It’s easy to forget coronavirus as crowds swell

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Today's Agenda

It may be possible to can fight coronavirus and protest at the same time.

Photographer: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images North America

Oh Yeah, There's a Pandemic

Remember coronavirus? You know: the reason you still aren't going into the office?

It was easy to forget over the past week, what with the entire nation erupting in rage and all. That alone is compelling enough to sap any power from other stories. And watching extremely large crowds cramming together, or being beaten into tight clusters by police, can almost make you think the good old Before Times are here again.

But they're not. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is still out there, even as the nation lifts restrictions meant to slow its spread. That was dicey enough, and now protests make it even more likely we'll have to lock everything right back down, warns Joe Nocera.

All we can hope is that some combination of protests happening outdoors, in warm weather, plus a lot of luck, will prevent a second surge of Covid-19. On the "luck" front, there have been reports from Italy that SARS-CoV-2 has mutated into a less-harmful, less-transmissable virus. But Max Nisen looks at the data and finds that no, in fact, there's no evidence it's weakening, unfortunately.

On the plus side, if you can call it that, we're learning through autopsies just how much Covid-19 causes deadly blood clots, writes Faye Flam. This makes the disease much scarier, but this knowledge can hopefully help with treatment.

So should we shut down George Floyd protests simply as a public health measure? That's not an obvious call. They address America's original sins of racism and inequality, which are prime vectors for the spread of coronavirus, writes Cathy O'Neil. No justice, no health.

Mattis Heck

We can probably guess where President Donald Trump stands on the issue of ending protests; his threat to deploy the military in American cities is our first clue. This has inspired a furious backlash, including from former members of the military. None are more prominent than James Mattis, a former Marine Corps general and Trump's former defense secretary. Yesterday he peeled Trump like a banana over his handling of the protests and the country generally. Mattis focused most notably on how Trump is purposefully dividing the nation, notes Cass Sunstein, an outcome the founders feared above all others.

Mattis's critique may not change many voters' minds, writes Jonathan Bernstein. But it opens the window to more and harsher criticisms. Just don't expect to hear any from Senator Tom Cotton — unless they're that Trump isn't cracking down enough. The Arkansas Republican wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times headlined "Send In the Troops" (which is much funnier when you read it to the tune of "Send In the Clowns"), triggering yet another backlash. But Francis Wilkinson points out Cotton wrote this with just one audience in mind: 2024 Republican presidential primary voters, who crave only the reddest of meat from their candidates. Cotton obviously will be one.

Further Protest Reading:

The Economy Still Needs Saving

Meanwhile, there's an economic crisis happening, too. An additional 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, even as businesses started to reopen. And Trump is talking about spending $1 trillion more in stimulus (the House passed a $3.5 trillion stimulus bill a while back, but Republicans aren't biting).

In Europe, the central bank took Ferdinando Giugliano's advice and massively expanded its bond-buying program, without worrying about nein-saying German courts or negotiations over a separate bailout fund. This is the latest masterstroke by ECB chief Christine Lagarde, who has recovered from an early communications stumble to build rock-solid confidence in her central banking, writes Marcus Ashworth.

Here in the U.S., the Federal Reserve has already basically rescued the entire financial system and fueled what is probably the biggest stock-market rally in history, even if it is also the least-loved one, writes John Authers. Soaring stock prices are of no use to the unemployed, however. The Fed can lend a hand there by capping long-term interest rates, writes Narayana Kocherlakota.

The Fed could also be much less stingy with its municipal-bond-buying program, writes Brian Chappatta. State and local governments are suffering, but the Fed is charging them punishingly high interest rates to use its backstop.

Telltale Charts

American Airlines stock was nose-up today, and other metaphors for soaring. But don't be fooled, warns Brooke Sutherland: The outlook for air travel is still on a spectrum between grim and dismal.

Further Reading

Doing away with standardized tests won't help poor students get into college. — Bloomberg's editorial board

Money managers shouldn't be too timid about ESG investing. — Mark Gilbert

Don't buy corporate complaints about unprecedented levels of uncertainty. Uncertainty is always precedented. — Barry Ritholtz

The FBI kept Rod Rosenstein in the dark about its Russia probe. — Eli Lake

ICYMI

Researchers retracted an influential hydroxychloroquine study.

Thawing ground may have caused a huge oil spill in Siberia.

The NBA approved a reopening plan.

Kickers

How to make plastic bottles from sugar cane and captured CO2 (h/t Scott Kominers)

Why the Jurassic Coast is one of the best fossil-hunting sites on Earth.

How not to worry so much about your professional decline.

How Arnold Schwarzenegger made "Total Recall" happen.

Note: Please send memory implants and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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