Here's how you know the U.S. isn't winning the fight against the coronavirus

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: COVID test
Dr. Genene Duran gets swabbed for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test in Civic Center Park in Denver, Colo, on June 20, 2020.Kevin Mohatt / Reuters

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — Last week, Vice President Mike Pence declared that the United States was “winning the fight” against the coronavirus.

And this morning, President Trump tweeted that coronavirus cases are going up only because testing has increased in the country.

But one recent chart — courtesy of the Washington Post and Johns Hopkins data — clearly shows how the United States has a policy failure on its hands when it comes to combating the coronavirus, especially as Trump travels today to one of the main hot spots: Arizona.

After a national decline in new coronavirus cases in May, the curve has once again shot up to a seven-day rolling average of 27,000 new cases as of June 21.

Compare that with the entire European Union — roughly the same size as the U.S. — which has seen its rolling average decline to 4,000 new cases.

Arizona, where Trump heads to today, has seen its cases nearly double in the past 15 days, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and Cyrus Farivar.

And in Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott yesterday sounded the alarm: “COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled.”

Bottom line: The Trump administration can’t say the United States is doing a good job fighting the coronavirus. (And it can’t attribute the recent spike solely due to new tests, since the positive percentage is higher in Sun Belt States than the new testing percentage.)

Otherwise, they wouldn’t be looking for the scapegoat as they’re doing right now.

“White House officials are putting a target on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, positioning the agency as a coronavirus scapegoat as cases surge in many states and the U.S. falls behind other nations that are taming the pandemic,” Politico writes.

Is police reform going to go down in the Senate?

It looks like it.

“Senate Democrats are strongly signaling they will filibuster Republicans’ police reform bill later this week absent more concessions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” Politico writes.

More: “If nothing changes, I’m voting no. I need some assurances that we’re going to vote on amendments that will fix this bill. And it needs a lot of fixing,’ said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a centrist whom Republicans would conceivably need to cobble together the requisite 60 votes.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

2,323,493: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 32,854 more cases than yesterday morning.)

121,043: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 408 more than yesterday morning.)

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

Two more: The number of additional members of the Trump campaign’s advance team in Tulsa who have tested positive for coronavirus, in addition to six who were found to have tested positive on Saturday.

$14 billion: The amount of authorized coronavirus testing and tracing funds that Democrats say the Trump administration has still failed to distribute.

At least 13: The number of participants in South Carolina racial justice demonstrations who have tested positive for coronavirus, leading organizers to postpone future rallies for now.

525,000: The number of foreign workers who could be kept out of the country under the Trump administration’s new executive order to suspend a broad array of visas and extend restrictions on green cards.

Three: The number of debates that Joe Biden’s campaign says it’s committed to participate in, as Trump pushes for additional debates.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Previewing today’s primaries

We’re watching primary races today in Kentucky, New York and Virginia.

In Kentucky, Democrats Amy McGrath and Charles Booker are the top candidates dueling to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the fall. McGrath has the money and name ID; Booker has the momentum.

In NY-9, longtime Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., is getting a primary challenge from a number of Democrats, including Adem Bunkeddeko, who narrowly lost to her in 2018.

In NY-14, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is looking to bat down a primary challenge from former CNBC reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and others.

In NY-15, a crowded field of Democrats — including anti-abortion rights Ruben Diaz Sr. and Ritchie Torres — are vying to replace retiring Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y.

In NY-16, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel is in the fight of his political life against progressive Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal.

In NY-17, there's another crowded field of Democrats — including former Obama DOJ official Mondaire Jones, former Obama DoD official Evelyn Farkas and state Sen. David Carlucci — competing to replace retiring Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

And in VA-5, Democrats are looking to pick their nominee to face Liberty University athletics official Bob Good, who defeated GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., earlier this month. The top Democratic contenders are Marine vets Claire Russo and R.D. Huffstetler, as well as UVA physician Cameron Webb, per the Cook Political Report.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

In today’s ad watch, we circle back to yesterday’s question in First Read about the president’s rally in Tulsa: “So now that the rally has come and gone, who is better off for it?

We’d be hard-pressed to say anyone except the Democrats, who got a whole lot of new ad material.”Turns out, the Democrats wasted no time cutting spots from Trump’s rally in Tulsa — Priorities USA released new television and digital ads Monday that highlight the president’s comments that he told officials to “slow the testing down, please.”

The administration has been spending days trying to walk the comment back, calling it a joke and offering a series of explanations for the comment. But when asked about his comments directly during an interview with Scripps, Trump didn’t directly answer the question and added that “If it did slow down, frankly I think we’re way ahead of ourselves if you want to know the truth.”That’s a line that could be part of an ad down the road too.

A busy week on Capitol Hill

The rest of this week is sure to be a busy week in Congress, per our Hill team. The Senate’s two-week recess starts on July 3rd, so here’s what to expect before then:

  • Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on the coronavirus response effort with Anthony Fauci, Stephen Hahn, Robert Redfield and Brett Giroir. This comes as the president has said he thinks testing should be slowed down, and as several states that took more relaxed reopening measures (like Florida, Texas and Arizona) have all seen spikes.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote to start debating the GOP’s police reform bill. That vote will need 60 voters to pass — if the motion passes, the debate process will likely go into next week.
  • As the House Judiciary Committee begins an investigation into the firing of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, Republican senators are starting to weigh in. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said it looks “pretty swampy”, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said Trump “should not have” fired Berman at this time, and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy said that it “makes the president look bad.”

The Lid: The Comeback Kids?

Don’t miss the pod from Monday, when we looked at whether progressives might be making a comeback in today’s primaries in Kentucky and New York.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler is preparing to subpoena AG Bill Barr for testimony early next month.

Late last week, now-ousted U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman refused to sign on to a DOJ letter criticizing New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s moves on coronavirus.

President Trump says he’s in favor of more coronavirus-related economic stimulus, but not everyone in his party is on board.

The Washington Post published its investigation into those low-flying helicopters used to disperse protestors in DC earlier this month.

The president has focused increasingly on defending his physical and mental health — even behind closed doors.