ICYMI: Top takeaways from this week's "Face the Nation": White House pushes ahead with post-COVID plans

5/24: Face The Nation

On this Memorial Day, the country appears ready to reopen from the coroanvirus pandemic. And while the Trump administration continues to push ahead with business as usual, experts warn what may be a seasonal slow, could easily return in the fall -- bringing with it dire economic and health risks. 

Here's the big takeaways from Sunday's episode of "Face the Nation" with Margaret Brennan

1. O'Brien: G-7 Leaders welcome in Washington 

Robert O'Brien says administration is looking at cutting off travel from Brazil amid coronavirus pandemic

  • While the White House says there is still significant virus in the nation's capital, the Trump administration does plan to gather world leaders here for the G-7 summit. The plan is to shift the summit from a teleconference on June 10th to an in-person meeting at the end of the month, so says National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
  • What O'Brien said: "I think we'd be looking at the end of June at this point, just because the logistics of bringing in so many world leaders with their security details and planning for the event. So I think it would be later in June. But again, it's a chance for the leaders of the democracies of the- of the free enterprise countries to get together and decide how to get their economies reopened and how we can work together to make sure that we all come out of this COVID crisis and bring back health and peace and prosperity for our peoples."
  • On travel restrictions: The White House will announce Sunday or Monday new restrictions on travel from Brazil to the U.S. in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID19. O'Brien said other restrictions may come on a country by country basis. "I think that we'll have a 212(f) decision today with respect to Brazil and just like we did with the UK and Europe and China. And we hope that'll be temporary. But because of the situation in Brazil, we're going to take every step necessary to protect the American people." 
  • The Trump administration restricted travel from China at the end of January. Should it also have cut off travel from Europe earlier than mid-March? "In hindsight, perfect hindsight, when we realized the Europeans hadn't cut off travel and when we really, you know, we didn't know at the time, but we later learned that the Chinese allowed folks to continue to travel from Wuhan to- to Europe, sure, it would have been better to cut it off early. But what I want to focus on are literally the hundreds of thousands or millions of lives that were saved because President Trump made a decision that was entirely courageous at a time when the IC and others did not believe that this was a serious health risk or even a global pandemic." 
  • O'Brien accused China of a "cover-up" regarding the virus which he said they were aware of as far back as November of 2019 but gave "false information" to the World Health Organization. China, however, informed the WHO on December 31st of a mysterious pneumonia like virus and the U.S. CDC on January 3rd. When pressed as to whether he was accusing China's leaders or low level officials of a coverup, O'Brien acknowledged that the Trump administration did not know "who in the Chinese government did it, but it doesn't matter if it was the local Chinese government or the Communist Party of China. This is a real problem and it cost many, many thousands of lives in America and around the world because the real information was not allowed to get out. And it was a cover up. And we'll get to the bottom of it eventually."
  • As for planning for a second wave of the virus, O'Brien said the U.S. is stockpiling 100K ventilators and PPE. He would not commit to encouraging use of mail in ballots in the upcoming election instead saying that the national security team is focused on getting voters to the polls. 
  • Why this all matters: While the death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. nears 100,000, leaders of all 50 states have begun to ease restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Mr. Trump, too, has indicated he is eager for a return to normalcy and suggested last week he would move forward with the G7 summit next month in Washington. The gathering of world leaders was supposed to be held at Camp David in early June, but was changed to a virtual summit because of the coronavirus pandemic.

2. "Double-digit" unemployment expected through end of 2020

Boston Fed CEO says "it's likely to be double- digit unemployment through the end of this year"
  • Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren will be running the Fed's Main Street Lending Program, which is set to launch this week. He predicted a smooth launch for the program which will offer $600B in 4 year loans to midsize companies. 
  • What Rosengren said: "I think the money will go out over the next two weeks. As you highlight, this is a program that's just starting up. So we're expecting to have the loan documents up this week. We then have to register the banks, and then we're going to be ready to start issuing the loans." He expects demand to come from hotels, restaurants, and manufacturing firms.
  • Rosengren predicted double digit unemployment through the end of this year and full employment won't happen again until there is a vaccine. He said it is ultimately up to Congress to decide whether to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits past their July expiration date. 
  • The extra $600 boost it provides "certainly makes a significant difference for low and moderate income individuals, most of whom are on hourly salaries. So I think that that is certainly one of the ways that you can provide additional support to low and moderate income individuals."
  • Why this matters: While most governors ordered nonessential businesses to close and residents to scale back on their outings outside of the home several weeks ago, all 50 states have now begun to loosen restrictions and roll out plans for a phased reopening. American workers, however, are still feeling the economic pain from the coronavirus crisis. The Labor Department reported last week that an additional 4 million people applied for unemployment benefits, bringing the total number of people who have sought jobless aid to more than 43 million, on a seasonally adjusted basis. The unemployment rate skyrocketed in April to 14.7%

3. Chertoff parts with Trump on mail-in voting

Former Homeland Secretary says D.C. seeing "steady" reduction on COVID cases
  • Should voting in the era of COVID19 be done via mail in ballot rather than physically at the polls? Former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff disputed President Trump's claim that mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud.   
  • What Chertoff said: "I believe it should definitely include mail-in ballots. There's never been a demonstration of widespread fraud or misbehavior in mail-in ballot- ballots. Actually, many years ago, I prosecuted somebody who committed election fraud, but it just was a handful of ballots for people who were incapacitated. The positive side of mail-in ballots is it allows people to vote without putting themselves at risk for long lines in an actual physical election voting sites. The other thing we can do in addition to mail-in, is to have many more sites for curbside voting where you drive up, and you can deposit your ballot right on the site and it's in lockdown. So having the most options possible is the best way to make sure people get to exercise their very important franchise as voters."
  • Chertoff helped the Bush administration plan for a possible pandemic. He said the Trump administration is using part but not all of their playbook. "I think some areas where there's been perhaps a shortfall has been in the stockpiling of medical equipment and protective gear, which was not present in sufficient quantities when this began. And there was a bit of a delay, perhaps, in recognizing that we needed to deal with traveling from Europe, which turned out to be one of the major vectors for bringing the infection into the United States from other parts of the globe."  
  • Why that matters: The coronavirus pandemic roiled the 2020 election season and left state officials scrambling to figure out how voters in their respective states could safely cast their ballots in the primaries. Several states canceled in-person voting and expanded vote-by-mail, while others postponed their primary elections. 
  • Despite the allegations from the president that vote-by-mail invites voter fraud, Chertoff, who led the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said there has "never been a demonstration of widespread fraud or misbehavior in mail-in ballots."

4. Gottlieb: COVID crisis "isn't contained yet"

Scott Gottlieb on COVID crisis: "This isn't contained yet"

  • "This isn't contained yet," former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told "Face the Nation." 
  • What Gottlieb said: "We need to define a new normal. So when we get back to work, we need to get back to work differently. When you look across the country, you see hospitalizations going up in many states: Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona. You saw hospitalizations coming down about three weeks ago over a two week period. And then in the last week you're starting to see them tick up. Now, that shouldn't be surprising. We expected cases to go up and hospitalizations to bump up as we reopened. But we need to understand this isn't contained, and it's still continuing to spread. And we might not be able to fully contain this until we get to a vaccine or better therapeutics."  
  • What can you do now? "We should still try to social distance. You know, narrow your circle of friends that you interact with. Try to go shopping a little less, try to group your shopping to maybe one time a week or two times a week instead of going out everyday. Practice good hygiene with your hands. So all the things that we told people to do, if we do that on a broad basis across our whole population, it could have a big impact on spread. But the virus is likely to continue to circulate. We're likely to have this slow burn through the summer and then face renewed risk in the fall that we're going to have bigger outbreaks and potentially epidemics in certain states and cities. That's what we need to be focused on right now, getting the tools in place to prevent that in the fall."  
  • Will China beat the U.S. to a vaccine? China has 4 vaccines in clinical development right now. "Those vaccines, if they do work, probably are going to provide lower levels of immunity than the platforms that the U.S. and Europeans are working with." Gottlieb added: "I think we're going to have a better vaccine, and I think we're probably going to have it sooner based on where we are in clinical development, some of the early progress that we've shown." Of the handful of vaccines that the US views as most promising, Gottlieb says the two that appear to be furthest along in development are the ones from Moderna/Lonza and Oxford/AstraZeneca. However believes Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Merck and Pfizer are not far behind. He serves on Pfizer's board.  
  • Why this all matters: While hospitalizations dropped several weeks ago over a two-week period, the rate is beginning to increase once again in several states, including Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland. Gottlieb, however, said that "shouldn't be surprising."

5. A new normal for America's vacationers

Wyndham Hotels CEO calls for more flexibility in PPP loans to give relief to franchisees
  • Wyndham Hotels CEO Geoff Billotti, the hotel franchiser that includes brands like La Quinta, Super 8 and Days Inn, says to increase safety employees will wear masks and guests will be asked to wear them as they check into the hotel. 
  • He said Americans are beginning to travel more. "It's been five consecutive weeks of increasing demand. We're the world's leader in the economy, the midscale, the select-service space. Our midscale hotels are operating now at occupancy levels of close to 50 percent. And they continue to see increased demand."    
  • Billotti told '"Face the Nation: that he plans to visit the White House next Friday for an industry meeting with the President. He plans to urge the administration to provide continued financial support to hotel franchise owners, and allow for "more flexibility" in the Congressionally-approved plans like the Paycheck Protection Program. 
  • "More flexibility in the PPP program, the Paycheck Protection Program, in terms of how those funds will- will- will stretch out from four weeks to 26 weeks, the- the repayment from two years to five years and-and the ability to be more flexible on the 75/25 percent rule. Right now, it's 75 percent of that loan must be used to pay for employee salaries, but our franchisees have other operating costs, like utilities, like taxes and like- like- like their mortgage. And they are receiving a lot of support from their from their local lending institutions. I mean, again, these are- these are small mom and pop shops--  and we have not seen any bankruptcies yet. And we do think they're able to operate at reduced occupancy levels and maintain that break even because of this support.
  • Why this matters: A changing experience to how Americans approach everyday activities, like simply checking into a hotel lobby, are just par for the course for a changing landscape in our post-COVID world. 

Missed Sunday's episode? Click here to watch the show. "Face the Nation" airs Sunday mornings on CBS. Click here for local listings.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News' "Face The Nation" and CBS News' senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.