Confirmed cases of coronavirus have topped 200,000 worldwide, with over 8,000 deaths reported. One of the hardest-hit nations is Iran, where researchers warn the rate of infections won’t peak until May and that as many as 3.5 million people could die. Officially, Iran has reported just under a thousand deaths, but the World Health Organization believes the actual death toll could be five times higher.
Italy reported 345 new cases in the last 24 hours, with the death toll topping 2,500.
In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez addressed a mostly empty parliament Wednesday, with only a few dozen lawmakers allowed to attend in person. Spain has had 533 deaths among nearly 12,000 confirmed cases and is under a nationwide lockdown.
In Madrid, migrants climbed onto the roof of an immigration jail Tuesday, protesting poor medical treatment as prisoners become ill.
In Latin America, the Guatemalan government has temporarily suspended the arrival of U.S. deportation flights transporting Central American asylum seekers as part of an asylum agreement with the U.S.
In Africa, at least 30 nations — covering more than half the continent — have confirmed COVID-19 cases. Tunisia’s president ordered a 12-hour nightly curfew and asked workers to donate half their salaries to fighting the pandemic. Ivory Coast has closed schools and joined other West African nations in barring flights from affected countries.
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that all 8.6 million city residents may soon be asked to shelter in place, with a decision expected within 48 hours. Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly contradicted the mayor’s warning.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval. And I have no interest whatsoever and no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city.”
Governor Cuomo has slammed the Trump administration for inaction. He said New York has only about 4,000 ventilators — critical tools in keeping patients with severe respiratory problems alive. A government task force warned New York could be short by some 16,000 ventilators at the peak of the crisis. Cuomo said that peak will occur in about 45 days.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “They are expecting as many as 55,000 to 110,000 hospital beds will be needed at that point.”
New York currently has just 53,000 hospital beds. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the largest public transit system in the U.S. — asked the federal government for a $4 billion bailout as ridership plummeted.
In Washington, the Trump administration said Tuesday it will support a plan to inject more than $1 trillion into the U.S. economy to fight the unprecedented economic crash caused by the pandemic. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has proposed a stimulus package that would rapidly deliver a $1,000 check to most American adults, with more direct payments likely in the months ahead. Mnuchin called the pandemic “worse than 9/11” for the airline industry and called for a $50 billion bailout. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, had this response.
Sara Nelson: “We have told Congress that any stimulus funds for the aviation industry must come with strict rules. That includes requiring employers across aviation to maintain pay and benefits for every worker; no taxpayer money for CEO bonuses, stock buybacks or dividends; no breaking contracts through bankruptcy; and no federal funds for airlines that are fighting their workers’ efforts to join a union.”
Neiman Marcus and The Gap on Tuesday became the latest U.S. retailers to announce nationwide store closures. General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler said Tuesday they would keep their factories open for now, operating with limited capacity and with new sanitation protocols. The United Auto Workers union has called for all U.S. auto factories to be closed for two weeks as a safeguard.
Bloomberg reports Secretary Mnuchin told Republican senators that without interventions, the U.S. jobless rate could hit 20%. An NPR/”PBS NewsHour” poll found nearly one in five U.S. households has already experienced a layoff or a reduction in work hours.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had “always known” that the coronavirus outbreak was a pandemic, contradicting dozens of public statements he’s made since January downplaying the threat of the virus.
President Donald Trump: “I’ve always known this is a — this is a real — this is a pandemic. I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
In previous weeks, Trump said his administration had shut down the virus; suggested people sick with the virus could go to work; said the virus would “miraculously” go away in April; said the numbers were “going to get progressively better”; and tweeted, “The risk is low to the average American.” Trump has falsely claimed, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.”
As homebound Americans are increasingly going online to keep in touch with friends and family, some internet providers, including AT&T and Comcast, have lifted data caps, without significant interruptions to service from the increased bandwidth. The crisis has renewed calls for the FCC to regulate the internet as a utility, and for a reversal of the Trump administration’s repeal of net neutrality protections. Meanwhile, Facebook began censoring coronavirus news articles from a number of outlets Tuesday, including The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Politico and Democracy Now! A Facebook executive blamed a bug on an anti-spam artificial intelligence system.
In Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District, progressive challenger Marie Newman declared victory in Tuesday’s primary election against conservative incumbent Democrat Dan Lipinski. Newman won the support of Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after she backed the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. She’s also endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America. Lipinski is known for his anti-choice beliefs, and in January he asked the Supreme Court to overturn abortion rights under Roe v. Wade. He also voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
The Chinese government has announced it will expel American journalists working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. The Chinese government also demanded outlets like Time magazine to provide detailed information of their reporting in the country. This comes as the Trump administration last month limited the number of Chinese citizens allowed to work in U.S.-based Chinese outlets to 100 and announced that five state-run Chinese news organizations would be regulated as “Chinese government functionaries.”