The Daily 202: Trump seems to remain in denial about coronavirus dangers, as the coverup continues

The Trump presidency has presented scores of painful lessons on the limitations of the power of positive thinking. Climate change continues to make fires, floods and hurricanes worse, even if Trump denies it and his political appointees seek to erase mentions of it from government reports. Russia interfered in the 2016 election and the intelligence community agrees the Kremlin is trying once again to influence the 2020 campaign, but Trump struggles to accept that reality because, current and former aides say, he believes that acknowledging the Kremlin’s support for his campaign would undermine his legitimacy. And so on.

But nothing captures the hubris of trying to spin the primal forces of nature into submission more than the president’s response to the novel coronavirus.

Trump said in January that the coronavirus was “totally under control” and that there would be only a few U.S. cases before the number would “go down to zero.” On Feb. 28, Trump said: “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” In March, Trump said people would be able to celebrate vanquishing the coronavirus by going to church on Easter. 

That was more than six months ago. Trump downplayed the dangers of the contagion not just at the country’s peril – but his own. Watching these clips with the benefit of hindsight makes the president sound like Baghdad Bob as U.S. forces closed in on the Iraqi capital in March 2003.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to test positive. She announced in a statement on Monday that she has no symptoms and will continue to work – but from home.

Apparently, denialism can be infectious, as well. The White House’s lead physician, Sean Conley, acknowledged at a news conference on Sunday that he intentionally withheld information about Trump’s blood-oxygen levels plummeting in order to put a positive spin on the president’s condition. “I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, that his course of illness, has had,” Conley said. “I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction. And in doing so, you know, it came off that we were trying to hide something, which wasn’t necessarily true.”

A virus does not care what a doctor says at a news conference. White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters that Conley was trying to project positive for Trump’s sake during his public remarks on Saturday. “When you’re treating a patient, you want to project confidence, you want to lift their spirits, and that was the intent,” she said.

Positive thinking has certainly gotten Trump far in life, and it can be very helpful for a patient fighting a disease. Everyone wishes the president well and hopes he recovers as speedily as possible and with no long-term damage. But Conley was not speaking to Trump during his Saturday news conference. He was addressing the American people.

Since being hospitalized on Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, the president has been treated with the steroid dexamethasone, the antiviral drug remdesivir and a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies that has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Outside doctors think Trump may be the first coronavirus patient ever given all three of these strong treatments simultaneously, along with a handful of supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Medical experts we checked with called it a kitchen-sink approach that suggests the president is in worse shape than the White House is claiming.

Trump, who ostensibly remains highly contagious, appears to still be in denial about the risks he poses to others by trying to return to the White House before doctors would advise him to do so – and by going for a ride in his motorcade at Walter Reed on Sunday afternoon to see well-wishers outside the gates. Current and former Secret Service agents and medical professionals were aghast about Trump’s car ride outside the hospital, saying the president endangered those inside his SUV for a publicity stunt, Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Hannah Knowles report. “As the backlash grew, multiple aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations also called Trump’s evening outing an unnecessary risk — but said it was not surprising.  Trump had said he was bored in the hospital, advisers said. He wanted to show strength after his chief of staff offered a grimmer assessment of his health than doctors.”

  • “He’s not even pretending to care now,” one current Secret Service agent said after the president’s jaunt outside Walter Reed.
  • “Where are the adults?” said a former member of the Secret Service.

As the virus spread among the people closest to him last week, Trump asked an adviser not to disclose results of their own positive test. “Don’t tell anyone,” Trump said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

We found out that Trump himself tested positive on a rapid test that he took Thursday and was awaiting the results of a second, more reliable, test when he called into Sean Hannity’s show that night. He did not reveal the news to the Fox News host. Former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway’s teen daughter, Claudia, broke the news on Friday, via her social media platforms, that her mom was infected. Claudia Conway says she, too, has now tested positive for the virus.

There are other indications that the president’s attempted coverup continues. “Farah told reporters Sunday that the White House would be more forthcoming going forward, and would release information about the number of aides who have tested positive for the virus. Later Sunday, [McEnany] indicated that such information would not be released, citing privacy considerations. Several White House officials are still waiting to learn if they will be infected,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Dawsey and Amy Goldstein report. “Nick Luna, Trump’s personal assistant, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a senior administration official. … Meanwhile, at least two White House residence staffers contracted the virus some weeks ago and were sent home. Administration officials do not believe those staffers directly gave the virus to the president, given the passage of time since their cases.” Neither of those cases were disclosed to the public. The White House did not acknowledge that senior adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive until a reporter for Bloomberg News broke the story.

There is a lot the White House still will not say. Conley declined to answer when asked how Trump’s lungs have been affected by the virus, whether he has pneumonia and what his exact temperature has been. The White House refuses to say when Trump last tested negative for the coronavirus. That is a critical piece of information to determine how long the president may have been contagious — and how many people he may have put at risk by traveling to Ohio, Minnesota and New Jersey. 

And Trump continues to put a positive spin on his experience. In a video he posted to Twitter on Sunday evening, Trump said he’s “learned a lot” about covid-19. “I learned it by really going to school,” the president said from his hospital suite. “This is the real school; this isn’t the let’s-read-the-books school. And I get it. And I understand it. And it’s a very interesting thing. And I’m going to be letting you know about it.”

The American people do not approve of Trump’s denialism. An ABC News-Ipsos poll conducted in the two days after Trump announced his diagnosis found that 72 percent said both that the president did not take the “risk of contracting the virus seriously enough” and that he did not take “the appropriate precautions when it came to his personal health.” The poll, released Sunday, found that 43 percent of Republicans shared the negative sentiments about Trump’s mind-set and preventative actions regarding the coronavirus. Overall approval for the president’s handling of the pandemic held steady at 35 percent, where it has been since early July.

Trump aides acknowledge that the president’s illness has been unhelpful because it draws national attention to his administration’s handling of the pandemic,” Phil Rucker, Dawsey and Annie Linskey report. “They also say that the president being hospitalized undercuts what he views as his main attribute over Biden: That he appears stronger and tougher. ‘Anytime the conversation is about coronavirus, it’s not helpful for us,’ said a senior administration official … “No matter the head winds, members of the Trump team said they have not lost hope. Veterans of his 2016 campaign recall that Trump appeared doomed after the ‘Access Hollywood’ video showing him bragging about sexual assault was revealed … 

Jason Miller, a campaign adviser, said the president is ‘chomping at the bit’ to hit the road again for in-person campaign events. … Miller said he spoke to him late Sunday. He also said Trump was planning to ‘lead on the virus’ because he is a ‘senior citizen who has beat it.’ … He has told allies that whenever he resumes campaigning, he will change his message on the pandemic to speak in personal terms about how he beat the virus, advisers say. … Aides do not expect to have him back on the road for at least 10 to 14 days.”

The assertion by Trump’s doctors that he could be discharged from the hospital as early as today astonished outside infectious-disease experts. “Medical consensus has emerged that covid-19 patients are especially vulnerable for a period of a week to 10 days after their first symptoms,” Ariana Eunjung Cha and Goldstein report. “Some patients who seem relatively healthy suddenly deteriorate, either because of the virus itself or an excessive immune response that can cause damage to several organs, including the heart. A multitude of possible cardiac complications have also been associated with covid-19, the most prominent of which involves a hardening of the walls of the heart that makes it difficult to pump blood and can lead to heart failure. … 

Several doctors expressed worry there is no data indicating how dexamethasone, remdesivir and the experimental cocktail of monoclonal antibodies that Trump is taking might react with each other, especially in an overweight 74-year-old man with a mild heart condition who is in the high risk group for severe coronavirus disease. “Dexamethasone is recommended only in patients who are extremely ill, according to many guidelines, but a number of hospitals routinely give the drug to any patient who requires supplemental oxygen, if only for a few hours. A recent study found it tends to reduce deaths from the virus but nearly a quarter of infected patients getting it with supplemental oxygen — as Trump has — still died. Steroids in high doses and over long periods of time also can lead to serious changes in mental status that include delirium, hallucinations and confusion,” per Eunjung Cha and Goldstein.

Hydroxychloroquine is not on the list of medications his doctors said Trump is taking at Walter Reed. Another treatment missing from Trump’s regimen arsenal is a blood thinner given as a standard practice these days to any hospitalized patient with covid-19 to reduce the risk of clots. In the spring, many doctors were surprised to find that microclots that appear in the lungs and heart appeared to be killing some patients. Doctors speculated the president may have declined the treatment after what happened to his younger brother, Robert, who died in August due to brain bleeds. He had been taking blood thinners. … Trump is also taking two unproven supplements (vitamin D and zinc) and an over-the-counter drug (famotidine, the active ingredient in heart burn medication Pepcid.)”

Conley, as Trump’s lead doctor, is drawing scrutiny for more than just his rosy assessments at the news conferences this weekend. This spring, the 40-year-old Navy commander confided to co-workers that he was laboring under intense personal stress in his job as White House physician and said the pressures of the job were weighing on him, Leonnig and Bob O’Harrow report: “Some of Conley’s former colleagues said they were disappointed in what they view as his lack of independence from White House politics. ‘Every statement he is giving appears to be political, dictated by the White House or the president,’ said one person who has worked with him … Questions about Conley began bubbling this spring when he treated Trump with hydroxychloroquine … The White House has also repeatedly cited Conley in statements asserting that the administration was properly mitigating the risks of covid-19.

“Former colleagues describe Conley as pleasant and collegial but said he lacks the extensive management experience that previous occupants of the job had. … Conley is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, while his predecessors have been internists or general practitioners. … Osteopath training focuses on the relationship of the bones and the body and on treatment of the musculoskeletal system. … The dynamics of Conley’s role in the military, like those of many of his predecessors, make it difficult for him to push back against Trump, former administration officials noted. As a Navy officer, Conley ultimately reports to the president and cannot defy an order from the commander in chief.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a contact tracing team ready to go, according to multiple sources, but had not been asked to mobilize,” per Dawsey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Joel Achenbach. “Officials in Minnesota, Ohio and New Jersey, where Trump held events in recent days, said they haven’t heard from the White House and are racing largely on their own to find people potentially exposed to the virus. … Numerous guests at the crowded Sept. 26 Rose Garden event at which Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his high court nominee said they have not been contacted by anyone at the White House even though at least seven attendees have since tested positive. … D.C. officials expressed alarm the Rose Garden event, which was held in conflict with a city ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, could lead to a resurgence of the virus just as officials weighed a partial reopening of public schools. … 

“Joe Grogan, former head of the domestic policy council under Trump, said the White House complex is old and typically jam-packed with staffers working 12 to 16 hours a day. ‘Things spread like wildfire in the West Wing. It’s the most unhealthy place I have ever worked. People are just sick all the time,’ Grogan said.”

The president’s supporters continue to hold a vigil outside Walter Reed. 

“Fifty supporters danced on the northbound curb of Rockville Pike, elbows and knees within inches of side-view mirrors moving at 40 mph. The blare of horns competed with AC/DC and Lee Greenwood. Men with bullhorns walked around, calling for ‘eight more years,’ praying to God, needling journalists and the handful of protesters across the street, at the intersection of the pike and South Wood Road,” Dan Zak reports. “Trump is sick, so the rally has come to him, with all the hallmarks: relentless noise, cultish fervor glazed with folksy politeness, and general masklessness … He probably cannot see them from his window, given the trees, but perhaps he hears them. They are very loud.” 

America’s enemies may try to take advantage of our distracted country and vulnerable president. 

“The U.S. president is hospitalized with a virus he refused to treat as a grave threat, in the final weeks of an election whose results he will not pledge to accept, as the nation confronts a struggling economy, an unyielding pandemic and racial unrest. The combination of these crises has plunged the United States into a vortex of potential vulnerability that national security experts said is probably without precedent,” Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung report. “Consumed by its own difficulties, the country is in a poor position to respond to provocations by adversaries, advance its foreign policy interests with support from allies, or serve as a credible model of functioning democracy, former senior national security officials said.”

Quote of the day

“I see weakness and division and above all else distractedness,” said Nick Rasmussen, who served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Obama and Trump administrations. “Any problem anywhere else is just a third- or fourth-order problem right now because we are so self-absorbed, inward looking and consumed with our own toxicity. And when you’re distracted, you make mistakes.”

Current and former U.S. officials said that Trump’s infection was widely seen overseas as a direct consequence of his troubled handling of the pandemic and part of a broader, disturbing pattern of perceived incompetence and turbulence,” Miller and DeYoung report.‘There’s been a steady series of emails just repeatedly asking, at repeated junctures, ‘What in the world is going on?’ said a former senior U.S. intelligence official in frequent contact with counterparts. Trump’s refusal to wear masks or abide by other protective measures has baffled foreign officials, the intelligence official said, describing Trump’s symptoms as an ‘extraordinary manifestation of the obtuseness of his approach to the coronavirus.’”

Contrast Trump’s cavalier and reckless personal behavior to Vladimir Putin’s. The Russian president has spent the last six months in almost total isolation at a country estate outside Moscow, running his government via videoconference. Those who visit him in person reportedly must first quarantine for 14 days and obtain a negative coronavirus test result. And they must pass through a “disinfectant tunnel” to get into his residence, where strict social distancing is maintained.

Commentary from The Post’s opinion page:

  • Fred Hiatt: “Only the Trump team could spin this into even riskier messaging about the virus.” 
  • Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald Reagan: “Presidents don’t get privacy. My father understood that — even when he was shot.”
  • Leana Wen: “Doctors say Trump may go home Monday. Based on what they’ve told us, that’s a bad idea.” 
  • James Downie: “Reality smacks Trumpworld, but the bubble remains.” 
  • John Barry: “History tells us what a virus can do to a president.” 
  • Joseph Allen: “The White House coronavirus outbreak shows that testing alone is not enough.” 

Pope Francis’s new encyclical warns about the world going backward.

“The document amounts to a papal stand against tribalism, xenophobia, and the dangers of the social media age. It also marks a test for Francis in the eighth year of his papacy, at a time when his message has become familiar, and is often overshadowed by the louder voices he warns about,” Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrlli report. “He argues that the world’s response to the crisis shows the depth of humanity’s mistrust and fractures. … For Americans, certain passages will likely read as a warning against Trump-style politics. … ‘Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures,’ Francis writes. …

He describes steps he says countries should take to more adeptly integrate migrants. He says businesses should direct themselves to eliminate poverty, ‘especially through the creation of diversified work opportunities.’ He says people born into privilege must remember that others — the poor, the disabled — need a ‘proactive state’ more than they do. Other ideas are more fundamental, and deal with listening to the points of view of others. ‘Other cultures are not ‘enemies’ from which we need to protect ourselves, but differing reflections of the inexhaustible richness of human life,’ Francis writes. He includes a critique of consumerism, ‘empty individualism,’ and the free market.”

“As has been customary for him, the pope reiterated the church’s teaching against abortion — a word that does not appear directly in the document — but did so while discussing other social problems. For example, he cited his earlier condemnations of ‘a ‘throwaway’ world’ that lacks respect for the ‘poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ — like the unborn — or ‘no longer needed’ — like the elderly,’” notes columnist E.J. Dionne. “At the same time, reflecting his effort to strengthen church teaching against capital punishment, Francis included 12 references to the death penalty, which he called ‘inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice.’”

“Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned [from the pandemic] was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality,” the pope writes. “God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those’, but only ‘us’. … If only we might keep in mind all those elderly persons who died for lack of respirators, partly as a result of the dismantling, year after year, of healthcare systems. … Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and counter-charges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation.”

More on the election

Candidates and debate organizers plan on pushing ahead with in-person events.

“The vice-presidential candidates are still scheduled to convene in Salt Lake City on Wednesday despite last week’s presidential debate resulting in at least 11 positive cases by people involved in preparations,” Michael Scherer reports. “The vice-presidential contenders will similarly be situated about 12 feet apart on an indoor stage, an increase from the planned seven-foot separation. The change was made after Trump’s positive coronavirus test. The arrangement meets federal health guidelines but does not rule out transmission of the virus between the two candidates, given the possibility of aerosol spread, say public health experts. Nor does it ensure that others gathering for the event will be free of danger. … 

Biden, who tested negative for the virus again Sunday, plans to travel Monday to Florida for a visit to Hispanic neighborhoods and participate in a televised town hall in Miami, followed by a drive-in rally in Boca Raton. A trip to Arizona is planned for later in the week, and his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), is expected to resume a full travel schedule as well. Trump’s campaign has also announced a restart of in-person campaigning by the president’s family and Vice President Pence after the debate … Both campaigns are seeking to avoid following separate federal guidelines that call for people who are directly exposed to the virus to self-quarantine for 14 days … The Biden campaign maintains that Biden’s participation in the debate last week does not count as exposure or close contact, even though Trump probably had the virus days before.”

A WSJ-NBC poll found Biden ahead of Trump by 14 points after the debate but before his hospitalization.

The Democrat’s 53 percent to 39 percent lead among registered voters is up from an 8-point lead in their previous survey. “The 14-point advantage represents Biden’s largest lead in the NBC News/WSJ poll during the entire campaign; his previous high was 11 points in July,” NBC News reports. “The biggest declines for Trump were among seniors (who now back Biden by 62 percent to 35 percent) and suburban women (58 percent to 33 percent). And men 50 years and older moved to a 1-point advantage for Biden in the latest poll, compared to a 13-point advantage for Trump in the pre-debate NBC News/WSJ poll.”

The Senate’s outbreak casts doubt on the GOP’s pre-election rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett.

At least two of the dozen Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have tested positive: Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Thom Tillis (N.C.). Two others — Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) have tested negative but are self-quarantining upon medical advice. But all four have said they plan to return to Washington by Oct. 12 so that they can attend the confirmation hearing. The third Republican senator known to currently have the virus is Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), while others, such as Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), are self-quarantining as a precaution after being exposed to other senators who tested positive.

Democrats are cranking up their push to postpone the Oct. 12 confirmation hearings, citing the safety of members, aides and Barrett herself,” Seung Min Kim reports. “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded that Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) require all members of the Judiciary Committee to be tested before participating in Barrett’s confirmation hearing. Democrats have also insisted that remote participation, even for senators, is inadequate for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. … Barrett plans to testify in person, according to a Republican aide … ‘The one thing I want people to know is that the virus is serious, but we have to move on as a nation. When a military member gets infected, you don’t shut down the whole unit,’ Graham said during a debate Saturday against his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison. … 

If more of his members continue to fall ill or are forced into isolation, the math for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is virtually impossible to overcome. That is especially the case if Democrats — who have adhered to stricter guidelines than Republicans, meeting virtually for party lunches rather than in person like GOP senators do — remain healthy and present. McConnell has already lost the support of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), although only Collins has explicitly said she would vote against Barrett on the floor should a vote be held before the election. The first obstacle for Republicans may be the committee vote, tentatively planned for Oct. 22. To report out a nomination, a majority of the 22-member committee will need to be present, and Democratic senators will not help Republicans make quorum, aides said Sunday. … McConnell can take procedural steps to bring Barrett’s nomination to the floor without any committee vote, but that would require the consent of 60 senators. … 

Outside advisers working on the confirmation have suggested a system in which the committee vote would be held in the Senate chamber, with ill senators voting from the visitors’ galleries above the floor so they can maintain distance. … Republicans are promising to press forward — virus or not, healthy or infected.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Sunday on Fox News: “There is a long tradition of . . . ill or medically infirm senators being wheeled in to cast critical votes on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) won’t run for governor or reelection in 2022. 

Toomey, 58, is expected to make the announcement Monday at a news conference in Bethlehem, Donna Cassata and Robert Costa report. Toomey informed McConnell of his plans over the weekend. “As the only Republican holding statewide office other than judges, Toomey was widely seen as the likely Republican favorite for governor in 2022. His decision not to run for that office or for Senate could create two wide-open contests on the Republican side,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “He had made several moves that fueled speculation he would run, including playing an unusually vocal role in critiquing Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus response — a relatively rare foray into a state-government issue. He also helped raise money for Heather Heidelbaugh, the Republican running against Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Shapiro is seen as a likely Democratic candidate for governor, so bruising him could have helped Toomey in a potential 2022 match up.”

More on the coronavirus

Thousands of chairs were lined up in front of the White House as a solemn reminder of covid-19 victims. 

“Nearly five months after his father’s death, Brian Walter still can’t shake the feeling that he might’ve caused it. As a New York City subway worker, Walter, 46, was exempt from the stay-at-home mandate that he hoped would keep others in his family safe. He became the designated shopper for his parents and sanitized everything he brought into their home. But despite all their precautions, Walter and his father, John, both contracted the novel coronavirus, and after 19 days in the hospital, John Walter died May 10,” Michael Brice-Saddler reports. “Covid Survivors for Change, a network aimed at helping those affected by the virus locate support groups and other resources, declared Sunday a national day of remembrance.” Walter was on the Ellipse with dozens of other people directly affected by the contagion. He and other volunteers placed 20,000 empty black chairs. Each represented 10 Americans who have died of covid-19. “’It’s very important we get the message across that this is not a hoax or a conspiracy or a fake illness,’” Walter said.

A relief deal remains elusive. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that there is no deal yet on a new relief package. “Negotiations continued over the weekend, but there was little sign a breakthrough would be imminent,” Erica Werner reports. “Pelosi asked airlines on Friday to hold off on impending furloughs of tens of thousands of workers pending a deal. United and American, the major carriers that have threatened furloughs, have said they can reverse them if there is a deal to extend payroll support for the industry that just expired, but Congress must act fast. … House members left Washington on Friday for what was supposed to be a recess through the election, but if a deal does emerge, they could be called back to vote on it.”

New U.S. cases are increasing most sharply in the Great Plains and the Mountain West.

About 33 U.S. states or territories saw an increase in new cases last week compared to the previous week, according to data tracked by The Post. The highest increases per capita were all coming out of mostly rural northern states, with new infections since Sept. 27 jumping about 14 percent in the Dakotas and Wisconsin and more than 20 percent in Montana. (Teo Armus and Jacqueline Dupree)

  • Fearing a second wave, New York will impose new restrictions in hard-hit areas. Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that he would close all schools — public and private — in nine of his city’s 146 Zip codes, as well as all nonessential businesses. “The nine areas have large populations of Orthodox Jews — communities where the virus has been spreading rapidly and where public health officials have struggled to persuade many residents to adhere to guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing,” the Times reports.
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) will no longer enforce coronavirus-related executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that one of the laws underpinning them was unconstitutional. (Detroit News)
  • The immense educational disruptions of the pandemic, especially shortages of seats at testing centers, have fueled the small but growing movement among colleges to eliminate the ACT and the SAT from admission decisions. Universities experimenting with this approach include the University of California at Berkeley, the California State University System and Cal Tech. (Nick Anderson)
  • The World Health Organization found alarming levels of disruption to critical mental health services around the world. Health-care providers around the world have seen cases of depression and anxiety spike, as alcohol and drug use has also risen in many places. (Rick Noack)
  • The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to three researchers whose discoveries made a major contribution to the fight against blood-borne hepatitis: Harvey Alter, a clinical scientist at the NIH, virologist Michael Houghton and University of St. Louis researcher Charles Rice. (Sarah Kaplan)

U.S. exporters are struggling to gain ground amid the global recession. 

“Americans have resumed buying imported goods with nearly as much enthusiasm as before the pandemic. But people in other countries are not returning the favor,” David Lynch reports. “The resulting gap between what the U.S. purchases from other countries and what it sells them — the merchandise trade deficit — hit a monthly record in August. A broader Commerce Department measure that includes services, scheduled for release on Tuesday, is also expected to reach a new high. The nation’s export performance is unlikely to improve anytime soon. … Economies in Europe, Japan, Brazil and India all will suffer deeper recessions this year than the United States. U.S. output is expected to drop by 4 percent in 2020 while Europe will experience a roughly 7 percent decline, according to S&P Global Ratings. And the outlook through the first half of next year is for more of the same, economists said. … U.S. imports have virtually recovered their pre-pandemic high thanks to the $2 trillion economic rescue package passed by Congress in March, which supported consumer spending and encouraged retailers to replenish their depleted inventories. But anemic foreign demand is hurting capital goods producers, auto companies and industrial suppliers.” 

America’s Main Street revival is going into reverse, cutting a small-town’s lifeline. 

“Kim Redeker opened The Sweet Granada chocolate shop in Emporia, Kan., in 2004, in a storefront that had been vacant for years. She was an early foot soldier in a push to revitalize Emporia’s downtown,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “As of today, a couple of Emporia’s businesses are shutting their doors for good. Others are being propped up in part by government aid and private donations. One Emporia official estimates that 20% of its Main Street businesses are at risk. Many small-town downtowns experienced something of a revival in recent years, thanks to businesses like Sweet Granada. They brought much-needed growth to spots that for decades had lost ground to larger cities, shopping malls, big-box stores and, most recently, the internet. … The pandemic could be a death blow for some businesses that were already troubled. In Emporia, a red-and-yellow ‘Sale! Going Out of Business’ sign hangs on the brick facade of Muckenthaler Inc., on the southern end of Commercial Street.”

  • Catherine Rampell: “The U.S. is still ‘missing’ more jobs than it did at the worst point of prior postwar recessions. An unemployment rate of 7.9 percent is also the highest for any president heading into a reelection contest in modern economic history.”
  • Henry Olsen: “We have a tough economic recovery ahead — no matter who wins in November.”

Social media speed read

An attending physician at Walter Reed, and the chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University, called the president’s quarantine break irresponsible:

Pictures released by the White House on Saturday and Sunday that portrayed the president as working from the hospital were closely scrutinized:

One of the pictures released Saturday showed Trump signing what appears to be a blank piece of paper: 

And the metadata showed that they were taken minutes apart:

The chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco said discharging Trump today would be reckless:

A drug safety expert issued this warning about the steroid Trump is taking: 

Some of our readers are very passionate:

Videos of the day

“Saturday Night Live” was back in its New York studio. The cold open focused on the debate, which it said was fun to watch – if you’re not an American:

Chris Rock said America needs to reassess its relationship with its government: 

And John Oliver took a look at various efforts to destabilize the election: 

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