Fauci warns against reopening too soon; White House masks up; Awful day in Afghanistan; China’s ambiguous nukes; And a bit more.

“Needless suffering and death” will follow if the U.S. reopens too soon, the country’s top infectious disease expert is warning lawmakers today, according to a preview of his testimony obtained by the New York Times. More on that warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases below. But first—

America’s National Guard chief is back to work after receiving his second negative coronavirus test on Monday. “Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was tested for COVID-19 today at Walter Reed Military Medical Center and received a negative result,” the National Guard announced after the test results came back. “This was the second negative test result since he received a positive test result during a routine screening prior to attending a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting at the White House May 9.” 

“I am happy to continue to focus on the efforts of the 46,000 Guardsmen and women who are battling this pandemic in the 50 states, three territories and District of Columbia,” Lengyel said in the statement.

Big picture: More than 80,000 Americans have now died from coronavirus complications. The grim toll was passed Monday afternoon. See a county-by-county map, along with state metrics, via this routinely updated data visualization page from Reuters.

Bigger picture: The United States remains the world’s COVID-19 hotspot, accounting for 1.34 million of the 4.19 million confirmed cases worldwide.

Fortunately, there have been no deaths in the U.S. defense community since May 1, when a civilian passed away from COVID complications. But every other metric continues to rise across the Defense Department; and that includes case counts for every service component, as well as for civilians, dependents, and contractors. Find today’s most recent figures (PDF), here.

It’s now White House policy to wear a mask when entering the West Wing, ABC News first reported Monday in a decision that would seem to undercut President Trump’s message that the virus is abating — as Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported Monday. 

What’s more, “In addition to social distancing, daily temperature checks and symptom histories, hand sanitizer, and regular deep cleaning of all work spaces, every staff member in close proximity to the president and vice president is being tested daily for COVID-19 as well as any guests,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Monday.

“Common sense has finally prevailed,” one senior administration official told Reuters about the mask policy change. As a result, Reuters noted “Staff members including Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, wore masks on White House grounds on Monday.” However, AP reported “The [mask] directive apparently doesn’t apply to the president.” 

Senators want to know how Americans can safely get back to work and school. Given ongoing testing shortfalls in the U.S., we may not get complete answers to those questions today, but we’re likely to get a more informed answer with remote testimony today from: 

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • Dr. Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control;
  • Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

And all three doctors are quarantining today after exposure to a White House staffer who tested positive for the coronavirus last week. But they’re not alone, as it were — Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is also quarantining “after a staff member of his own tested positive for COVID-19,” AP reported Monday. The Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary For Health, Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, is also testifying before Sen. Alexander’s committee. Catch the livestream, here.

Fauci’s warning. According to federal guidelines, reopening states should have a “downward trajectory of positive tests” or a two-week “downward trajectory of documented cases” with contact tracing and “sentinel surveillance” testing of asymptomatic people in vulnerable groups and places, like nursing homes. 

If states do not have those two-week declining curves and tracing efforts in place, or as Fauci called them, “the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci warned. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal,” he added, according to that statement obtained by the NYTs.

Why this matters: “In more than half of states easing restrictions last week,” the Times reports, “case counts were trending upward, the proportion of positive test results was rising, or both.”

“We’re not reopening based on science,” former CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden told the Times. “We’re reopening based on politics, ideology and public pressure. And I think it’s going to end badly.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lied to one of the president’s family members on Monday evening, insisting the previous White House “did not leave to this administration, any kind of game plan for something like this,” referring to the coronavirus pandemic. McConnell spoke to Lara Trump in a video hosted on www.donaldjtrump.com

  • In fact, the outgoing administration left a 69-page National Security Council playbook for fighting a pandemic. Politico shared the document, and reported on how the Trump White House ignored it, back in late March.

By the way: “Twitter will now warn users when tweets contain disputed or misleading information about COVID-19, as part of a new approach to misinformation that will eventually extend to other topics,” Reuters reported Monday.

From Defense One

Coronavirus Hits Top US Officials // Katie Bo Williams: Senior officials in the White House and the Pentagon are now sidelined by the virus.

What If the Pentagon Skipped 5G? // Mackenzie Eaglen: The answer to the headaches and security risks of next-generation mobile communications just might be a technological leap past them.

Pentagon Wants Help With Its Predictive Aircraft Maintenance AI // Frank R. Konkel, Nextgov: Among other things, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center needs someone to format data about H-60 helicopters in a way that an AI can learn from it.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day 200 years ago, Florence Nightingale, often called the founder of modern nursing, was born in Florence, Italy.

Gunmen kill 14 in Kabul maternity clinic amid day of violence in Afghanistan. AP: “Militants stormed a maternity hospital in the western part of Kabul on Tuesday, setting off an hours-long shootout with the police and killing 14 people, including two newborn babies, their mothers and an unspecified number of nurses, Afghan officials said.” The Taliban denied responsibility and no one else has claimed it.
Elsewhere in the country: “A suicide bomber in eastern Nangarhar province — a hotbed of the Islamic State group — targeted a funeral ceremony, killing 24 people and wounding 68. And in eastern Khost province, a bomb planted in a cart in a market killed a child and wounded 10 people.”
AP concludes: “The violence could further undermine a peace process in the wake of a deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February…” Read, here.

China’s nuclear forces have become even more dangerously ambiguous, Peter Singer and Ma Xiu report for Popular Science. Beijing has long built missiles that can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, a decision intended to make an enemy think twice about striking an ostensibly conventional missile site — but which also bumps the chance of accidental nuclear war, as that enemy has no way to know what kind of warhead is atop an incoming Chinese DF-26. 
Almost no way, that is: The Chinese military was believed to keep its nuclear and conventional forces in geographically discrete brigades. “This offered some hope that other countries could still tell the difference between China’s nuclear and conventional forces,” write Singer and Ma. “This could be set to change, though, with a discovery dating from 2017 of how China’s new DF-26 missile is being deployed.” Read on, here.

Mexico’s president orders the military back to fighting crime for five years. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador won the presidency with a promise to demilitarize the fight against drug cartels and gangs, a battle that has left hundreds of thousands dead since 2006, CNN reports. Soon after his 2018 election, he pulled the military from the streets and created a National Guard. But with murders spiking anew and amid immigration-related pressure from Washington, Lopez Obrador has ordered the military back to domestic operations. Read, here.

And finally today: New research suggests the English longbow was a bad mofo, able to “mirror damage caused by modern bullets,” the Smithsonian Magazine reported Monday. “Published last week in the Antiquaries Journal, the paper details the researchers’ analysis of centuries-old bone fragments unearthed at a Dominican friary in Exeter. In one gruesome example, the team found evidence of an arrow that pierced the top of an unlucky warrior’s right eye and exited through the back of the man’s skull, leaving devastating entry and exit wounds… The arrow that punctured the skull in question was probably fletched, or outfitted with feathers, to spin clockwise upon making contact with its victim.”
The contemporary connection: “Historically, most gun manufacturers have designed rifles with bullets that spin in a similar clockwise pattern, though a small minority prefer the so-called ‘left-hand twist,’ according to gunshot wound expert Vincent Di Maio.” Read on, here; review the research here; or check out some background on the excavation site via the BBC, here.

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