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The coronavirus era presents a 'new normal,' but there's nothing normal about it

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: Unemployment
A man writes information in front of Illinois Department of Employment Security in Chicago, on April 30, 2020.Nam Y. Huh / AP

WASHINGTON — If you cover the political news every day as we do, it’s tempting to become numb to all of the coronavirus statistics, as well as this week’s developments out of Washington.

But if you allow yourself to become numb, you’re minimizing — or entirely missing — one of the most important stories of our time.

Approximately 87,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus in less than three months (and that’s likely an undercount).

Some 36 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in just two months.

Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. workforce was unemployed as of April — and the actual percentage is likely much higher.

Minorities and the poorest Americans have been the hardest hit, both by the virus’s health consequences and the economic fallout.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued just six pages of guidance for schools, businesses and restaurants as they try to reopen — down from the 63-page CDC guidance the Trump administration shelved.

At the same time as all of this is occurring, the president of the United States is asking Congress to investigate his predecessor, as the president’s Justice Department has tried to drop its charges against a former national security adviser.

And the apparent Democratic nominee is operating his presidential campaign from his basement.

Numbness to death. Numbness to economic collapse. Numbness to a lack of federal guidance. Numbness to political distractions. Numbness to politicized justice. And numbness to a presidential campaign that will be unlike any in modern times.

In extraordinary times, we all need to resist the urge to treat any of this as ordinary.

Because it’s not.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,430,567: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 46,143 more than yesterday morning.)

86,904: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,883 more than yesterday morning).

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

50 to 70 percent: The share of a population that would have to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity from Covid-19.

$900 million: How much the Mayo Clinic expects to lose in 2020 due to coronavirus closures.

40 percent: The share of low-income households that have experienced coronavirus-related job losses, per the Federal Reserve.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden: If you believe Tara Reade, don’t vote for me

Former Vice President Joe Biden, after again emphatically denying the claim of a former staffer that he sexually assaulted her nearly three decades ago, acknowledged for the first time Thursday the dilemma now facing some potential supporters in November, saying: ‘They should vote with their heart,’” NBC’s Mike Memoli writes.

“‘If they believe Tara Reade, they probably shouldn't vote for me. I wouldn't vote for me if I believed Tara Reade,’ Biden told Lawrence O’Donnell during an extended interview Thursday on MSNBC.”

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar: Call the HVAC man

Today’s Ad Watch comes from a story in the Kansas City Star, where all eyes are on the rough Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Much of the coverage has been dedicated to two former officeholders in the race, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and current Rep. Roger Marshall. But the Star’s new story focuses on Bob Hamilton, a wealthy businessman who is also running.

Hamilton has spent almost $200,000 on television ads so far, more than anyone except Marshall, according to Advertising Analytics. But as the Star reports, Hamilton’s former HVAC company is still running ads, unrelated to his bid, that feature the now candidate.

That could create a problem for Hamilton’s campaign and his former company, the Star reports, once the August 4 primary draws closer. That’s because it’s possible that those ads could be seen as “electioneering communications” under campaign finance law for featuring an active candidate for office.

Click here to read more from the Star.

Back to work

The House is returning to session Friday to vote on the Heroes Act — the $3 trillion Democratic proposal for coronavirus relief — and on a resolution to allow for proxy voting and remote committee work during the pandemic, NBC’s Hill team reports. GOP leadership has told their caucus to vote on both counts.

But here’s what the NRCC, the Republicans’ House campaign arm, said about proxy voting: “Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are planning to abandon 200 years of precedent and allow proxy voting in the House of Representatives.

While based on numbers alone the measures should pass with Democratic support, it could largely depend upon how many Democrats can make it back to Washington.

The Democratic coronavirus package is a marker for what the party wants in the next round of relief payments, but it’s still unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last night on Fox News that he’s not moving ahead until the White House is ready to move ahead: “As I’ve said, the president and Senate Republicans are gonna be in the same place. We'll let you know when we think the time is ripe to begin to move again. I think there's a high likelihood we'll do another bill.”

The Lid: King’s ransom

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on GOP Rep. Steve King’s primary challenge.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden says he would not pardon Trump if elected.

Confused about what Trump means by “Obamagate”? A team of our NBC experts has this explainer (and fact check) on his claims.

Mitch McConnell now says he was wrong when he claimed that the Obama administration did not leave behind a pandemic plan.

Here’s all the latest on Sen. Richard Burr facing an FBI inquiry as part of potential insider trading case.

The Trump administration wants to suspend a program that provides incentives for foreign students to study in the United States.

Mar-a-Lago is partially reopening, but members will have to bring their own towels.