LOS ANGELES - America continues to adjust to a COVID19-induced new normal.
Of the 1.7 million confirmed cases worldwide, 500,000 are in the US. More than 18,000 Americans have succumbed to the disease, although the models keep improving in terms of how many ultimately will. This, as roughly 17 million have filed for unemployment in the past three weeks as a result of the preventative shutdown.
As "The Issue Is" continues our weekly exploration of the pandemic, Elex Michaelson talks hope, policy, and binge-watching in the age of coronavirus.
As Americans struggle to make ends meet during the outbreak, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is calling for a suspension of credit card interest payments, penalties, and fees.
“A lot of folks don’t have savings and are going to end up having to pay for groceries on their credit cards, and no one should be profiting off their desperation to be able to feed their children and be able to get through the end of the month," Harris said.
Beyond a suspension of credit card interest penalties and fees, this week Harris joined some 50 Democratic lawmakers seeking increased direct relief for struggling Americans.
Following the $1,200 relief payment in last month’s CAREs Act, the lawmakers hope to distribute recurring monthly payments throughout the pandemic.
“Until we get through this crisis, we need to make sure that people don’t completely fall down in terms of their ability to meet their monthly essential obligations, like feeding their children and paying their rent," Harris said.
This, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate what relief efforts to undertake next, and unlike the 96-0 passage of the CAREs Act, this round of negotiations seem to be breaking down far more along partisan lines.
For Harris, the items needed in the next phase of Congressional relief include free coronavirus treatment, more support to small businesses, increased paid sick leave, and more PPE for health care workers.
"There is still a lot of work to be done, and we are still not adequately, as a country, meeting the moment in terms of the crisis that is in full swing," Harris said.
To that effect, Harris said President Trump can take a cue from the local and state lawmakers in California, including Governor Newsom and Mayors like Eric Garcetti and London Breed.
"Let's talk about what exactly the qualities of leadership look like in a crisis," Harris said.
"It's the ability to embrace fact, and then speak truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may make people. It is the ability, in the case of a public health crisis, to embrace science, and then act in the interest of the people as opposed to self interest."
The conversation then turned from the current crisis to the upcoming election.
Last summer, Harris was considered a front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Although she dropped out of the race before primary voting began, she's now a leading contender to be tapped as Joe Biden's running mate.
When pressed, Harris said "I have to be very honest with you, I am not focused on that, I am not focused on that at all.
Instead, Harris spoke about how leaders must be focused on meeting the current moment, calling for greater SNAP benefits and on ICE to release certain detainees, among other issues.
Before wrapping up, Harris broke down her quarantine routine, saying she and her husband have been splitting cooking duties, complete chores on Saturdays, and have also watched "Forrest Gump" and Netflix's popular docuseries "Tiger King."
Senator Harris isn't the only one enjoying "Tiger King" during quarantine, so have Maria Shriver and her son Patrick Schwarzenegger.
"I have a crush now on Joe Exotic, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul," Shriver confessed, as the pair have also been watching "Breaking Bad" and "Ozark" while at home together.
Beyond binge-watching, the two have been productive during the quarantine, creating and c-hosting "#HomeTogether," a show on Instagram Live where they interview other well-known figures who are doing good and spreading hope in this time of crisis.
"We really wanted to use our platform to highlight other people that were using this time to help people, to use their platform to go out to raise money, to raise awareness," Schwarzenegger said.
Among their high profile guests, Shriver and Schwarzenegger have spoken with the likes of Guy Fieri about helping restaurant workers, Bethenny Frankel on finding supplies without being price-gouged, and Mel Robbins on finding routines in quarantine.
Shriver added: "What we wanted to do here was talk to people who are helping, talk to people who want to use their voices to heal, and talk to people who are trying to cultivate hope."
#HomeTogether isn't just in reference to a reality in which most Americans find themselves socially isolated, it also refers to Shriver and Schwarzenegger's own living arrangement, as 26-year-old Schwarzenegger offered to move back home with his mom when California issued a stay-at-home order in March.
"It's been really a lot of fun," Shriver said. "I know a lot of people said to me they're struggling with their adult kids, or kids who came home from college, and that it's been a little bit bumpy... but for us, or I should say I'm speaking for myself, it's been a really wonderful experience."
But as Shriver and Schwarzenegger weather their quarantine together, the two also stressed the importance of being there for others, both individuals and small businesses.
"If there's one thing that you want to do to help other people, it's just to send them a simple text message, you can tweet at them, you can send them an e-mail, call them," Schwarzenegger said.
"When this is all said and done, people will really remember who did those acts of kindness, who did check on them, who was thinking of them."
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For airtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.