by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Thursday, April 28, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 194 days away. Election Day 2024 is 922 days away.
Here’s what’s on the menu this morning: I’m starting off with a roundup of the headlines you should know to start your day; then we’ll look at some comments and questions I received in response to yesterday’s newsletter on Covid coverage.
Finally, as always, we close with “Look ahead” and “Before I go.” Now, to the news...
Breaking this morning: Moderna has submitted a request for emergency authorization of its Covid-19 vaccine for children from 6 months to 6 years old. They are the first manufacturer to request authorization of a shot for young children, a highly anticipated step.
Redistricting blow for Democrats: New York’s highest court on Wednesday rejected the state’s new congressional map — which had been expected to heavily favor Democrats — ruling that the district lines were an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
- It had appeared Democrats and Republicans would head into the midterm elections with about an even number of districts favoring each party, after much gerrymandering from both sides. But that may no longer be true after this ruling; as FiveThirtyEight notes, “much of Democrats’ national redistricting advantage rested on their gerrymander in New York.”
Two polls telling opposite stories: This Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, which shows former Sen. David Perdue trailing far behind Gov. Brian Kemp in the Georgia Republican gubernatorial primary... And this Fox News poll showing J.D. Vance surging ahead in the Ohio Republican Senate primary, nearly doubling his support.
- Vance’s surge is likely due to notching the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, which was heavily sought by his competitors. But Perdue is flailing despite having Trump’s endorsement in hand; Kemp made an enemy of the ex-president by certifying President Biden’s win in Georgia in 2020.
Two updates from yesterday: In Wednesday’s newsletter, I wrote about the increased Covid risks President Biden is taking, such as attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner this weekend. Later in the day, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Biden will skip the meal portion of the event — although he will still attend the speaking portion (with a mask on).
- Also on Wednesday, I asked whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) would be able to hang on after the New York Times reported on private comments he made about colleagues. At an afternoon meeting with the House GOP, McCarthy did face criticism from some conservatives — but it appears he still has the support of most congressional Republicans.Prisoner swap with Russia: The Biden administration announced Wednesday that the U.S. and Russia agreed to a prisoner exchange. Russia released former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, while the U.S. handed over Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, in a notable display of diplomacy amid high tensions between the two countries over Ukraine.
The latest from the Trump investigations: The New York grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the criminal probe into Trump’s personal business is set to expire at the end of the week. It will not be extended, per ABC News, further confirmation that prosecutors do not plan to pursue charges against the former president.
- Meanwhile, CNN reports that Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election as Trump’s personal attorney, is expected to appear next month before the House committee investigating January 6.
What you told me about Covid coverage
In yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote about a question I’ve been wrestling with: how much coverage should be given to high-profile figures testing positive for Covid, now that vaccines, boosters, and antivirals are widely available?
I also asked readers to weigh in — here’s what some of you told me:
“The breathless ‘breaking news’ reporting should stop for vaxxed/no symptom cases of celebrities or politicians... However, I think this particular case of the Vice President having Covid is worth at least a mention, mainly to communicate whether or not the President was at possible risk for exposure.”
“Any notable person who contracts the virus and gets really sick or (obviously) dies, regardless of vaccination status, should be communicated in the news in the same way any other serious illness or death would be communicated.” — Kathi S.
“Especially if Fauci considers us out of the pandemic phase, it should no longer be news-worthy in and of itself if someone has Covid... I personally think it’s still worse than the flu, but it’s not the grave concern it was even a year ago.” — Amanda R.
“I find the coverage of late to be a bit on the hyperventilated side. I do believe that we could do without national coverage of celebrities who test positive. As to politicians, it depends. Is the person in a leadership position? Does a person’s quarantine have the possibility of impacting the national dialogue/legislation in a major way? Then, yes.” — Sue
“If Trump were president, you would say he’s a super spreader. Now that the super rich and powerful (who are boosted and vaccinated — or say they are) are getting Covid, suddenly Covid doesn't matter. And they get experimental treatments — for them, not for thee.” — Howard M.
Two things I’ll note: I think Sue’s point about noting when quarantines impact congressional votes is a good one. For example, two Democratic senators tested positive for Covid on the same day as VP Harris. As a result, a Fed nominee failed to advance on Tuesday, because the Senate is split 50-50 and Democrats were down two members.
Also, to Howard’s point — I think it’s fair to cover Covid differently now than in the Trump era, because vaccines and boosters are available now and have been such a game-changer in preventing severe illness when people test positive. However, he raises an interesting point on treatments: there have been some questions raised about Harris receiving the Pfizer antiviral pill, since she has no symptoms and isn’t known to be at any high risk of severe disease.
Thanks to all the readers who wrote in.
On a related note, here’s a question I received from a reader yesteday:
“Re: your stats on Covid in today’s newsletter, I was wondering if the number of new tests accounts for people who test positive on at-home covid tests? Anecdotally, I definitely feel like there is a wave going on here in Boston, as I am hearing from a lot of friends that they have Covid but they are only finding out through at-home rapid tests not PCRs. Do you have any thoughts on this?” — Jolie F.
This is a great point, and one I meant to highlight when I wrote about the lates case and hospitalization levels in Wednesday’s newsletter.
Reported case counts generally don’t include those who test positive with rapid tests at home (unless they then confirm the positive result with a PCR test). So there is no doubt that the actual case levels are higher than the ones being reported, which is important to note.
However, it should be noted that waves will still likely appear in the official counts when they occur, because if more people are testing positive with rapid tests, that’s probably also true of the PCRs — the wave will just show up as being smaller than it is in reality.
Also, even if the case count is going underreported, that would not affect the accuracy of the hospitalizations number — which some experts argue is the more important metric to be paying attention to at this point in the pandemic.
But Jolie’s point is a good one: while the rise of at-home testing has made things a lot more convenient for many people, it has presented challenges for public health authorities attempting to capture an accurate picture of Covid levels in their communities.
Finally, here’s your look at what your leaders in Washington are doing today. All times are EST.
Biden: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (9:30 am). Delivering remarks on U.S. support for Ukraine (10:45 am). Meeting with small business owners to discuss the economy (2 pm). Hosting a screening of HBO’s “The Survivor” (5 pm).
- The HBO movie, which tells the story of an Auschwitz survivor, is being shown in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Week, which is this week. It is the first official film screening the Bidens have held at the White House.
Senate: Voting to enter into a conference committee with the House on the America COMPETES Act, a bipartisan bill to boost American production of semiconductor chips in a bid to compete with China.
- The move comes after the two chambers passed two different versions of the legislation; the House has already voted to form a conference committee to iron out the differences. Passing a compromise version of the bill is a top priority for the White House and congressional leaders.House: Voting on the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, which will make it easier for the U.S. to quickly send military equipment to Ukraine (with the promise of repayment at a later date). The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this month; if it passes the House (as expected), the measure will go to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
- The bill is modeled after the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, an instrumental piece of legislation which allowed the U.S. to aid Great Britain before formally joining World War II. This is the first time the U.S. has launched a similar program since then.
Supreme Court: Issuing opinions in recently argued cases (10 am).
What else: A slew of Biden Cabinet officials will testify before various congressional committees, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (10 am), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (10:30 am), Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra (10:30 am), Secretary of State Antony Blinken (1 pm), and Attorney General Merrick Garland (2 pm).
- Each of the hearings are ostensibly about their agencies’ budget requests for the next fiscal year, but each secretary is certain to face a range of questions about hot-button issues in their purview. (Mayorkas especially has faced heated questions over border security in similar sessions throughout the week.)
- Also, White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (3 pm).
Before I go...
I want to highlight a moment from Madeleine Albright’s funeral, which was held on Tuesday.
Albright was a trailblazing diplomat, who came to the United States at age 11 as a refugee from Czechoslovakia — and rose to become the first female Secretary of State in the history of her adopted nation. She died last month at age 84.
At her funeral on Tuesday, Albright was eulogized by two presidents. I was particularly struck by this anecdote from former President Bill Clinton, who recounted his final phone conversation with Albright, two weeks before she died.
Clinton said that he asked Albright about her health. “Let’s don’t waste any time on that,” she responded. “The only thing that really matters is what kind of world we’re gonna leave to our grandchildren.”
Recalling Albright’s advocacy for Ukraine in the final weeks of his life, Clinton added: “Madeleine made a decision that, with her last breath, she would go out with her boots on.”
May we all go out with our boots on. RIP Madeleine Albright.
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