The pandemic could have been way worse, observes Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle in a new article: It could have struck 20 years earlier — COVID-1999 instead of 2019.
The world was already connected by "economic superhighways" two decades ago, McArdle notes, so the virus could've spread with similar ease. But vaccine research was nowhere near its present state. Crucial information on mRNA vaccines (like the Moderna and Pfizer shots) "was still five years from being published, and work on adenovirus vaccines, such as those from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, was also in early innings."
What about mitigation measures? In 2000, McArdle writes, "we didn't have the technologies that allowed so many people to socially distance while they waited for a vaccine," nor the technology "that made isolation semi-tolerable," but "a lot of economic activity probably would have stopped regardless."
I'm not so sure about that last bit. How much really could have stopped? Certainly not primary education. Parents might tolerate online school or a shutdown lasting several weeks, but I can't imagine fully suspending children's education until vaccine distribution would've been politically acceptable. Maybe we'd have tried TV or radio classes in places with the infrastructure for it, but if Zoom school — in which kids get some personal interaction with teachers — is unbearable, television school would be worse.
Likewise, very few workplaces could've gone remote. About 40 percent of American households had internet, but only 1 percent had broadband. Dial-up worked okay for email, but large files? What about offices that still used paper? And long distance calls weren't cheap. History suggests there would be some shutdowns and certainly quarantine of the symptomatic, but probably not broad, months-long lockdown. Most of our ordinary routines, of necessity, would have continued.
That said, the information environment of 2000 would've made our experience of the pandemic very different. Conspiracy theorizing might have been less mainstream. There may have been extremely sincere PSAs and collectible masks for kids in cereal boxes. We wouldn't be constantly trading fears and rumors online. More people would have died, but we'd know much less about it. Bonnie Kristian
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) suggested he isn't pleased with the current state of the Republican Party on Sunday, telling NBC News' Chuck Todd that it "bothers me" that Republicans have to "swear fealty" to former President Donald Trump "or you get kicked out." The GOP, he said, has become a "circular firing squad where we're just attacking members of our party instead of focusing on solving problems" or debating the Biden administration on policy.
WATCH: @GovLarryHogan reacts to GOP's move to oust Liz Cheney from House leadership & says "it's sort of a circular firing squad where we're just attacking our own party."
"It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the 'Dear Leader' or you get kicked out the party." pic.twitter.com/22khoNvQNI
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), another Republican who isn't afraid to criticize Trump, had a different analogy for his party: the Titanic. "We're ... in the middle of this slow sink," he told CBS News' John Dickerson, later arguing that many of his colleagues are trying to move on too quickly from reckoning with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Tim O'Donnell
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) likens GOP to “Titanic”: “We’re in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck, telling everybody it’s fine, and meanwhile Donald Trump’s running around, trying to find women’s clothing and get on the first lifeboat.” pic.twitter.com/L7Wjy87ngV
Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari doesn't think people should "overreact" to the disappointing April jobs report, but he acknowledged the "bottom line" is that "we are still somewhere between 8 and 10 million jobs below where we were before" the coronavirus pandemic struck. "We still are in a deep hole," he told CBS News' John Dickerson on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation. "And we still need to do everything we can to put those folks back to work more quickly."
APRIL JOBS NUMBERS: “We shouldn’t overreact to any one report,” Minneapolis Fed President @neelkashkari says, emphasizing that there are 8 million fewer jobs today than before the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/oNuYnNC8tl
So how did economists' predictions miss by so much? Kashkari explained that the pandemic "is unlike any other shock in our lifetimes" because the economic recovery relies so heavily on individuals' assessments of personal safety. "It's very hard to model that out," Kashkari said, noting that people have spent so much time "conditioning" themselves to take precautions. Now, though, "we have to start to change what we've been telling people," he said, agreeing with an earlier point from former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. "People feeling safe about the virus" will ultimately drive the economic recovery, Kashkari said. Tim O'Donnell
Economists previously forecast 1 million jobs would be created in April. Why the big miss? “This is unlike any other economic shock in any of our lifetimes,” @neelkashkari says. “This is very different from the financial crisis.” pic.twitter.com/BaKS7NxvW2
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made public the inevitable on Sunday, telling Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that he supports Rep. Elise Stefanik's (R-N.Y.) bid for GOP conference chair.
The No. 3 House position is currently held by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), but she appears to be on the way out after clashing with many of her colleagues over the future of the party, particularly regarding whether former President Donald Trump should play a role. Cheney is one of the most prominent Trump critics within the GOP, and while McCarthy maintained his support for her for a while, he has recently made it clear that he considers her stance to be a hindrance to party unity, which is why he's backing Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, albeit one with a much more mixed voting record than the consistently conservative Cheney.
Stefanik thanked McCarthy for his endorsement. The conference chair vote is expected to take place Wednesday. Tim O'Donnell
Last Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert was celebrating his record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby victory. Flash forward to Sunday, and he's been suspended from entering horses at Churchill Downs, which announced Sunday that Baffert's 2021 Derby-winning trainee, Medina Spirit, tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone. The steroid isn't completely banned in Kentucky horse racing, but Medina Spirit's post-race blood sample reportedly was found to have double the legal threshold, which is why Baffert received the punishment.
It appears Medina Spirit will be tested again, so the win is still valid, but if the findings are upheld the horse and Baffert will be stripped of their victory, and Mandaloun, the runner-up, will be crowned.
Baffert has denied involvement and said he's not sure how Medina Spirit could have tested positive. "This shouldn't have happened," he said. "There's a problem somewhere. It didn't come from us."
A bombing at a girls' school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday killed at least 50 people, many of them students between 11 and 15 years old, The Associated Press reports. Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, said more than 100 people were wounded in the attack, but cautioned that casualty figures could still rise.
The Taliban denied responsibility for and condemned the attack, which took place as the U.S. continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan, although Arian blamed the group. The bombing occurred in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, where many residents are of the ethnic Hazara minority, a mostly Shiite group that has been targeted by Islamic State loyalists in the past.
Frustrated by what they consider inadequate government protection, Hazara leaders from Dasht-e-Barchi met Sunday and decided to create their own protection force, which would be deployed outside schools, mosques, and public facilities, AP reports. The force would cooperate with the government. Read more at The Associated Press and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell
Tesla CEO Elon Musk poked fun at himself during his Saturday Night Live monologue, joking about his lack of "intonational variation," his marijuana-themed appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast, the spelling of his son's name, and some of his odder tweets.
"Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things," Musk said, seemingly addressing the controversy surrounding the show's choice to have him host. "But that's just how my brain works. To anyone I've offended, I just want to say: I re-invented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you also think I was gonna be a chill, normal dude?"
Musk also revealed he has Asperger's syndrome, reportedly marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the diagnosis. Watch the full monologue below. Tim O'Donnell
China's Long March 5B rocket crashed back to Earth on Sunday morning, landing in the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives, the China Manned Space Emergency Office announced. Most of the debris from the rocket, which was launched in April, reportedly burned up when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.
The risk of the rocket causing significant damage was considered low, but experts were concerned because the 40,000-pound Long March was out of control and traveling at a high speed, making it very difficult to predict where it would land.
While it appears the worst was avoided (it's unclear if any debris landed on the Maldives, CNN notes), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson still expressed displeasure with Beijing. "Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," he said. "China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracked the rocket, tweeted that regardless of the outcome, China was still "reckless." Read more at CNN and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell
An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely. It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives). But it was still reckless