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America is failing to handle its worst crisis in 80 years

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Coronavirus
People queue to pick up fresh food at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank giveaway of 2,000 boxes of groceries, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 9, 2020.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic has infected 878,000 Americans (and the real number is likely to be much, much higher), killed at least 50,000 in the country, and forced 26 million to lose their jobs.

All in the span just two months.

Without question, it’s the worst crisis the United States has faced since the Great Depression and World War II. And so far, this country’s national leaders and federal government have failed to meet the enormity of the moment.

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President Trump has failed to meet the moment — whether it’s in uniting the country, giving it the unvarnished truth of the situation or even just mourning the dead.

Congress has failed the moment — despite spending some $3 trillion in aid and stimulus, many small businesses have been unable to get loans, and state governments are seeing their trust funds depleted to pay out unemployment insurance.

And while individual governors and states have stepped up their game, the entire federal government — collectively — has failed the moment. In the months since the spread first began, there have been 4.7 million coronavirus tests in the nation, which represents less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.

The Atlantic’s George Packer writes that the coronavirus didn’t break America. Instead, it simply revealed what was already broken:

  • An economic system divided between Americans who can work from home during the pandemic and those who can’t.
  • A political system that has become too accustomed to all-out partisan warfare, pitting Red America versus Blue America.
  • A federal government bureaucracy that’s been hollowed out.
  • A public that’s become too cynical and too divided.
  • And a president who almost always puts his political interests first, who routinely misinforms the public, and who spends much of his day watching cable TV.

Our government and leaders are failing the moment. But they also didn’t get here by accident.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

878,248: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 35,320 more than yesterday morning.)

49,948: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,366 more than yesterday morning).

4.68 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

$484 billion: The final price tag on the newest relief bill passed by the House yesterday

40 percent: The spike in coronavirus cases in Africa last week.

Fewer than 7 percent: The share of applicants for unemployment benefits in Florida who have actually received aid.

All politics is national

Our latest NBC News/WSJ poll shows that it’s party — not geography or education — that’s the main driver of attitudes about the coronarvirus.

Just check out these numbers:

Approval of Trump's handling of coronavirus

  • Urban Republicans: 84 percent
  • Suburban Republicans: 82 percent
  • Rural Republicans: 89 percent
  • Urban Democrats: 9 percent
  • Suburban Democrats: 10 percent

Worried about the coronavirus

  • Urban Republicans: 63 percent
  • Suburban Republicans: 58 percent
  • Rural Republicans: 61 percent
  • Urban Democrats: 87 percent
  • Suburban Democrats: 89 percent

The coronavirus has changed life in a major way

  • Urban Republicans: 67 percent
  • Suburban Republicans: 70 percent
  • Rural Republicans: 67 percent
  • Urban Democrats: 82 percent
  • Suburban Democrats: 86 percent

All politics isn’t local; it’s national.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Poll position

A Fox News poll of Florida released yesterday shows Joe Biden ahead (albeit within the margin of error) — Biden 46 percent, Trump 43 percent.

And it became the latest poll — national or battleground — to have Biden in the lead in the midst of this pandemic.

While polls six months out aren’t always predictive, it is telling that Trump definitely isn’t benefitting as voters are rallying around their others leaders during this crisis.

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar: Eye of the beholder

In today’s Ad Watch, Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pat Winburn is deciding to highlight his strengths over his weaknesses (his words, not ours!).

Winburn has run more than a dozen different spots on broadcast so far, with many including his dog, Alfie.

So in his latest ad, Winburn sets the record straight: “Some of you may be wondering why my dog, Alfie, is in most of my TV ads. Well, I'll tell you: It's because he's so good looking, and I'm not.”

The Lid: Veep(stakes)

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on what’s happening — and not happening — with the Democratic vice presidential search.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden isn’t getting a lot of airtime. That may be why he’s doing well.

And/but: A new poll of Latinos shows that Biden is having a problem mobilizing them.

Biden says he’s worried that Trump may try to delay the election in November.

Many Democrats are urging Biden to pick a black female running mate. But who?

Vote-by-mail advocates are worried about the timeline to get potential preparations right.

The Trump administration may use a loan to the US Postal Service as leverage to force it into making reforms.