Trump reverses course on coronavirus task force » President Trump Wednesday reversed course on plans to wind down the White House coronavirus task force.
One day after the administration suggested the task force could largely complete its work by Memorial Day, Trump said the group will carry on indefinitely.
But it will shift its focus toward safely rebooting the economy and developing a vaccine.
TRUMP: We’ll be adding some people to the task force, and they’ll be more in the neighborhood, probably, of opening our country up because our country has to be open again and people want it to be open.
A White House official told the Associated Press that the administration acknowledged that its Tuesday announcement about winding down the task force sent the wrong message.
The plan to end the task force sparked concerns that key health officials would be sidelined, though Trump said he would still seek their counsel.
Payroll report shows 20 million U.S. workers lost jobs in April » A new report from payroll company ADP shed new light on the massive scale of the job losses from coronavirus-related shutdowns. U.S. businesses cut an unprecedented 20 million jobs in April.
Among the hardest hit sectors—hospitality and leisure. According to ADP, they shed almost 9 million workers last month.
Trade, transportation, and utilities let about three-and-a-half million people go.
Construction firms—about two-and-a-half million. And manufacturers let go of roughly 1.7 million people.
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett noted that in January the United States “had the strongest economy ever” before—in his words—getting “hit by the biggest shock ever.”
HASSETT: But economically, I think that as President Trump said yesterday, there’s a solid chance that as we open up, if we do so smartly and safely, that we can get back to having a strong economy quicker than people might think.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said the losses will likely continue through May, with a recovery in hiring likely to begin in the months ahead. He said “the good news is that we’re at the apex of the job loss.”
Even so, Zandi said it could take years to recover all of the jobs lost in April and May.
Supreme Court hears arguments in Obamacare contraceptive mandate case » The Supreme Court heard its third day of arguments over the telephone on Wednesday due to the pandemic.
The first of two cases before them Wednesday dealt with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, which forces most employers to cover birth control at no charge in their insurance plans.
In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would broaden an exemption to the contraceptive mandate for those with religious objections. Lower courts blocked the change, saying the administration was overstepping its authority.
But Justice Neil Gorsuch said he’s not sure that’s true.
GORSUCH: The challenge before us is whether the agency has exceeded its statutory authority. And looking at the statute here, it’s about expansive a delegation of statutory authority as one might imagine.
The nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor are asking the high court to overturn lower court rulings and let the new exemption stand.
But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said allowing broad religious exemptions is unfair to women as it requires them to find other coverage for contraceptives.
GINSBURG: And if it turns out, as it will for many of them, that there is no other plan that covers them, then they’re not covered. And the only way they can get these contraceptive services is to pay for them out of pocket, precisely what Congress did not want to happen.
The justices largely sidestepped the main issues in a similar case in 2016.
Justice Ginsburg hospitalized » Justice Ginsburg participated in yesterday’s arguments from a Baltimore hospital. WORLD’s Anna Johansen has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The court said Wednesday that Ginsberg was hospitalized one day earlier with an infection caused by a gallstone.
The 87-year-old justice underwent non-surgical treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
She is said to be resting comfortably and expects to be in the hospital for a day or two.
Ginsberg has been treated four times for cancer, most recently in August, when she underwent radiation for a tumor on her pancreas.
The justice has said she would like to serve until she’s 90, if her health allows.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.
Grand jury to decide on charges in fatal shooting of Georgia man » A Georgia prosecutor wants a grand jury to decide if criminal charges are warranted in the fatal shooting of a man in the coastal city of Brunswick, Georgia.
Two men pursued and shot 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, later telling police they suspected him of being a burglar.
Authorities have yet to arrest or charge anyone in the case, prompting an outcry from the NAACP and others. Arbery was black and the men who shot him are white.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said her son committed no crime.
JONES: I do believe that Ahmaud was just out for his daily jog. I have believed that since day one. He’s been doing this for years.
An outside prosecutor assigned to examine the case said a grand jury will hear the evidence, but that won’t happen for more than a month. Georgia courts remain largely closed due to the coronavirus until at least June 13th.