March 19, 2020

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stocks in 33 separate transactions on Feb. 13, during a time when he received daily classified briefings on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, ProPublica reports. Since Burr's sales, the stock market has taken a dive, dropping about 30 percent.

On Feb. 7, Burr co-wrote an op-ed saying the United States is "better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus." He privately shared a more dire opinion on Feb. 27; in a recording obtained by NPR, Burr told members of a social club in North Carolina that the new coronavirus was "much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history" and is "probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

Burr also warned it was likely people would be told to change their travel plans and stay in isolation at home, and the military would possibly have to step in if the coronavirus overwhelmed hospitals.

By law, members of Congress must disclose their securities transactions, and during a review of Burr's records, ProPublica found he sold stocks in companies that would get hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic — he dumped up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and up to $100,000 in shares of the hospitality chain Extended Stay America. The tourism industry has taken a beating during the pandemic, with people canceling reservations in order to stay in isolation at home. Read more at ProPublica. Catherine Garcia

1:20 p.m.

You can always count on Dolly Parton to save the day. The "Jolene" singer announced Monday that she will be launching a 10-part bedtime stories series, in which she will read aloud classic children's books, starting with The Little Engine That Could.

"I hope this gift will further inspire a love of books and shared storytime during this important time," Parton said, adding: "As I always say — We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails — and we're going to do just that, together."

Goodnight With Dolly premieres Thursday, April 2, and while it's ostensibly for children, Nashville Scene recommends "putting on your pajamas, brushing your teeth, and getting in bed for maximum pleasure." Jeva Lange

12:29 p.m.

Amazon has fired the organizer of a strike over coronavirus conditions — though the company is claiming it had nothing to do with the walkout.

Chris Smalls was among several employees leading the Monday strike at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Two employees at the warehouse had tested positive for COVID-19, and workers walked off the job to demand the warehouse be closed and sanitized while fully paying workers, Vice reports.

Smalls, a management assistant who'd worked for five years at the warehouse, apparently came in "close contact" with one of those employees and was told to stay home for 14 days with full pay, an Amazon spokesperson said. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk," the spokesperson told CNN. The company didn't acknowledge strikers' demands.

Smalls said other employees who'd been around the infected employees more hadn't been quarantined. And while he expected he might be fired over the walkout, Smalls said it reveals how Amazon's leaders "don't care about people." New York Attorney General Letitia James slammed Smalls' firing as "disgraceful."

Also on Tuesday, workers at the Amazon-owned Whole Foods grocery store chain organized a massive "sick-out" to protest their conditions. Employees were set to call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who call out sick or are quarantining during the pandemic, free COVID-19 testing for all employees, and hazard pay that doubles the current hourly wage for workers. Shoppers for the grocery delivery chain Instacart started a walkout Monday as well to call for similar protections, but Instacart claimed the strike had "no impact" on its operations and has refused to meet any of the strikers' demands. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:13 p.m.

Chris Cuomo has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The CNN anchor and brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Tuesday he was diagnosed with COVID-19 after he had a "fever, chills and shortness of breath" and was exposed to people who later tested positive.

"I just hope I didn't give it to the kids and Cristina," Cuomo wrote. "That would make me feel worse than this illness!"

Cuomo is now feeling well, CNN said, and he will continue to host his nightly show from home, as he did on Monday.

"We will all beat this by being smart and tough and united," Cuomo added.

This announcement came just as Andrew Cuomo was beginning his daily update on the coronavirus crisis in New York. The governor said the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has reached 75,795, and he referenced the news from Chris.

"My brother, Chris, is positive for coronavirus," Andrew Cuomo said at his briefing. "Found out this morning. Now, he is going to be fine. He's young, in good shape, strong — not as strong as he thinks. But he will be fine. ... He's a really sweet, beautiful guy, and he's my best friend." Brendan Morrow

12:12 p.m.

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday it will continue to pay — and provide health benefits for — minor leaguers until May 31st or Opening Day, whichever comes first. Previously, the league was committed to compensation through April 8, but owners and MLB officials have reportedly been working on a plan to extend the time period for a while.

Professional baseball in the United States is, like all major professional sports, on hold because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and it's unclear when it might start back up again. The sport's suspension is particularly worrisome for minor league ballplayers, who make a fraction of what their major league counterparts earn. For now, at least, they'll continue to receive $400 dollars per week and their normal medical benefits from MLB, although the league is suspending their contracts "as a procedural matter."

The new weekly salary will amount to a pay cut for some minor league veterans, but it's actually a raise for many, especially those who are playing at the lower levels. Per ESPN, weekly salaries over the course of a full minor league season range from $290 for Class A to $502 at Triple-A. Tim O'Donnell

11:36 a.m.

July is still a long way off, but some Democratic strategists are nervous the novel coronavirus pandemic could still affect their party's national convention, where the eventual presidential nominee would normally make a speech.

Even if the United States is relatively successful in suppressing the virus' spread by the time the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there could very well still be limits on large crowd gatherings. That leaves the party in a difficult spot, Politico reports.

Right now, committee officials are planning to forge ahead, but some strategists are fearful not only that it won't happen, but of the consequences of a cancellation. "That Thursday night speech by our nominee could be seen by 50 or 60 million Americans, most of whom haven't paid a minute of attention to the primary," said Bob Mulholland, a DNC member from California. "That's the conversation that takes us to winning."

Their worries are amplified by the fact the Republican National Convention isn't scheduled until late August, which likely gives it a better chance of going forward as planned. "If we have to cancel and [President] Trump has a convention with people screaming and yelling ... that's an advantage to Trump," Mulholland said. "Because nobody saw us except some text they got, and then they watched Trump." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

11:25 a.m.

This is not the greatest TikTok in the world. This is just a tribute.

Jack Black, apparently bored out of his mind in quarantine like the rest of us, has made a glorious debut on TikTok, posting an incredible video of himself dancing while wearing a cowboy hat, boots, and no shirt. You better believe he gets at least one impressively high kick in there during a performance so full of energy that his hat goes flying off his head at one point, prompting him to dance even more aggressively into the camera.

Black called this his "Quarantine Dance," throwing in the hashtags "#distancedance" and "#boredathome" onto some much-needed celebrity content that's actually not out of touch amid the coronavirus pandemic. He's apparently just getting a handle on TikTok, though, as this dance was followed up by not one but three separate videos in a row that all start with him getting abruptly cut off after asking, "Am I going?"

Whether he's hoping to entertain all his fans stuck at home or training for a dance-off with the devil, Black's TikTok page may just have become our new favorite show. Brendan Morrow

11:02 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci sees some positive news finally coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fauci, the U.S.'s top infectious disease doctor who's leading its coronavirus response, spoke to CNN's Jim Sciutto on Tuesday about the ongoing crisis. While COVID-19 case numbers are still expanding every day, Fauci suggested "we're starting to see glimmers" of social distancing having its intended "dampening effect."

"You're starting to see that the daily increases are not in that steep incline, they're starting to be able to possibly flatten out," Fauci said of case numbers across the country. But he was cautious and showed no sign he would recommend lifting stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, saying "I don't want to put too much stock on it, because you don't want to get overconfident, you just want to keep pushing in what you're doing."

Fauci also acknowledged America's mass shortage of medical supplies, particularly protective masks. While there aren't enough masks to go around right now, once they are in better supply, "I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks," he said. That topic will be on the table for the White House's coronavirus task force on Tuesday.

And as for chloroquine, the drug that has been used for decades to treat malaria that President Trump touted as a possible treatment, Fauci said there hasn't yet been any "definitive evidence that this works" for treating COVID-19. Kathryn Krawczyk

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