Navigating Coronavirus — September 4

In today’s email, we have new polling on both school and campus reopenings AND ongoing issues with the Postal Service and mail voting during this pandemic election. We also look at the latest on Trump’s “Trump-first” approach to the pandemic, where he is sacrificing public health and containing the virus just to try to prop up his re-election chances, and we preview this morning’s jobs numbers after a million more Americans filed for unemployment last week.

Read on for today’s Navigating Coronavirus…

It’s been 190 days since President Trump said we’d soon have zero cases in the U.S. We now have 6.3 million cases and more than 190,000 deaths.



Trump gave up on fighting the virus earlier this year, letting it spread unchecked across the country. For months on end, Americans haven’t approved of how he’s handled the pandemic. Now, as a desperate attempt to save face and win back voters ahead of Election Day, he is cutting back on tests to cover up how many cases we have and rushing a vaccine to try to announce it before the election, even if it’s unsafe.

  • IS A “VACCINE” THIS YEAR’S OCTOBER SURPRISE? Trump has strong-armed independent agencies like the CDC and FDA throughout the pandemic, overruling the experts and attacking his own top health officials. He’s been bullying the FDA to approve a vaccine before it finishes clinical trials, and now he’s pressuring the CDC to prepare to rush it to market just days before the 2020 election — alarming health experts who warn that isn’t enough time to adequately test the vaccine to ensure it’s safe and effective.
  • NYT: “The CDC tells health officials to be ready to distribute a vaccine by November, raising concerns over politicized timing.”
  • AP: “Health officials worry nation not ready for COVID-19 vaccine”
  • Epidemiologist, Saskia Popescu told NYT: “This timeline of the initial deployment at the end of October is deeply worrisome for the politicization of public health and the potential safety ramifications. It’s hard not to see this as a push for a pre-election vaccine.”
  • DR. FAUCI: In an interview Wednesday, Fauci said he wouldn’t be comfortable with a vaccine unless it was shown in clinical trials “to be clearly safe and effective.”

REMINDER >> By 33 points (57%-24%), Americans are more worried that we will move too fast on vaccine development and create unintended health consequences rather than being too slow or cautious. When it comes to vaccine development, 61% of Americans say that the number one thing they want from Trump is to listen to health experts.

  • MORE POLLING >> Approval by Fauci and the FDA are key to Americans feeling comfortable about a vaccine. Trump’s endorsement doesn’t carry much weight; in fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans wish Trump would stay out of vaccine development entirely.
  • COVERING UP CASES >> Trump’s strategy to boost his approval ratings also includes artificially reducing positive test results to make it look like he’s got the outbreak more under control. He’s making it harder to control the virus by further narrowing an already inadequate testing strategy just for his own political interests.
  • Politico: “Just eight weeks from election day, the White House has stopped trying to contain the coronavirus — shifting instead to shielding the nation’s most vulnerable groups and restoring a sense of normalcy. The change is part of a concerted effort by the White House to increase public approval of President Donald Trump’s pandemic response — and bolster his reelection chances — by sharply reducing COVID-19 case counts and the number of deaths and hospitalizations attributed to virus, according to five people familiar with the strategy.”
  • NOTHING TO SEE HERE >> “It has to do with the president wanting to shift the attention away from testing,” said a Republican close to the administration who has advised elements of the response. “The challenge is that they didn’t want to find more cases. They didn’t want the numbers to keep going up.”
  • THE REAL MOTIVE >> A former senior CDC official said: “I think there’s a goal, and the goal is reelection. And all other goals have been subverted to serve that one.”

THIS ISN’T GOING TO HELP >> 55% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and they have consistently said that his downplaying of the virus and ignoring health experts are top concerns. Until he starts listening to scientists and actually fighting the virus, none of this is going to help his political standing.


While Trump focuses exclusively on propping himself up politically, Americans (including young people) are paying the price. Just this week, he again pressured colleges to resume sports “immediately” — claiming a fall football season would be “good (great!) for everyone” — despite the exploding number of cases on college campuses and troubling health risks.

  • Axios: “Colleges drive a new wave of coronavirus hotspots”
  • Centre Daily: “PSU football doctor: 30–35 percent of COVID-19-positive Big Ten athletes had myocarditis”



  • Overwhelmingly, Americans remain cautious about school reopenings — and concerns are very high that reopenings could cause more people to get sick. Support for reopening schools is rising, but it isn’t changing the fact that people remain cautious and concerned about it because of the potential for spread to children, families, teachers, and communities.
  • As the school year largely restarts, people are less enthusiastic about hybrid learning than either fully in-person or fully remote. There is a partisan divide on this too — Republicans are more likely to say schools in their area are fully in-person and say it’s going well, while Democrats say schools in their area are remote and that it’s going well.
  • With the rash of outbreaks on college campuses, Americans blame students and colleges themselves — as well as Trump. Parents blame Trump most, and Americans express serious concerns with the recklessness of Trump pushing schools to reopen.
  • MORE >> If you’ve heard of Betsy DeVos, you are overwhelmingly likely to view her negatively. Those who say they are familiar with her dislike her by a 2-to-1 margin.


  • As Trump has continued his all-out assault on mail voting, the number of Americans who say they would take advantage of mail voting amidst the pandemic is decreasing. Among those planning to vote by mail, almost all plan to return their ballot right away.


Yesterday we learned that another 1.6 million workers applied for unemployment in Trump’s economy as he and his allies continue to block relief for the 30 million workers whose incomes were cut during a pandemic.

  • This is the 4th week in a row that total initial claims have risen and the 24th week in a row showing more initial unemployment claims than we saw in the worst week of the Great Recession.
  • As the economy continues to teeter on the brink and more and more temporary layoffs are becoming permanent, Trump and his allies still refuse to allow emergency expanded unemployment benefits to be reinstated to help workers and the economy.

This morning we’re going to see last month’s employment numbers and unemployment rate. We know Trump is going to take a victory lap no matter what, but remember: We are facing Great Depression-level unemployment and the state of the economy is expected to get a whole lot worse.

  • Remember >> This morning’s jobs report will be a snapshot from mid-August, before the impact of Trump’s cutoff of emergency unemployment benefits and other key supports had time to ripple through the economy.
  • It will also still reflect some of Trump’s dangerous push to “reopen the economy” that may have juiced short term economic numbers but ultimately led to worse outcomes for workers and the economy.
  • One thing that will be crystal clear from this morning’s report: Trump and his allies’ refusal to reinstate emergency expanded unemployment benefits is devastating for families and the economy and needs to end.
  • They may say that the economy can “scrape by without another relief package,” but that is simply not true for the millions of workers and families who are already feeling the pain from his inaction.

The choice for President Trump and his allies is clear: Move quickly to restore the incomes of 30 million workers or accept the blame for an economic crisis that is threatening to spiral into a completely avoidable full-blown depression.

Navigating Coronavirus is a joint project of Governing for Impact, Groundwork Collaborative, The Hub Project, and Navigator Research.

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A daily product to help you navigate Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and government response efforts. A project informed by @NavigatorSurvey.