—House Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, hoping to dismantle a signature law of President Obama’s tenure. More here
—The White House unveiled its revised executive order on immigration, nearly a month after a federal appeals court declined to reinstate the ban on travelers from seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
House Republicans Introduce Their Obamacare Repeal-and-Replace Legislation
House Republicans released their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Monday night, hoping to dismantle a signature law of President Obama’s tenure. The House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees released two components of the so-called American Health Care Act, which both keeps some provisions of Obamacare and reshapes health policy in the U.S. My colleague Vann R. Newkirk II breaks down the different aspects of the proposed legislation, including how it reshapes Medicaid, uses tax credits, repeals taxes, and changes federal funding. In part, he writes:
At first glance, it appears that the most likely result nationally would be a net loss of coverage and a decrease in insurance affordability for many people who are the most vulnerable, but at least some of that effect might be offset by some enhanced state Medicaid payment capabilities and the stability fund.
The legislation will have a tough road ahead, and not just from Democrats. As my colleague Russell Berman writes, some conservative members of Congress said it doesn’t go far enough.
A Diplomatic Tit-for-Tat Between North Korea and Malaysia
Tensions between North Korea and Malaysia escalated Monday after the North Korean government announced it was temporarily banning Malaysians from leaving the country. Officials say the move was to protect its diplomats and citizens in Malaysia in the aftermath of the assassination of leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother. Earlier on Monday, Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, was expelled from the country for making disparaging remarks against the country. Three weeks ago in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, two women, one Vietnamese and one Indonesian, rubbed a VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face. He died 20 minutes later. Pyongyang is suspected of orchestrating the February 13 assassination. The two women, who have been charged with murder, claim they thought they were playing a television game. Meanwhile, two North Koreans wanted by Malaysian police in the assassination are still hiding in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters, “How much longer do they want to hide in the embassy?” The North Korean government have denied any involvement, claiming Kim died of heart failure.
The White House unveiled its revised executive order on immigration, nearly a month after a federal appeals court declined to reinstate the ban on travelers from seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries. The previous order, unveiled in late January after President Trump’s inauguration, barred travelers—including green-card holders—from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for 90 days. It also suspended the U.S. refugee intake for 120 days, and barred all Syrian refugees until further notice. The order sowed chaos at airports in the U.S. and around the world, leading to protests, as well as legal challenges that said it was discriminatory against Muslims. The new order excludes Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens are barred from entering the U.S. It also no longer indefinitely suspends the entry of Syrian refugees. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor, told Fox News this morning that Iraq has better “screening and reporting,” thereby allowing its citizens to enter the U.S. The order goes into effect March 16. A senior official from the Department of Homeland Security said: “If you’re in the United States on the effective date of this order, which March 16, it does not apply to you. If you have a valid visa on the effective date of this order, it does not apply to you. If your visa was revoked or provisionally revoked pursuant solely to this executive order on January 27 ... you can still travel on that visa. ... If you have a current, valid, multi-entry visa ... you're not going to have any issues. You’re not covered by this executive order.”
Defense Department to Investigate Marines Who Shared Photos of Nude Female Colleagues
The U.S. Department of Defense is investigating an undisclosed number of Marines for soliciting and sharing nude photos of their female colleagues online. The allegations, which were first reported by The War Horse and the Center for Investigative Reporting, concern images that were posted on a Facebook group titled “Marines United,” a 30,000-member community of male-only active Marines and veterans. In addition to sharing photos on the private Facebook page, group members could also access more photos through a Google Drive link. These posts identified the women by their name, rank, and duty station, and often drew sexually explicit and obscene comments. The start of the photo-sharing was traced back to as early late January—less than a month after the Marines welcomed their first female members of an infantry unit. The Marine Corps condemned the behavior in a statement Sunday, which it said “destroys morale, erodes trust and degrades the individual.” A privately circulated 10-page document titled “Office of Marine Corps Communications Public Affairs Guidance,” which detailed the allegations and talking points for senior Marine Corps officials, emphasized providing support for victims and accountability. It also warned of potential responses within the Marines itself, noting: “The story will likely spark shares and discussions across social media, offering venues for Marines and former Marines who may victim blame, i.e., ‘they shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place,’ or bemoan that they believe the Corps is becoming soft or politically correct.” Thomas James Brennan, the War Horse’s founder and the author of the report, said he received threats against himself and his family since he published the story. Brennan, a Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient, told the Marine Corps Times: “As a Marine veteran, I stand by the code: honor, courage and commitment. This story was published with the intention of standing up for what is right and staying true to the leadership principle of looking out for Marines and their families.”
Japan Calls North Korea's Missile Launches a 'New Level of Threat'
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described as “a new level of threat” North Korea’s launch Monday of four ballistic missiles. Three of the missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan; one fell outside the EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles from Japan’s coastline. Abe told parliament Japan would coordinate with the U.S. and South Korea over the missile launches, which coincided with a U.S.-South Korean military exercise. Pyongyang views such exercises as a provocation. North Korea’s missile launch also comes three weeks after it fired a medium-range missile, a move that coincided with Abe’s meeting with U.S. President Trump. The latest North Korean launches could embolden Abe to press for more defense spending, an issue the Japanese leader has championed.
Trump's Tweets, Accusations, and the Revised Executive Order on Immigration
President Trump’s weekend was marked by tweets that said his predecessor, Barack Obama, had secretly wiretapped him during the presidential election. A spokesman for Obama dismissed the allegation, for which Trump offered no evidence. James Comey, the FBI director, reportedly denied Obama ordered an such wiretap, as did James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. The White House in a statement Sunday said it would offer no evidence of Trump’s claim, and said it wouldn’t comment on the controversy, either. The entire episode capped a week that should have been a triumph for Trump, but instead exhibited the chaos that has marked the six weeks since he was inaugurated president. Last Tuesday, Trump was widely praised for his address to a joint session of Congress, but a day later it emerged that Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator who now serves as his attorney general, met twice with the Russian envoy to Washington during the presidential campaign. That resulted in calls by Democrats and Republicans for Sessions to recuse himself from any investigation into contacts between Trump’s campaign aides and Russia. The Washington Postprovided a colorful account of the mood at the White House following the revelations:
Back at the White House on Friday morning, Trump summoned his senior aides into the Oval Office, where he simmered with rage, according to several White House officials. He upbraided them over Sessions’s decision to recuse himself, believing that Sessions had succumbed to pressure from the media and other critics instead of fighting with the full defenses of the White House.
Separately, news reports say Trump is expected to sign his revised executive order on immigration as early as today.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
How the coronavirus travels through the air has become one of the most divisive debates in this pandemic.
Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET on April 1, 2020.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many people are now overthinking things they never used to think about at all. Can you go outside? What if you’re walking downwind of another person? What if you’re stuck waiting at a crosswalk and someone is there? What if you’re going for a run, and another runner is heading toward you, and the sidewalk is narrow? Suddenly, daily mundanities seem to demand strategy.
Much of this confusion stems from the shifting conversation around the pandemic. Thus far, the official line has been that the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, could be transmitted only through close contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces. But recently, news reports have suggested that the coronavirus can spread through the air. After 60 choir members in Washington State rehearsed together, 45 fell sick, even though no one seemed symptomatic at the time. Now people who were already feeling cooped up are worrying about going outside. Many state guidelines are ambiguous, and medical advice can muddy matters further. When the writer Deborah Copaken came down with COVID-19 symptoms, her doctor chided her for riding her bike through New York City a week earlier. Going outside in the city wasn’t safe, the physician implied, with “viral load everywhere.”
More young people in the South seem to be dying from COVID-19. Why?
In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has gone from a novel, distant threat to an enemy besieging cities and towns across the world. The burden of COVID-19 and the economic upheaval wrought by the measures to contain it feel epochal. Humanity now has a common foe, and we will grow increasingly familiar with its face.
Yet plenty of this virus’s aspects remain unknown. The developing wisdom—earned the hard way in Wuhan, Washington, and Italy—has been that older people and sicker people are substantially more likely to suffer severe illness or die from COVID-19 than their younger, healthier counterparts. Older people are much more likely than young people to have lung disease, kidney disease, hypertension, or heart disease, and those conditions are more likely to transform a coronavirus infection into something nastier. But what happens when these assumptions don’t hold up, and the young people battling the pandemic share the same risks?
Widespread social-distancing measures have produced some jarring effects across land, air, and sea.
From inside her living room in London, Paula Koelemeijer can feel the world around her growing quieter.
Koelemeijer, a seismologist, has a miniature seismometer sitting on a concrete slab at the base of her first-floor fireplace. The apparatus, though smaller than a box of tissues, can sense all kinds of movement, from the rattle of trains on the tracks near Koelemeijer’s home to the waves of earthquakes rolling in from afar. Since the United Kingdom announced stricter social-distancing rules last month, telling residents not to leave their home except for essential reasons, the seismometer has registered a sharp decrease in the vibrations produced by human activity.
With fewer trains, buses, and people pounding the pavement, the usual hum of public life has vanished, and so has its dependable rhythms: Before the spread of COVID-19 shut down the city, Koelemeijer could plot the seismometer’s data and see the train schedule reflected in the spikes, down to the minute. Now, with fewer trains running, the spikes seem to come at random.
The Trump administration has just released the model for the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. We can expect a lot of back-and-forth about whether its mortality estimates are too high or low. And its wide range of possible outcomes is certainly confusing: What’s the right number? The answer is both difficult and simple. Here’s the difficult part: There is no right answer. But here’s the simple part: Right answers are not what epidemiological models are for.
Epidemiologists routinely turn to models to predict the progression of an infectious disease. Fighting public suspicion of these models is as old as modern epidemiology, which traces its origins back to John Snow’s famous cholera maps in 1854. Those maps proved, for the first time, that London’s terrible affliction was spreading through crystal-clear fresh water that came out of pumps, not the city’s foul-smelling air. Many people didn’t believe Snow, because they lived in a world without a clear understanding of germ theory and only the most rudimentary microscopes.
The coronavirus outbreak may last for a year or two, but some elements of pre-pandemic life will likely be won back in the meantime.
Updated at 4:40 ET on March 30, 2020.
The new coronavirus has brought American life to a near standstill, closing businesses, canceling large gatherings, and keeping people at home. All of those people must surely be wondering: When will things return to normal?
The answer is simple, if not exactly satisfying: when enough of the population—possibly 60 or 80 percent of people—is resistant to COVID-19 to stifle the disease’s spread from person to person. That is the end goal, although no one knows exactly how long it will take to get there.
There are two realistic paths to achieving this “population-level immunity.” One is the development of a vaccine. The other is for the disease to work its way through the population, surely killing many, but also leaving many others—those who contract the disease and then recover—immune. “They’re just Teflon at that point,” meaning they can’t get infected again and they won’t pass on the disease, explains Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine. Once enough people reach Teflon status—though we don’t yet know if recovering from the disease confers any immunity at all, let alone lifelong immunity—normalcy will be restored. (It may also turn out to be the case that people who are immune to the disease can still pass it on under certain circumstances.)*
Almost 10 million Americans have already filed for unemployment benefits. Congress can still act to stem the tide.
For the second straight week, the U.S. workforce set a dismal unemployment record. On Thursday morning, the Labor Department reported that 6.6 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week. That figure is twice as high as the previous record of 3.3 million, set just seven days ago.
This brings the two-week total of initial claims to nearly 10 million. That’s 10 million Americans who have lost their jobs—and, in many cases, their health insurance—in the spiraling chaos of a public-health crisis. Ten million Americans who have been thrust into unemployment-insurance programs, with their company on pause, their start-up ruined, or their business closed, and no clear timeline for reopening. Ten million Americans, many effectively quarantined by local law, simultaneously dealing with sudden confinement and sudden joblessness, separated from their daily habits and prohibited from leaving their apartment to commiserate with colleagues, or seek comfort in the arms of family.
Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of theirbest work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities.
Shakespeare spent most of his career in London, where the theaters were, while his family lived in Stratford-upon-Avon. During the plague of 1606, the playwright was lucky to be spared from the epidemic—his landlady died at the height of the outbreak—and his wife and two adult daughters stayed safely in the Warwickshire countryside. Newton, meanwhile, never married or had children. He saw out the Great Plague of 1665–6 on his family’s estate in the east of England, and spent most of his adult life as a fellow at Cambridge University, where his meals and housekeeping were provided by the college.
Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
The extent of Oscar Health’s work on coronavirus testing hasn’t been previously reported.
On March 13, President Donald Trump promised Americans they would soon be able to access a new website that would ask them about their symptoms and direct them to nearby coronavirus testing sites. He said Google was helping.
That wasn’t true. But in the following days, Oscar Health—a health-insurance company closely connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner—developed a government website with the features the president had described. A team of Oscar engineers, project managers, and executives spent about five days building a stand-alone website at the government’s request, an Oscar spokesperson told The Atlantic. The company even dispatched two employees from New York to meet in person with federal officials in Washington, D.C., the spokesperson said. Then the website was suddenly and mysteriously scrapped.