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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Coronavirus and the campaign trail

President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday to combat coronavirus, reports CBS News associate producer Eleanor Watson. He called the national emergency "two very big words." The president said this declaration will open access to up to $50 billion in resources to help states and localities. The declaration also gives doctors and hospitals more authority by waiving certain restrictions.

One of the criticisms of the administration's response has been the lack of accessible testing. The president said there will be half a million tests available next week. He gave his remarks in the Rose Garden flanked by executives of companies like Target, Walmart and CVS, who have pledged support.
In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Trump reemphasized his announcement during Wednesday's Oval Office address that the U.S. will suspend the entry of foreign nationals who have been to Europe in the last 14 days and U.S. citizens coming back from the area will go through extra screening and self-isolation. The president said he would release a paper Friday night detailing extra steps.



Bernie Sanders argued Friday that the coronavirus crisis proves the need for Medicare for All, reports CBS campaign reporter Cara Korte. He said that through this crisis, more Americans will be convinced that a single-payer system would make crises like this more manageable if everyone has health care.
Sanders took questions on Friday. CBS News asked if there had been any conversations between the Democratic National Committee and his campaign about potentially postponing primaries. Sanders said delaying elections should not be done 'willy nilly" but the decision lies with public health officials.
The senator confessed that the outbreak has "significantly impacted campaign" but is hopeful that his camp's strong online presence will bolster support is this odd time.
Sanders was also asked if the president should get tested. Sanders said yes. He also added that he feels good and has not been in contact with anyone who has shown symptoms so he himself has not gotten tested, but if he wasn't feeling well, he would get tested.
He was asked how he reacts to Joe Biden's coronavirus plan that includes a call to "spend whatever it takes" to prevent the virus from spreading and if that was frustrating to hear given Biden's opposition to Medicare for All. Sanders said he wouldn't use the word frustrating, but said that the crisis highlights the "absurdity and dysfunctionality" of the current health care system.


As the United States grapples with how to contain the spread of coronavirus and related health concerns, state and party leaders are taking actions ahead of critical presidential primaries this month, as well as making plans for future contests should the dangers persist. Here's how officials in states across the country are taking action:
Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has signed a proclamation moving the state's upcoming presidential primary from April 4 to June 20 due to coronavirus, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The move was recommended by Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.
"Today I have certified that a state of emergency exists and requested that the governor issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring. While hurricanes, floods and tornadoes are at the forefront of all Louisianans minds, the threat we face from the COVID-19 virus is an unprecedented threat and unlike any we have faced," Ardoin said.
This will also move municipal general elections from May 9 to July 25. The Secretary of State's office has moved elections before due to hurricanes in 2005 and 2008. The Democratic National Committee responded to the move saying it would violate party rules, according to Watson. The DNC's rules say that state contests are supposed to be completed by June 9 and delegates need to be elected by June 20.
"We will continue to work with every state party as they adjust their delegate selection plans around coronavirus," A DNC spokesperson said in a statement. "This change would violate our rule on timing which provides that all states hold their contests by June 9th. Any violation of our rules could result in a penalty that would include a state losing at least half of its delegates. This change will be reviewed by the Rules and Bylaws Committee."
Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, the state's Democratic Party chair, said the state party will work with Louisiana's Governor and Secretary of State and the DNC to "ensure every Louisianan has the chance to make their voice heard."
"We are hopeful the Democratic National Committee will work with us to revise our Delegate Selection Plan to make sure our state is fully represented in this year's nominating contest. Louisiana Democrats are committed to preserving the health of our neighbors while ensuring the voices of hundreds of thousands of Louisianans are heard," Peterson said in a statement.

CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports that the four states involved in next Tuesday's primaries are expected to be going forward as planned, according to a statement issued by the Secretaries of State from Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.
"Unlike concerts, sporting events or other mass gatherings where large groups of people travel long distances to congregate in a confined space for an extended period of time, polling locations see people from a nearby community coming into and out of the building for a short duration," the statement said. "We are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday."
CBS News reached out to more than a half-dozen county supervisors of elections throughout Florida and none had heard of any discussions regarding the postponement of the state's primary scheduled for Tuesday. According to the Florida Department of Health, there are at least 50 cases of coronavirus in the state involving 45 Florida residents and 6 non-residents. 221 tests are pending results in the state. On the heels of Louisiana postponing its state primary, Secretaries of State Kathy Hobbs (Arizona), Laurel Lee (Florida), Frank LaRose (Ohio) and Elections Board Chairman Charles Scholz (Illinois) said in they haven't received information that leads them to believe that voters and poll workers are in jeopardy.
"Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday."
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell in an email that while this is a "difficult situation," this isn't the first time the state has had to "face adversity."
"Just look back to 2018 with Hurricane Michael or 2004 with Hurricane Charley," said Earley in an email. "At this point we anticipate all polling sites will be open on election day. We have plans in place in case those facts change."
Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis told Mitchell that her county would also be prepared if the state did decided to postpone but also expressed concerns about how the virus could impact voter turnout.
"I do feel that it may potentially yes make it a lower turnout than what we had actually anticipated. [Early voting] is lower than what we had in 2016," said Lewis. She added that if the state did decide to postpone the primary, they would be prepared to make the necessary adjustments. "We're not planning for that [and] that had not crossed my mind before but I could see that it happens, especially after we hear that the Louisiana did the same."
The Secretary of State offices in Illinois and Arizona both told Navarro that a potential cancellation or postponement would have to come from the state legislative chambers. "There is no legal authority for canceling an election, our governor made a disaster declaration this week but even that does not give him the authority to postpone an election or move an election day, that's set in statute," Illinois Secretary of State spokesperson Matt Dietrich said. He added that they will talk about a potential mandatory mail ballot vote, an idea that's been floated for Maryland's primaries, but only after next Tuesday's primaries. Still, Dietrich said coming to that conclusion could be challenging. 

"It would be a lot more difficult, I think, for an election authority to go in and make a case that, 'We're going to not have voting on election day, we're shutting down our polling places, everything is by mail.' That's a pretty major policy decision. So this is something that I'm sure will be dealt with," he said. "It could be worse in November. If that's if that's the case, we want to make sure that we have solid contingency plans."
Maricopa County Record Adrian Fontes in Arizona decided to send all ballots my mail to voters that "typically vote on election day." In a statement, they explain that voters will just have to drop off the mail ballot vote without having to engage with other voters or staff- thought they cannot mail back the ballots themselves.
"The Board of Supervisors is doing all they can to keep polling places open, staffed and clean and I applaud their efforts. But I felt this additional option was necessary to serve our voters," Fontes said.

The Iowa Democratic Party announced on Friday that it is postponing its county conventions March 21st due to the coronavirus. "After extensive consultation with County Chairs, the State Central Committee, party leaders, and public health officials, we have come to the determination that the spreading coronavirus poses a risk that outweighs a temporary delay in moving the caucus-to-convention process forward," said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Mark Smith in a statement. "Iowa Democrats should not have to choose between democratic participation and remaining in good health, and concerns for the well-being of our delegates, thousands of volunteers, workers at convention venues, and the public come first." Smith sayid the party will work to find a solution for rescheduling the conventions. At this point, Iowa's District and State Conventions are still planned to proceed as scheduled.

Late Thursday night, the Wyoming Democratic Party announced it was suspending the in-person portion of the upcoming presidential caucuses that was scheduled for April 4. "Our priority is ensuring that people are healthy and safe. Holding public events right now would put that in jeopardy, so this is the responsible course of action," said Wyoming Democratic Party Chair Joe M Barbuto in a statement. The state party is encouraging voters to vote by mail. Those ballots need to be postmarked by March 20. Voters can also drop off ballots at locations on March 28 and April 4. The deadline to register to vote to receive a ballot by mail has passed and ballots were mailed to registered Democrats automatically. The deadline to register to vote in the caucuses is March 20. The state also canceled its county convention delegates, so there won't be names of which delegates would be elected to the state convention on April 4. The party is working on a solution for rescheduling or finding a different way to do the county conventions.

Alaska, which holds an in person primary on April 4, is encouraging voters to return their ballots by mail, according to Alaska Democratic Party Communications Director Jeanne Devon. The deadline to submit ballots by mail is March 24.  At this point, there have not been any changes to in-person voting on April 4. "We are paying close attention for guidance from local health authorities, and urge people — especially those in high-risk groups — to consider any and all exposure to public places, and to continue taking proper precautions," Devon told CBS News. "We will continue to assess our plans on a daily basis as the situation unfolds,"

There are currently no discussions to move Wisconsin's April 7 presidential primary, according to Wisconsin Elections Public Information Officer Reid Magney. Magney said the decision was made yesterday for absentee ballots to be mailed to nursing homes and other areas with vulnerable populations rather than sending voting deputies and representatives from political parties. Additionally, local officials will be able to move polling locations currently scheduled to be held at nursing homes. Wisconsin officials are encouraging people who have concerns to request an absentee ballot online and vote by mail. The state has no-reason absentee voting. Ballots need to be postmarked by April 2 and need to be received by 8:00pm central time on April 7, when polls close in the state. They can also be hand delivered to some locations including a local clerk's office or satellite locations in some larger cities. Magney added that the state is in the process of offering guidelines for local clerks on primary day for sanitary practices and supplies that may be needed.

While the primaries for these four states are still more than six weeks away, talks are already underway about how to handle coronavirus. According to a spokesperson for the Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill's office, senior staff in that office are meeting on coronavirus response planning daily, are included in all of the Office of the Governor's planning calls for this issue, and are in regular contact with federal authorities, reports CBS News associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. They have also set up a working group with the leadership of the Registrars' and Town Clerks' Associations to "ensure that both state and local election officials are on the same page when it comes to planning for the upcoming primary."
Absentee ballots in Connecticut will not be available until April 7 and cannot even be ordered by towns until March 24, but the Secretary of State's office has advised towns to expect heavy demand for such ballots. On Friday, Merrill issued guidance that absentee ballots should be made available to any Connecticut voter who wants to avoid a polling place due to coronavirus.  Current state statutes allow voters to get absentee ballots because of "his or her illness." Merrill has asked Governor Lamont to issue an Executive Order that would eliminate restrictive language in the statute during this emergency for the April 28 presidential primary. Following that executive order, voters to get absentee ballots because of "illness."
"Through surprise October snowstorms, November hurricanes, to the threat of a global pandemic – voting in Connecticut must go on," said Merrill in statement. "The nature of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, is such that public health experts advise minimizing crowds and direct contact with other people. In order to ensure that Connecticut voters are able to cast a ballot on April 28th, absentee ballots must be available for voters who want to follow public health advice and avoid polling places."
At the same time, there are no talks of postponing Delaware's primary, State Elections Commissioner Anthony Albence told Ewall-Wice. According to the Commissioner, officials are working on getting materials in place to ensure polling places have right products they need to keep equipment clean and disinfected and there will be an emphasis on such measures in their poll worker training, so voters are confident they're keeping locations as clean as possible. Delaware does not have early voting, but it does have absentee voting for defined reasons as specified by state law including for being sick. Albence says his office has advised staff that there could be an uptick in absentee voting applications, so they're prepared as possible to process them. He says they will honor completed application that is received for outlined absentee reasons.
Meanwhile, the Maryland State Board of Elections is working with federal and state health agencies to monitor developments related to coronavirus. "We appreciate that this is an evolving situation and are taking every appropriate step to deliver a safe and secure election for Maryland voters and election workers," read a statement from State Administrator of Elections for Maryland Linda Lamone when asked for comment. The SBE is reminding voters who prefer to vote from home that they can request an absentee ballot online. Maryland law allows "no excuse" absentee voting.
CBS News also reached out to the New York Board of Elections and is waiting to hear back.



In addition to disrupting presidential campaign schedules, House candidates have also seen a push for virtual and phone events in place of regular canvassing and rallies reports Navarro. Mike Garcia, a Republican candidate in California's 25th district, announced Friday that his campaign is switching to tele-town halls on the economy next week. "Like everyone else across America, we are following the guidelines set forth by the CDC, but with an election only 60 days away, voters need to know where their candidates stand on the issues," Garcia said in a statement. Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia announced that her town hall next week will be postponed, while some candidates like Mckayla Wilkes in Maryland's 5th district have stopped all door-to-door canvassing operations. 
Illinois' 3rd district candidate Marie Newman has her primary next Tuesday, and she said in a call with reporters today that she had to cancel her election night watch party. "We have had to adapt. Mayor Lightfoot and Governor Pritzker have asked everybody to be very careful about their convening, and we are we are really adhering to that," she said in a call with EMILY's List. "The campaign we're, you know, judicious about elbows and all of those things, maybe even a little bit of Irish dancing so that we keep our hands down. But we're trying to give everybody as much information in the district as possible and the district really appreciates that."

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