☕ Cover: Across the country more states, municipalities, and individual companies are requiring citizens and shoppers to wear face masks.
Good Morning. Here’s what you need to know to start the day, along with perspective from both sides for calmer coffee conversations with your family, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Plus, a bit of good news: Postmates is randomly sending people promo codes for free Popeyes Chicken sandwiches this week.
📰 TOP STORY
Masking Questions: Across the country more states, municipalities, and individual companies are requiring citizens and shoppers to wear face masks. Along with D.C., 25 states now have mask mandates. So does Walmart, which became the latest major retailer to require customers to wear facial coverings along with Best Buy, Starbucks, and Costco. Even President Trump, who announced in early April that he would not wear a mask at his daily press briefings, switched gears this week. When asked whether he would urge Americans to wear masks by CBS News’ Catherine Herridge on Tuesday, Trump replied: “If it‘s necessary, I would urge them to wear a mask and I would say follow the guidelines.” Masks, and especially mask mandates, have become another partisan flashpoint over the past few months. Here’s a sample of what each side is saying and what to keep an eye moving forward:
On the Left: German Lopez of Vox says that while “public health experts publicly cast doubts on face coverings as a preventive measure against the coronavirus” earlier in the year, since then new “research increasingly favors both individual mask-wearing and policies requiring universal masking.” For example, A review of the research in International Journal of Nursing Studies found that “community mask use by well people could be beneficial, particularly for COVID-19, where transmission may be pre-symptomatic.” Another study in Health Affairs found state mandates to wear masks helped reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The researchers concluded that “as many as 230,000–450,000 cases may have been averted due to these mandates by May 22,” though they cautioned that this was merely an approximation and sensitive to methodological changes in how it’s calculated. Lopez points to five more recent studies and notes that “in several Asian countries where mask use has long been widespread, like South Korea and Japan, masks seemed to play a role in reducing transmission as well.” While Lopez concedes that “There are still gaps in the research,” he also notes that “experts say it’s strong enough” to support mask wearing and mask mandates.
On the Right: There was a notable shift in sentiment from conservatives after President Trump donned a mask to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday. The New York Posts’ Washington correspondent, Ebony Bowden, tweeted, “Going to go out on a limb here and say President Trump looks pretty badass in a mask.” Jason Miller, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign added, “Joe Biden is finished.” Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo echoed this encouragement tweeting at the President that his, “Mask looks good!” Axios’ Mike Allen wrote in his daily newsletter that, “They’re trying to convince [Trump] he looks awesome, and therefore to take their advice to keep wearing masks.” Whether you believe Allen or not, the change of attitude was contagious in the White House. On Tuesday, First lady Melania Trump posted a photo of herself on Twitter sporting a white face mask, urging Americans to wear face coverings. A bit further out on the right-wing news spectrum, outlets like Breitbart and The Blaze are still covering mask-related headlines. However, they’re also giving oxygen to stories that belittle the mask-movement as well. The Blaze covered an Ohio county that established a hotline “for people to snitch on anyone not wearing a mask.” The outlet points out that “People who don’t wear a mask face up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.” Breitbart also wrote yesterday about how police officers overseas who don’t like the idea of having to arrest citizens for not wearing a facial covering. Breitbart quoted the UK’s Metropolitan Police Federation chief, Ken Marsh who said, “We’ll be driving around and around London looking for people who aren’t wearing masks, it’s absolutely absurd.” To summarize, there’s a greater acceptance of mask-wearing and mask-mandates on the right, but you still might see some videos floating around on Instagram of people freaking out after they’ve been told to put one on.
Flag This: Digging into the data highlights how masks truly are a partisan issue. Gallup has been tracking public sentiment about facial coverings for a while so their figures back up the coverage above. Although 9 out of 10 Americans say they have used a mask in the past week, Republicans are far less likely to wear one in public than Democrats. According to Gallup 24% of Conservatives strap one on when they walk out the door. Conversely, 6 out of 10 Dems mask up before they leave the house. In fact, only one percent of Democrats responded that they’ve never worn a mask outside the home, whereas close to 30 percent of Republicans said they always forgo facial coverings when they’re out-and-about. Besides that, women are more likely than men to wear masks, and those living in the Northeast are more prone than those in the south. As Tara Sonenshine writes in The Hill, “Although we hear it on a near-daily basis, the virus does not seem to care where you are from, how you voted, or about your views on politics. It simply looks for a body and infects it.” Furthermore, a top CDC official said Tuesday that the United States could get the coronavirus pandemic under control in one to two months (!) if every American wore a mask. Don’t be surprised if a nation-wide mask initiative becomes a reality in the next few weeks.
🦅 US NEWS
Pelosi and McConnell Hurtling Toward Coronavirus Relief Showdown
“Both parties agree a deal has to get done. But nobody knows what it will look like or when it will come together.” That’s how Marianne Levine, Heather Caygle, and John Bresnahan describe the upcoming gridlock in Congress in regards to new coronavirus relief funding. What’s happening: “Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own roughly $1 trillion proposal next week, a plan far narrower than the $3 trillion-plus bill pushed through the House by Democrats two months ago.” What are the sticking points? “Apart from cost, the parties are still far apart on key issues, including whether or how to extend a boost in unemployment insurance benefits set to expire in the coming days.” What to watch: “Democrats might make a push for extra education money in current talks as President Donald Trump continues to demand schools reopen in the fall.”
- Flag This: “Both parties know that the forthcoming coronavirus package is likely to be the last before the November election, increasing pressure to squeeze in demands before going home to campaign amid a pandemic-induced recession.” Keep reading.
Overdose Deaths Rise, May Reach Record Level
“U.S. fatal drug overdoses rose last year, new federal data show, reversing a one-year-decline and indicating that another public-health crisis was worsening as the coronavirus pandemic was poised to begin,” Jon Kamp reports for the Wall Street Journal. There were “70,980 fatal overdoses in 2019 with about 1,000 more deaths likely to be added, marking a 4.8% increase from the year before.”
- Flag This: “There are concerns the problem is growing in 2020, exacerbated by a coronavirus pandemic that is making it harder for some drug users to access treatment and safe supplies, even amid early signs the pandemic had disrupted illegal drug trafficking.”
🌎 WORLD NEWS
“Seven boats at a shipyard in Iran caught fire Wednesday, the latest in a slew of mysterious incidents that have led to speculation that an international foe is perpetrating sneak attacks in an attempt to sabotage the embattled regime,” Vandana Rambaran reports for Fox News. “Over the last several weeks, explosions at a nuclear enrichment complex, a missile production factory, and a gas pipeline in an apartment building in Tehran have raised eyebrows, as some analysts have speculated that Israel could be a likely aggressor.”
- Flag This: “The incidents on various locations across Iran also come as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high, particularly after the U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s top commander of the elite Quds force Gen. Qasem Soleimani in January.” Keep reading.
Secretary of State Pompeo Lifts Sanctions Exemption From Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a sanctions exemption will be removed for a Russian natural-gas pipeline to Germany, paving the way for new penalties to be imposed on the contentious project,” Brett Forrest reports for the Wall Street Journal. Background: “The U.S. has been trying to stop the [Nord Stream 2] pipeline, which will deliver natural gas to Germany and is nearing completion. While German and Russian officials have characterized the pipeline as a commercial venture, U.S. officials worry that it would increase Moscow’s economic and political sway across Europe.
- Flag This: “Wednesday’s measure allows the U.S. to deploy a wider range of punishments against Nord Stream 2 as Washington tries to thwart the project and the company behind it, owned by Russia’s gas-export monopoly Gazprom, races to finish it.”
🗞️ BIZ, SPORTS, & TECH
Apple wins tax battle with EU
Apple won a landmark court case Wednesday against the European Commission over a dispute concerning 13 billion euros ($14.9 billion) in Irish taxes. The EU’s general court decided that the European Commission did not prove that the Irish government had given the U.S. tech giant a tax advantage. Why it matters: This case was a centerpiece of the EU’s crackdown on taxation in recent years. It could impact how the Brussels institution deals with other companies over taxation matters. Keep reading.
Texans WR Kenny Stills arrested for protesting the police killing of Breonna Taylor
Stills is facing a felony charge after he and 86 others were arrested at a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. The protesters were demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, who was killed on March 13, when police officers executed a no-knock warrant at her apartment and shot her at least eight times. Keep reading.
Twitter accounts of Obama, Biden, Musk and others compromised
Several prominent Twitter accounts, including those of former Vice President Joe Biden, former President Obama, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, were compromised Wednesday in what appears to be a bitcoin scam. The attack is likely the largest ever on Twitter’s security system and may have already cost users ten of thousands of dollars. Keep reading.
📢 PRESENTED BY KEYSMART
🗳️ FLAG POLLS
US President Donald Trump has ordered the creation of a “National Garden of American Heroes” to defend what he calls “our great national story” against those who vandalize statues. Do you support Trump’s National Heroes Garden? Plus, here is who will be memorialized according to the executive order.
To Delay Death, Lift Weights: Two studies remind us of what we already know (but sometimes forget). Outside · 4 min
A Teenager Didn’t Do Her Online Schoolwork. So a Judge Sent Her to Juvenile Detention. ProPublica · 20 min
The Man Who Went to War With Canada: For centuries, the United States and Canada’s only remaining land border dispute has been kept alive by a single family. Atlas Obscura · 21 min