Several rural-state governors alerted President Trump on Monday that they are struggling to obtain urgently needed medical supplies and testing equipment, warning that despite the worsening coronavirus situation in New York and other urban areas, more sparsely populated parts of the country need help, too. In response to requests for more testing kits, Mr. Trump said, “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks,” according to an audio recording of the call between the president and governors obtained by CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe.
During the call, Democratic and Republican governors detailed how they are struggling to obtain the protective equipment doctors and nurses will need to treat the sick and the test kits needed to determine whether sick residents are suffering from COVID-19. “We understand the challenges in New York. I have family in New York,” Wyoming Republican Governor Mark Gordon told the president. But, he told Mr. Trump, “I think a little bit of supply going our way could get us better prepared going forward.” Mr. Trump replied, “Good point…Thank you very much, Mark. If you have a problem, call me. I’ll get you what you need.”
Montana Democratic Governor Steve Bullock noted that delays in testing state residents could soon overwhelm hospitals in rural population centers and griped that his buying power has been repeatedly “trumped” by the federal government, a far larger customer for supplies and equipment. “I could give four or five examples over the last week where we have supply orders and they’ve subsequently been cancelled and they’re cancelled in part because what our suppliers are saying is that federal resources are requesting it and trumping that,” Bullock said.
Bullock also warned “we’re going to have some real problems” across smaller rural states if they cannot soon obtain the necessary testing equipment. He cited Gallatin County, which encompasses Bozeman, as a population center that is seeing a growing infection rate. “So we’re trying to shift the supplies to really isolate that and do contract tracing, but we don’t even have enough supplies to do the testing,” Bullock said.
Mr. Trump replied, “I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’ll come out with another one tomorrow that’s, you know, almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard anything about testing being a problem.”
Navy Admiral Brett Giroir, head of the Public Health Service and overseeing the push to distribute coronavirus test kits, interjected, explaining that the federal government is purchasing for each state at least 15 recently-approved test kits that can confirm a coronavirus diagnosis within four minutes. “We’re going to get that to your state lab as soon as possible,” Giroir said.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Even before last night, when President Trump questioned why hospitals were using so many face masks so quickly, his re-election campaign had been talking about mask shortages, accusing Joe Biden and the Obama administration of not refilling the national stockpile with N95 respirator masks. But Biden recently denied responsibility and said the White House did not follow the guidance the Obama administration left for them. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson looked into why the U.S. only had 30 million masks ready for use as COVID-19 spread globally. Read his story about how, under the Obama administration and Trump administration, “a combination of differing priorities, underfunding and slow responsiveness all contributed to the shortfall of masks.”
As he tries to push forward with his campaign, Biden today said the “best [he] could do” was to try to balance his criticism for the president’s COVID-19 response against the backdrop of a concerned nation. The former vice president said on MSNBC that it was “absolutely bizarre” for Mr. Trump to insult and “belittle” governors with whom he disagrees, like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Washington’s Jay Inslee.
“Step up and do your job. Stop campaigning,” Biden said, asking again for the White House to order additional manufacturing of personal protective equipment under the Defense Production Act. He also took time to say what wouldn’t help the current emergency response: “Medicare for All;” he argued that a single-payer healthcare system would not improve funding or overcrowding of hospitals.
LIFE AFTER 2020
Senator Amy Klobuchar joined advocates from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Giffords Law Center today to highlight the growing threat to domestic violence victims during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. “Think about what we say to victims when they call and ask for help on the hotline. We say, ‘leave the house, leave the house.’ And the opposite message –for good public health reasons—is being conveyed right now,” Klobuchar told reporters on a conference call.
What’s also on her mind is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired last year, plagued by stalled legislative negotiations and lack of Senate support. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says the House bill included a provision preventing individuals with domestic violence convictions from purchasing a firearm. “There’s just no reason to stop this bill right now,” a frustrated Klobuchar said, calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take action.
“It should be one that goes through unanimously,” she said.
The historic $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last week included $2 million in funding for the Domestic Violence hotline and $45 million for programs providing shelter and other services to homeless individuals. Klobuchar also floated attaching the reauthorization to the next legislative package.
“You could attach it somehow to the next legislative package. There’s all kinds of things you can do, but this thing waited way too long,” Klobuchar remarked. “And now we’re going to see more than ever, why we need it in place.”
Julia Weber, Giffords Law Center implementation director, told reporters that while data is still emerging on COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on gun purchases, there has been a 36% increase in background checks nationwide in the month of February, with a substantial portion of the firearm sales going to first-time gun buyers. Experts also stressed that the economic impact of COVID-19 hits survivors particularly hard. “If they lose their jobs and can’t pay their rent, they often have to choose between facing homelessness or returning to an abusive relationship,” said Rachel Graber, Policy Director of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
After a Siena College Poll showed overwhelming approval for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus, Mr. Trump said in a Fox News interview that he wouldn’t mind running against Cuomo. “I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than sleepy Joe,” Trump said.
Biden and Bernie Sanders are the only remaining Democratic presidential candidates, and Cuomo dismissed Trump’s comments in his daily press conference. “I’m not going to rise to the bait of a political challenge. I’m not running for president, I was never running for president,” he said. “My only goal is to engage the president in partnership. This is no time for politics.”
CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster reports that the new Siena College Poll of registered New York voters shows 87% of New Yorkers approve of the job Cuomo has done handling the pandemic, compared to 11% who disapprove.
Cuomo’s marks are higher than they are for any other individual or group, including President Trump, Vice President Pence, local health departments, the CDC, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Congress. Some 41% of New Yorkers say they approve of the job Trump is doing with coronavirus, compared to 56% who disapprove. New Yorkers’ views on Cuomo and coronavirus has caused the governor’s favorability rating to skyrocket up to 71%, his best since January 2013.
His net favorability ratings, showing the difference between favorable and unfavorable ratings, jumped from -6 points, a net negative rating meaning his unfavorable rating was higher than favorable, in the February poll to +48 points in the March poll.
New York recently got some tangible help from the federal government on Monday when the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds, arrived on Manhattan’s West side. Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, arrived in Los Angeles over the weekend.
The Comfort will not treat COVID-19 patients, but will be a “relief valve” to overcrowding hospitals, Cuomo said. Nearby, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, chair of the Democratic Governor’s Association, talked about working with the Trump administration to get more medical supplies.
“I don’t wake up every morning with the choice to say, ‘Okay, who’s going to be my president today?’ The President is Donald Trump, the Vice President is Mike Pence, there’s one federal administration. We need the feds, the feds need us,” Murphy said. “While we still have a big ask out standing on things like PPEs and ventilators, slowly but surely we’re chipping away at that and we won’t relent until we get our fair share,” he said.
Down the coast, Maryland’s and Virginia’s governors both issued official “stay-at-home” orders on Monday. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro counts at least 29 states that have issued these types of orders so far. “We are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home, we are directing them to do so,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said at his press conference, where he also said all non-essential businesses must close or move to telework. Hogan said Sunday that cases in the DMV area have quadrupled, and that by Easter, “we’re going to be looking a lot more like New York.” The respective Departments of Health in the DMV have reported at least 2,470 COVID-19 cases so far.
IN THE HOUSE
New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez said she has been diagnosed with a presumed case of coronavirus, and will self-isolate in her home. She said she began to feel under the weather Sunday morning, but after speaking to the attending physician, it has not been recommended that she visit a doctor or take a COVID-19 laboratory test.
“I am carefully monitoring my symptoms, working remotely and in constant contact with my staff. I’ll continue my work on behalf of New Yorkers as together we overcome this virus,” she said in her statement. Velazquez is the fifth U.S. House member reported to have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
On the campaigning side, the National Republican Congressional Committee is expected to spend $690,000 in a cable ad buy for veteran Mike Garcia in California’s 25th District. Garcia is facing Democrat and California Assemblywoman Christy Smith in a May special election for Katie Hill’s old seat. The May 12 special election will be an “all-mail ballot election” after Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order.
In New Mexico, John Blair, a Democratic candidate for the 3rd District’s open seat, started airing his first television ad Monday in which he gives out his phone number. In the ad, Blair is seen on the phone, listing his stances on not taking corporate PAC money and passing an assault weapons ban. “A real strategy of our campaign from very start is being accessible and being able to really communicate with voters about what we’re doing,” Blair told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro in a phone call Sunday.
“We want to be open and available to all voters and really have that dialogue and do it in a different way now that we can’t be out traveling the district the way we were before.” Blair is part of a crowded Democratic primary for Representative Ben Ray Luján’s seat, as Luján is currently running for the Senate.
PLAYING BY THE RULES
The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC will hold a public meeting that has not yet been scheduled to determine how to allocate the delegates of the three states (Kentucky, Louisiana, and New York) who have postponed their primary past the window outlined in the DNC rules.
The RBC has jurisdiction over approving state parties’ plans to elect and send delegates to the national convention. According to the rules, all contests must be held by June 9, and all delegates must be elected by June 20.
Violating these rules could lead to penalties that would include a state losing at least half of its delegates. If they penalize the states holding primaries later, the magic number to clinch the nomination would be less than 1,991. In several states, the elections of the actual people to fill delegate slots won by candidates in the primary take place weeks after the primary.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, several state parties are having to rejigger when, where, and how to hold their conventions to elect the actual delegates. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson has obtained a memo from the RBC chairs and DNC party staff from Friday, March 27, that said the RBC has received proposed amendments to delegate selection plans from 22 states and Democrats Abroad.
The changes consist of postponing when and where delegates are elected, canceling or combining meetings, modifying the rules, and exploring vote by mail. The RBC chairs have not issued any formal guidance but are encouraging state parties to conduct delegate conventions virtually, via apps like Zoom, and if there’s a need for a tabulated vote, to use mail-in ballots.
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