Roosevelt sailor dies of COVID; Military struggles with lack of reliable test kits; Afghan peace process lives on; Pentagon restricts Zoom use; And a bit more.
A Theodore Roosevelt sailor has died of COVID-19, the U.S. Navy announced Monday. The sailor tested positive for the virus on March 30, eight days after the first case was found aboard the aircraft carrier and three days after it tied up at Guam. He was then placed in an “isolation house” ashore with four other sailors. On April 9, he was found unresponsive and moved to the ICU at Naval Hospital Guam, where he died on Monday. Navy release, here.
More than 10 percent of the carrier’s 4,865-person crew has tested positive, the Navy said Friday. Among them is the carrier’s erstwhile captain, whose ebullient send-off by the crew reportedly spurred now-former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly to fly to Guam and give a speech that ended his own career. That’s from a Sunday story in the New York Times, which added a bit to what we know about the Roosevelt saga. Here’s a timeline.
The Navy has released a set of new guidelines intended to reduce the spread of the virus, but such measures only go so far. That’s because:
The entire U.S. military is struggling with a lack of reliable COVID tests. “You can’t be sure if you test negative that you don’t have the virus,” Thomas McCaffery, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, told reporters on Friday. “Right now there is a finite capability in terms of kits, the reagents and supplies you need, and so in that environment, we want to make sure we devote those finite resources at the highest priority, and that is to test those showing symptoms, who we need to immediately treat and immediately isolate.”
The aircraft carrier Nimitz will likely deploy without comprehensive testing, among other effects, USNI News reports.
A lack of reliable tests also hinders the wider U.S. effort to bring the virus under control. What’s worse, writes longtime reporter Dan Froomkin, is that President Trump doesn’t seem to realize that any attempt to “reopen the country” will need to start with plans for much wider testing and contact tracing. Froomkin rounds up three such plans, for your consideration:
- A National and State Plan To End the Coronavirus Crisis, from the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank. Its lead author is Zeke Emanuel, a medical ethicist, University of Pennsylvania professor and former Obama health care adviser.
- National coronavirus response: A road map to reopening, from the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. Its lead author is Scott Gottlieb, a physician and venture capitalist who was Donald Trump’s first FDA commissioner.
- A National COVID-19 Surveillance System: Achieving Containment, from Duke University’s Center for Health Policy. Its lead author is Mark McClellan, who served in the George W. Bush administration as FDA commissioner and administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
From Defense One
Trump Doesn't Know How to Safely Reopen the Country. Here Are 3 Ways to Do It // Dan Froomkin: The president isn't talking about America's need to vastly expand testing and tracking — and the tradeoffs that might require.
NATO Should Always Work From Home // Hans Binnendijk and Christopher Skaluba: Alliance leaders are using virtual meetings to make quicker decisions. That’s exactly what Russia should fear.
The Air Force and Navy Are Testing This App to Stay Fit Amid Social Distancing // Patrick Tucker: A biometric data app is helping the services monitor the health of sailors and airmen stuck at home.
Wear Homemade Masks If You Can't Get Real Ones, Pentagon Tells Its People// Erich Wagner, Government Executive: N95 respirators and surgical masks will be reserved for health care workers and patients, the Defense Department said in a series of memos this week.
US Intelligence Agencies Are Told to Be Flexible with Contractors During Coronavirus // Frank R. Konkel, Nextgov: New guidance recommends immediate contract modifications to allow some contractors to remain at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congress Hears Options—And Concerns—for Using Smartphone Data to Fight Coronavirus // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: Other countries have been using various forms of location- and proximity-tracing to slow the spread of the disease, with widely varying levels of privacy protections.
How Much of the Coronavirus Damage Is Trump’s Fault? // David Frum, The Atlantic: The United States is on trajectory to suffer more sickness, more dying, and more economic harm from this virus than any other comparably developed country.
Welcome to this Monday 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 in 1960, the U.S. launched the Transit 1B satellite, which put a Navy navigation system known as NAVSAT or NNSS into orbit — although the system didn't become operational until 1964. It would remain in use until 1996, when GPS first came online.
Afghan peace process lives on: The Taliban freed 20 Afghan prisoners in an apparent gesture of good faith as the Kabul government has now released 300 Taliban prisoners, Voice of America reported Sunday.
Reminder: “The prisoner exchange is part of a landmark February 29 deal the United States signed with the Taliban in Qatar with a goal to finding a negotiated end to the Afghan war, now in its 19th year. The agreement requires Afghan authorities to set free up to 5,000 insurgent inmates and the Taliban to free 1,000 detainees, mostly Afghan security forces, before intra-Afghan peace negotiations could begin.”
Bigger picture: “Critics say the extremely slow pace of the prisoner swap means it will be weeks if not months before intra-Afghan talks could begin.”
And America’s top war commander met with the Taliban Friday evening, a U.S. military spokesman told VOA. U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller heard at least one of the Taliban’s chief gripes — “night raids in non-combat areas,” a Taliban spox told VOA. The Taliban want those to stop.
From the region: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Maldives are expected to fall into a recession, the World Bank says today, which would be the worst economic slump in 40 years, Reuters reports. “To minimize short-term economic pain, the Bank called for countries in the region to announce more fiscal and monetary steps to support unemployed migrant workers, as well as debt relief for businesses and individuals.”
Trump rejects Seoul, again. South Korea offered to pay 13% more to host U.S. troops than last year, but that wasn’t enough of a price increase for President Trump, The Korea Herald reported Sunday. Reuters first reported the developments late last week, noting “Seoul’s proposed increase was far below even the substantially lowered expectations of the Trump administration, who had initially sought an exponential increase to as much $5 billion from the roughly $900 million South Korea agreed to in the last one-year, cost-sharing agreement.”
So what now? “Unfortunately it seems like this just could drag on,” said an expert from the conservative U.S. think tank, the Heritage Foundation. More here.
The Pentagon now says “DOD users may not host meetings using Zoom's free or commercial offerings.” They can, however, use Zoom for Government for VTCs about “publicly releasable DOD information not categorized as ‘For Official Use Only,’” Voice of America reported Friday. Zoom for Government is “a paid tier service that is hosted in a separate cloud authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.” Details, here.
Coronavirus, continued: The U.S. Naval Academy is cancelling all public events of this year’s Commissioning Week 2020. The mids, who never returned from spring break, are continuing their studies at home or elsewhere. USNI News, here.
A look inside the White House emergency-response effort, where a task force led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner “has favored big companies over small ones, created a convoluted emergency response system, and sown confusion in the states. It has also operated in the dark and without accountability,” NBC News reports.
Militarize the U.S.-Canada border? Joint Chiefs say no. CBP reportedly asked for $145 million in U.S. military support to surveil the U.S.-Canada border with mobile cameras and ground sensors. The plan was rebuffed by the Joint Chiefs due to concerns over Canada's response, per Pentagon docs leaked to The Nation's Ken Klippenstein last week.
Bringing out the crazies. “A conspiracy theory linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G wireless technology has spurred more than 100 incidents [in the UK] this month,” the New York Times reported late last week.
How that conspiracy theory is framed: “Under the false idea, which has gained momentum in Facebook groups, WhatsApp messages and YouTube videos, radio waves sent by 5G technology are causing small changes to people’s bodies that make them succumb to the virus.”
In pandemic food supply news, British bakers have reintroduced a bread recipe from World War II for the coronavirus fight, NBC News reported Saturday. Why now? “a scarcity of ingredients and a concern for public health are challenging the culinary status quo.”
Back in the states, Smithfield Foods warned of possible meat shortages during the ongoing pandemic, Reuters reported Sunday. That's the word after "Smithfield extended the closure of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after initially saying it would idle temporarily for cleaning. The facility is one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production… Other major U.S. meat and poultry processors, including Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), Cargill Inc [CARG.UL] and JBS USA [JBS.UL] have already idled plants in other states."
Today we learned: “North American meat demand has dropped some 30% in the past month as declining sales of restaurant meats like steaks and chicken wings outweighed a spike in retail demand for ground beef,” Reuters reports today. “Frozen meats in U.S. cold storage facilities remain plentiful, but supply could be whittled down as exports to protein-hungry China increase after a trade agreement removed obstacles for American meat purchases.” Read more about problems in North American meat plant business operations, here.
In recent days, stimulus checks have begun arriving to American taxpayers’ bank accounts — unless those taxpayers are immigrants. The LA Times has that angle on haves and have-nots in an attempt to rejuvenate the U.S. economy, here.
For the White House, many, many warnings. A New York Times story “reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.”
Shorter version: “Five Takeaways on What Trump Knew as the Virus Spread.”
And finally today: Reach out to the world with what’s effectively a radio station spanning the entire globe. In these quarantined times, it can be a pleasant diversion to hear what folks in Cyprus are listening to this morning, or what those on the West African archipelago of Sao Vicente are hearing — even Kandahar, Afghanistan. Your radio tour of the world here.