First Thing: Trump’s Covid taskforce is winding down as deaths ramp up | US news

Good morning,

The White House coronavirus taskforce, which has so far fronted the national response to the pandemic, could be wound down as soon as June with responsibility handed back to federal agencies, the taskforce chief, Mike Pence, said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the US death toll has topped 70,000 – and health experts warn the worst is to come.


Trump tours battleground state Arizona while flagging wind down of coronavirus task force – video

As he toured a face-mask factory in Arizona, Donald Trump admitted some people would be “affected badly” by the drive to restart the country’s economy, “but we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon”. However, in states that have allowed businesses to reopen already, not everyone is rushing back to work.

Trump is effectively abandoning a public health strategy in order to focus on clawing back the economy – and his chances of re-election, writes David Smith:


Critics say Trump seems ready to shrug at the losses as collateral damage, paying greater heed to his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, than Birx or Fauci.

  • The Trump Death Clock. The filmmaker Eugene Jarecki has launched a website, modelled on the National Debt Clock, which he says tracks the number of Covid-19 deaths directly attributable to Trump’s inaction. The current tally is almost 40,000.

The UK now has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll




British prime minister Boris Johnson out for his daily walk on Wednesday.



British prime minister Boris Johnson out for his daily walk on Wednesday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The UK has now overtaken Italy as the European country with the largest toll of confirmed coronavirus deaths, second only to the US globally. Meanwhile, one of the British government’s top coronavirus scientists has been forced to quit his role after it emerged he had flouted the country’s lockdown rules. Prof Neil Ferguson’s resignation is a blow to Boris Johnson’s authority on the pandemic, writes Rajeev Syal:


Ferguson is the academic whose modelling evidence has been central to not just Boris Johnson’s coronavirus strategy, but for those strategies in France, Germany and the US, too.

Elsewhere in the world…

The Covid-19 lockdown could cause millions of TB deaths




People line up in Johannesburg, South Africa, to be tested for Covid-19, HIV and tuberculosis.



People line up in Johannesburg, South Africa, to be tested for Covid-19, HIV and tuberculosis. Photograph: Jérôme Delay/AP

As the world focuses on fighting the coronavirus, new research suggests 1.4 million people could die of tuberculosis by 2025 as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, which prevent them being diagnosed and treated. Lucica Ditiu, the executive director of the international Stop TB Partnership, said she was “sickened” by the figures, which show efforts to end TB being set back by up to eight years.

  • Is Covid-19 causing a rare illness in children? New York has reported 15 cases of the potentially fatal inflammatory syndrome that has been identified in at least six countries and could be linked to the coronavirus.

  • ‘People are dying at home’. Hospitals swamped by Covid-19 patients have noticed a drop in the number of admissions for heart attacks and strokes. Medics say seriously ill people are avoiding hospitals for fear of the virus.

Is Amazon cracking down on its internal critics?




A protester outside Amazon’s Seattle HQ on 1 May.



A protester outside Amazon’s Seattle HQ on 1 May. Photograph: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon may be enjoying a massive lockdown sales boom, but the company is also facing perhaps the loudest chorus of internal criticism in its history. And its response has not improved matters: at least six former employees say they were fired after participating in protests or advocating for safer working conditions, while one senior executive quit “in dismay” over what he called the “chickenshit” firings “designed to create a climate of fear”.

  • Union activism surges. The crisis has inspired a rise in labour activism across the US workforce, from bus drivers to McDonald’s servers, as Steven Greenhouse reports.

  • California sues Uber and Lyft. The state’s attorney general has unveiled a new lawsuit against the ride-share firms, alleging they have misclassified their drivers as independent contractors under the state’s high-profile new labor law, AB5.

In other space news…

  • The US is drafting a moon mining deal. The Trump administration is sponsoring the international agreement, known as the Artemis Accords, which provide a framework for different countries to occupy, research and mine areas of the moon.

  • China took another step towards a lunar landing. State media reported the successful launch of a new prototype spacecraft designed to carry astronauts to a space station it plans to complete by 2022 – and ultimately to the moon.

  • Tom Cruise might shoot a movie in space. The head of Nasa appeared to confirm in a tweet that the agency is working with Tom Cruise on plans to shoot a film aboard the International Space Station – potentially the first feature film made in space.

Great reads




Julia Garner in The Assistant.



Julia Garner in The Assistant. Photograph: PR HANDOUT

American cinema finally discovers the left-behinds

The filmmaker Kitty Green tackles the #MeToo moment head on in her new film, The Assistant, about a young employee at a film company run by a tyrannical, Weinstein-like boss. As Steve Rose writes, it’s just one of a series of recent movies, made by women, about the everyday experience of those at the margins of American life.

The chaplains tending to those dying from Covid-19

Just like healthcare workers, chaplains who regularly attend to the sick have been forced to confront death with increasing frequency amid the coronavirus crisis. They have also had to come up with new, safe ways to administer last rites to Covid-19 victims from a distance, as Bryan Mealer reports.

Opinion: Let’s not rehabilitate George W Bush

Eleven years after George W Bush left office, some liberals fawn over their former bête noire, if only because he seems cuddly in comparison to the current president. But don’t forget, says Arwa Mahdawi, Bush’s presidency paved the way for Trump.


We don’t have to normalise Bush or rewrite his record just because Trump is unleashing his own campaign of shock and awfulness. We don’t have to minimise the enormous damage Bush did just because he didn’t tweet misspelled abuse at his political enemies.

Last Thing: Elon Musk and Grimes called their baby what?




Entrepreneur Elon Musk and his girlfriend, musician Grimes, have welcomed a baby girl.



Entrepreneur Elon Musk and his girlfriend, musician Grimes, have welcomed a baby girl. Photograph: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The tech billionaire Elon Musk and his musician girlfriend Grimes have welcomed their first child to the world, a baby girl they claim is named X Æ A-12. And no, a cat did not just walk across my keyboard. Are they being serious? Alyx Gorman explains the unusual moniker to Steph Harmon, and suggests how we might pronounce it.

Sign up

Sign up for the US morning briefing

First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/06/first-thing-trumps-covid-taskforce-is-winding-down-as-deaths-ramp-up