COVID sidelines Navy destroyer; Lebanon is reeling; Australians rush to get tracking app; Red-teaming the World Series; And a bit more.
A Navy destroyer is headed to San Diego with about four dozen cases of COVID-19 onboard. The USS Kidd “was taking part in a U.S. Southern Command enhanced counter-narcotics operation to disrupt the flow of drugs,” the U.S. Naval Institute News reported Monday. Now it’s “the second U.S. Navy ship to report having crew members who tested positive for COVID-19 while deployed.” The first, of course, was CVN-71.
Forty-seven sailors on the Kidd have tested positive for the virus, and two were “flown to shore to receive treatment,” USNI writes. Fifteen other “sailors have been transferred to amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island to be monitored by the ship’s medical personnel.”
Big picture: The Navy has 1,691 sailors with COVID-19 cases; the Army has 998; the National Guard has 801 current cases; the Air Force has 351; and the Marine Corps has 308.
Visualized: Here are the U.S. military’s still-ascending curves in two charts, according to the latest numbers from today.
President Trump has been quietly pushing for a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan before the coronavirus takes over the country, NBC News reported Monday. One big behind-the-scenes catch: “[T]he president's military advisers have made the case to him that if the U.S. pulls troops out of Afghanistan because of the coronavirus, by that standard the Pentagon would also have to withdraw from places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.”
One “more likely” alternative involves “consolidat[ing] American forces at bases in one or two parts of the country” instead of a total withdrawal. More to all that, here.
Back stateside, eight senators slammed Defense Secretary Esper’s handling of the military’s COVID response. In a Monday letter, the Democratic lawmakers cited a late-February videoconference with top commanders, reported by the New York Times, in which he “urged American military commanders overseas not to make any decisions […] that might surprise the White House or run afoul of President Trump’s messaging on the growing health challenge.” Read on, here.
The CDC updated and expanded the common symptoms associated with a COVID-19 infection this weekend. In addition to the well-known fever, cough and shortness of breath, these five symptoms could also suggest an infection:
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste and/or smell
“Normal” is still a long way off; but here are a few possible ways U.S. businesses and institutions could approach reopening, according to draft guidance from the CDC and obtained by the Associated Press on Monday:
- Close break rooms for employees;
- Install plexiglass-like sneeze guards at customer contact points;
- Consider disposable menus, plasticware and plates for restaurants;
- Encourage livestreaming church or drive-in services where everyone wears a mask and the collection box is in a fixed location;
- Widen the space between desks at schools and have children eat in classrooms rather than school cafeterias.
Those all come from “decision trees” the CDC has drawn up “for at least seven types of organizations: schools, camps, childcare centers, religious facilities, mass transit systems, workplaces, and bars/restaurants,” AP writes, with the caveat that this all “still amounts to little more than advice.”
As before, what the U.S. needs now is "millions more tests, 100,000 or more health workers to track and isolate those exposed to COVID-19, and a seamless data network to coordinate the effort," AP reports, adding, “The U.S. is far from implementing any of this.” Coverage continues below.
From Defense One
Pentagon’s Esper Was Too Slow With Coronavirus Response, Senate Democrats Say // Ben Watson and Katie Bo Williams: In a letter, lawmakers accuse the SecDef of causing confusion, showing ‘dangerous misunderstanding’ of the virus, and harming readiness.
Do You Miss Baseball? Here’s How the Pentagon Might Have Predicted the Nationals’ World Series Upset // Dave Moniz: Red teaming can help spot flawed assumptions, root out dangerous biases—and explain how oddsmakers got the Nats-Astros matchup so wrong.
COVID-19 Offers a Golden Opportunity to Reengage with the Indo-Pacific // Jeffrey Becker: But the U.S. must act quickly, lest China turn the pandemic to its own advantage.
The Pentagon's Spectrum Defeat May Presage a Loss of Other Key Frequencies // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: Rejecting appeals by Defense officials and their Congressional allies, the FCC approved a private company's use of spectrum near ones used by GPS.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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 1952, U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower resigned his post as NATO’s first Supreme Allied Commander so that he could campaign for U.S. president on the Republican ticket. Less than seven months later, he would become the 34th President of the United States.
The White House unveiled on Monday a “blueprint” for getting to 2 million tests per week. STAT News reports the plan “would represent a dramatic testing capacity increase for the U.S., where roughly 5.4 million coronavirus tests have been conducted to date. Yet it also represents the low end of what many public health officials estimate the country will require to safely reopen.”
The short-term goal of that plan: Get to 2 million tests per week by the end of May. The question of how was largely left unanswered by the WH, according to STAT News, which writes, “Much of the testing responsibility appears likely to fall on private companies [like Quest Diagnostics, e.g.], many of which on Monday announced expansions of their own testing capacity.” Read on, here.
The big question for Americans: “In the absence of a vaccine or other reassuring measures — and in the face of a threat that is largely invisible — how will Americans believe that it’s safe to go out again?” More from AP, here.
Florida is slow-rolling its reopening (borrowing a page from Dr. Leo Marvin’s book) because state health officials know testing has to increase substantially before reopening ought to proceed. The Tampa Bay Times reported Monday “The state needs to test 150 people for every 100,000 residents every day, said Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of University of South Florida’s College of Medicine who appeared alongside [Governor Ron] DeSantis at Tampa General. That’s about 33,000 people every day, more than double the current rate, or 2,250 just in Hillsborough County.” More from Florida, here.
Germany has a modest increase in infections after slightly easing its lockdown, but the uptick isn’t alarming just yet. More here.
Russia’s healthcare system is beginning to take a beating from a surge in coronavirus cases. According to AP in Moscow, “The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has risen quickly to more than 87,000 with nearly 800 deaths, although some in the West question the accuracy of those reports. Most of Russia’s big cities have been locked down since March 30 under measures set to expire Thursday.” More, here.
New Delhi police are dressing like coronavirus “zombies” to discourage lockdown violations in India’s capital city. ABC News has that video report, here.
In tech news, one-tenth of Australians have downloaded the country’s coronavirus tracking app. The country’s health ministry posted the app on Sunday, and it was downloaded one million times in the first five hours. Today nearly 2.5 million Aussies (out of a population of about 25 million) have it on their phone, CNN reports. Based on an app used by Singapore, COVIDSafe uses Bluetooth to track proximity to others; and, as these things go, that’s drawn fire from privacy advocates.
- Is using Bluetooth for contact tracing legit? Researchers with the University of South Florida are looking into that question now, Tampa’s Bay9 News reported Monday evening. And the American Civil Liberties Union considered the question in an analysis released online April 8. The ACLU’s long story short: “Because location tracking has such ominous potential implications, in short, we should make sure that any uses of such sensitive data are necessary, effective, and proportionate.” More here.
The U.S.-based company Zipline wants drones to deliver virus tests and supplies in North Carolina in the weeks ahead, WIRED reported last week. Zipline is already doing those things in Ghana.
Some specs about these drones:
- They launch via catapult;
- Have an 11-foot wingspan;
- Can carry up to four pounds of stuff;
- 60 mph top speed;
- 100-mile range;
- Drops parachuted payload at an altitude of about 40 feet. Read on, here.
If all that sounds familiar, it’s probably because our Tech Editor Patrick Tucker wrote about Zipline testing its drone deliveries with the U.S. Marine Corps back in October.
#LongRead: A U.S. Army reservist has become the target of conspiracy theorists who say she brought the disease to China. CNN has that one, here.
Lebanon is reeling: “Daily protests are back. The currency has lost more than half its value on a parallel market, prices are out of control and social distancing is a thing of the past,” tweeted Zeina Karam, AP’s news director for Lebanon. More from AP, here.
Cyber attack targeted Israel’s water supply, internal report claims. YNet News says the country’s Water Authority thwarted an attempted incursion over the weekend, and told all personnel to change their passwords. “The memo went on to say if the passwords could not be changed, the system should be disconnected from the internet entirely.” A bit more, here.
Batten down the hatches: Penn State researchers predict that this summer will bring "one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record" with "a best estimate of 20 named storms" arriving between June 1 and November 30. (Note: The D Brief initially described the 20 or so named storms as category 4; researchers did not in fact go that far describing the estimated 20 storms expected this year.) More from PSU’s Earth System Science Center, here.
For comparison, last year saw 18 named storms; 2018 had 15; 17 in 2017; 15 in 2016; 18 in 2015. More on historical trends from NOAA, here.
And lastly today: The U.S. Navy decided it’s time to release a cache of UFO-related videos. The NYT reported on the HUD recordings back in 2017, but now Naval Air Systems Command has determined that they contain nothing whose release would harm national security. NAVAIR has posted them online, and Military Times has the backstory, here.