April 17, 2019

Bill Weld is raising a good question: Why don't more presidential campaigns have mascots?

The former governor of Massachusetts formally announced his candidacy for president on Monday, following up his 2016 vice presidential bid on the Libertarian ticket. He's promising a "ferocious" GOP challenge to President Trump — as ferocious as this #FisherCat he's choosing to represent his campaign.

For those unfamiliar, what Weld is misleadingly calling a fisher cat is actually a member of the weasel family. They are known for their fiercely carnivorous attitude, which is presumably the feeling Weld wanted to evoke as he walked into a New Hampshire diner on Tuesday and yelled "I am back." "Two people clapped in a nearby booth," The Boston Globe reports, while everyone else seemed "oblivious to the tall redhead in a leather jacket adorned with a Weld 2020 button."

Still, Weld is hoping to weasel his way into the White House with a moderate, Republican, and very longshot campaign. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:39 a.m.

Japan is warning fans not to get their hopes up too high about watching the Olympics next year, NBC News reports. Speaking Friday, Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, "I don't think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get [the pandemic] under control by next July or not" — suggesting that yes, there's once again a big question mark about if the summer Olympics are even going to happen.

The 2020 Olympics were already pushed back to 2021 last month over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. Muto, though, downplayed guarantees of the rescheduled 2021 Games, saying "we're certainly not in a position to give you a clear answer."

When asked about if there was a plan B for the Olympics, Muto stressed that the athletic competition shouldn't be on the forefront of anyone's minds right now. "Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort," he said. "Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines, and vaccines." Jeva Lange

9:18 a.m.

Thousands of people normally attend the pope's Holy Week celebrations at the Vatican, but needless to say things are going to be a little different in the Eternal City this year. For what is believed to be the first time in modern history, "all the Liturgical Celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful" due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Vatican writes.

Pope Francis will still head two masses on Friday: The Vatican Liturgy of the Lord's Passion at 12 p.m. ET, and the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis, at 3 p.m. ET, which will be held in front of Saint Peter's Basilica rather than at the Colosseum, as is traditional.

There are several options for watching virtually. The simplest is to tune into the Vatican's ongoing live stream at the corresponding time, below. The Vatican's full Holy Week streaming schedule, which is listed in Rome's time zone, can be viewed here.

CatholicTV will also stream the Celebration of the Lord's Passion with Pope Francis at 12 p.m. ET, and rebroadcast it at 5 p.m. ET. The Stations of the Cross will be broadcast at 8 p.m. ET. You can watch their broadcasts here, and access the CatholicTV schedule here. Another option is to view the events through Aleteia; you can access the Celebration of the Passion here and the Stations of the Cross here, along with more information about this year's liturgies.

Forbes also notes that the Holy Week events will be "archived for later viewing," in case you miss them. You can browse the Vatican's YouTube videos here. Jeva Lange

8:04 a.m.

The economic toll of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is severe and growing, and "no one wants to reopen America more than Donald Trump," Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday, albeit "responsibly." The U.S. is at "the top of the hill," Trump said at Thursday's White House briefing. "Hopefully, we're going to be opening up — you could call it opening — very, very, very, very soon, I hope."

Trump can't actually restart the economy since he did not shut it down — most states have issued stay-at-home orders to halt the spread of the disease, and only states can lift them. Nevertheless, the president has privately "sought a strategy for resuming business activity by May 1," The Washington Post reports, and "in phone calls with outside advisers, Trump has even floated trying to reopen much of the country before the end of this month."

Trump's top advisers are more conservative, to varying degrees, The Wall Street Journal notes. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Thursday he thinks the U.S. economy may be ready to reopen by the end of May, while Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said "most people expect" employees to be able to safely return to work "after the second quarter, which of course ends on June 30." Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS News he could see public gatherings resuming this summer "if we do the things that we need to do to prevent the resurgence" of the coronavirus.

"Health experts say that ending the shutdown prematurely would be disastrous," the Post reports, creating another spike in infections and forcing another shutdown "because U.S. leaders have not built up the capacity for alternatives to stay-at-home orders — such as the mass testing, large-scale contact tracing, and targeted quarantines." Pence said Thursday the U.S. has tested two million people, or less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, and Trump rejected the idea that mass testing is necessary to restart the economy.

An early opening is "an aspirational goal," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, told the Post. "It has to be a science-based assessment, and I don't see a mass reopening of the economy coming anytime soon." Peter Weber

5:40 a.m.

John Prine, who died this week from complications of COVID-19, left the world a catalog of great songs and a legion of fans who revere them. His death during an unprecedented time of mass self-quarantine also shaped the tributes — a singer and an instrument. Among Prine's ardent admirers is Stephen Colbert. He asked Brandi Carlile to sing one of Prine's songs on Wednesday's Late Show, and Dave Matthews continued the tribute on Thursday. Watch him perform Prine's elegiac "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness," alone at his house, below. Peter Weber

5:03 a.m.

To limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started advising last week that Americans wear face masks in public in areas where they can't keep a safe six-foot distance from people. But U.S. health officials don't want people buying masks — the limited supply is needed in hospitals dealing with the pandemic.

Not everyone knows how to make a mask at home, though, and in a CNN town hall Thursday night, Dr. Sanjay Gupta demonstrated some options, including creating a mask from a bandana and large hair bands. Dr. Celine Gounder fielded a question on how to safely use and sanitize your homemade cloth mask: remove the mask from behind your ears, then throw it in the washing machine and wash your hands.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams also demonstrated how to make a mask using two rubber bands and a cut-up T-shirt, though a bandana, hand towel, tea towel, or old scarf would also work.

Researchers suggest using tighter-knit fabrics — hold it up to the light to get a sense of the density of the weave — but say any fabric is better than none. You don't need to wear the mask when you go for a walk outside by yourself, Gupta said, but when you can't social distance, the mask can help prevent you from spreading the virus to others, just as their masks protect you. "Everyone has to behave like they have the virus," he said. Peter Weber

4:13 a.m.

The Health and Human Services Department announced Thursday evening that it will no longer end support for community-based COVID-19 testing sites on Friday, as originally planned. "The federal government is not abandoning any of the community-based test sites," Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, told reporters over the phone. "I want that to be loud and clear." Instead, the local authorities hosting the testing sites can decide whether to shift to running the program themselves, as HHS had envisioned, or continue getting federal assistance.

After a late, botched start, U.S. labs are processing thousands of coronavirus tests a day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. But "testing availability remains a signature failure of the battle against the coronavirus in the United States," and "as the virus has spread from state to state infecting hundreds of thousands of Americans, demand for testing has overwhelmed many labs and testing sites," The New York Times reports. "Doctors and officials around the country say lengthy delays in getting results have persisted and that continued uneven access to tests has prolonged rationing and hampered patient care." CNN looked at what went wrong in a Thursday night report.

Giroir said the 41 community testing sites around the country had proved a success, testing more than 77,000 people, mostly health-care workers and first responders, NPR reports. And given the enduring testing setbacks, the HHS decision to stop sending testing materials, protective equipment, and other support to the sites had surprised some people, including members of Congress. "I'm extremely relieved that HHS has reversed its decision," Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) told NPR. Peter Weber

3:20 a.m.

"The coronavirus continues to ravage the country, but there are signs that social distancing is beginning to work — though that does not mean we can go back to normal anytime soon, or maybe ever," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests we continue "compulsive" hand-washing and never shake hands again. "That's bad news for secret societies," Colbert joked.

President Trump, meanwhile, is "facing the prospect of running for re-election after botching the response to a global pandemic," but his tweet about how the outbreak "must be quickly forgotten" was "a tad insensitive," Colbert said. He joked about how Passover and Easter are going to be different this year, then checked in with God, apparently self-quarantining in his Idaho cabin.

Seriously, Easter at home this year, The Late Show advised, via a burning bush.

"Easter doesn't feel at all exciting this year, probably because I've spent the last three weeks driving around looking for eggs already," Jimmy Kimmel said. "The president's been playing a game for Easter — it's called Pin the Tail on Everyone Else. He is desperate to shift blame for the fact that we were unprepared for this pandemic."

"Even with couples stuck at home with nothing to do, experts are saying we're not likely to see a quarantine baby boom," Kimmel deadpanned. "And that's a shame, because my wife and I, we say it every day: You know what would be great right now? More kids in the house. Experts say there would be a spike in birthrates if we could stop asking our significant others why they're loading the dishwasher that way."

"Love in the time of corona" is tough, Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "Yeah, coronavirus is the worst thing to happen to marriages since the invention of the pool boy." Divorce is skyrocketing, he said, because "quarantine is showing a lot of couples that they might love each other, but they don't like each other."

While you're trying to organize your quarantine life, the president is "hoping you'll forget that he badly botched his response to the crisis," Late Night's Seth Meyers said. "Trump thought he alone could fix it — until he saw what 'it' was" — and "nothing gives away the game of how badly Trump has handled this like Trump telling us now we have to forget about it when it's over." Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads