Wednesday morning news – April 1, 2020

U.S. death rate could peak within two weeks » At the White House Tuesday, President Trump and top health officials said what Americans do over the next month, could save hundreds of thousands of lives. 

TRUMP: It’s absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days.

Officials said if Americans take the social distancing guidelines seriously, the death rate in the United States from COVID-19 could peak within the next two weeks and improve after that. 

The U.S. government’s top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told reporters…

FAUCI: We’re going to continue to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work. 

Even so, the numbers are sobering. White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, displayed several charts and graphs. One chart showed a current computer model predicting the U.S. death rate will peak on April 15th, with more than 2,200 deaths on that date alone. And the model projects more than a 100,000 Americans will die between now and June. 

Birx said those are the expectations with social distancing and full mitigation. But then she pointed to another chart.

BIRX: But this is a slide that gives us great hope and understanding about what is possible.

The chart showed significant progress in California and Washington—states that have taken big steps to mitigate the spread of the virus. That she said shows what’s possible with aggressive action.

NY, NJ continue to struggle with rapidly spreading coronavirus » Meantime, in New York and New Jersey the situation looks grimmer. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Tuesday that over the past 24 hours, his state has seen nearly 2,200 new coronavirus cases. 

MURPHY: Since yesterday, another 69 residents have died, and that total now stands at 267, each one of them another precious life lost from our New Jersey family. 

New Jersey now has nearly 19,000 cases total. 

And New York now has more than 75,000 cases. Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state still does have all the supplies and equipment it needs, especially ventilators. The federal government is sending ventilators to the states, but not fast enough to keep up with demand. And Cuomo said states are competing against one another to secure the devices. 

CUOMO: It’s like being on eBay with 50 states bidding on a ventilator. And you see the bid go up because California bid, Illinois bid, Florida bid, New York bids, California re-bids. That’s literally what we’re doing. 

Governor Cuomo’s brother, CNN host Chris Cuomo tested positive this week for the coronavirus. He said he is doing well, and Chris Cuomo will continue hosting “Cuomo Prime Time” from his home. 

DOJ watchdog finds broader FBI wrongdoing in FISA program » The Justice Department’s inspector general says the FBI has misused the FISA surveillance program. And he said the bureau’s violations aren’t limited to the Trump-Russia probe. WORLD’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: After the inspector general submitted his findings in December about the FBI’s use of the FISA program in the Russia probe, he announced a broader review.

And on Tuesday, Michael Horowitz said the FBI has repeatedly broken its own rules when submitting FISA applications.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—or FISA—allows the bureau to conduct wiretaps in national security investigations provided the case meets certain conditions. But it appears the FBI has made a habit of fudging the facts. 

Horowitz said in a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray that in four of the 29 FISA applications his office selected for review, the FBI could not produce any supporting documents or records. 

And in the other 25 applications, he “identified apparent errors or inadequately supported facts in all” of them.

As a result, Horowitz wrote, “we do not have confidence” that the bureau has followed FBI policy or that it is achieving “the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Trump admin rolls back Obama-era emission standards » The Trump administration rolled back Obama-era vehicle mileage standards on Tuesday. The EPA released a final rule that lifts the ceiling on emissions through 2026. 

The change scales back strict mileage standards designed to push automakers toward electric cars and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, released a statement Tuesday. He said the final rule “strikes the right regulatory balance that protects our environment, and sets reasonable targets for the auto industry.” He said this rule “supports our economy, and the safety of American families.”

Opponents contend the change guts responsible standards that benefit drivers, public health, and the environment. 

Judges say abortions must continue amid pandemic » Healthcare providers across the country have postponed elective surgeries during the COVID-19 outbreak. Federal courts are telling states that doesn’t apply to abortions, though at least one state has won its appeal. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has that story. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Several governors have ordered a halt to nonessential medical procedures, including abortion. But federal judges in Alabama, Ohio, and Texas rolled back the measures this week. Judges are expected to rule soon in similar cases in Iowa and Oklahoma.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Texas said the governor’s order violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and halted the state’s freeze on abortions. 

But Texas appealed the ruling, and in a split decision the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Yeakel’s order.

In Ohio, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett instructed abortionists to determine on a case-by-case basis whether delaying an abortion could save resources—such as personal protective equipment needed to fight the coronavirus.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(Darren McGee/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP) In this Friday, March 27, 2020, photo provided by Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, walks the corridor of a nearly completed makeshift hospital erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. 

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