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HeadlinesMarch 18, 2020

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Global COVID-19 Cases Top 200,000 Worldwide with Over 8,000 Dead

Mar 18, 2020

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.

Researchers: Left Unchecked, Coronavirus Could Kill 2.2 Million in U.S. 

Mar 18, 2020

In the United States, the pandemic has reached all 50 states, after West Virginia reported its first COVID-19 patient. There have been over 6,200 recorded cases and 107 deaths in the U.S., but public health experts warn the true rate of infection is likely much higher due to a severe shortage of tests. Many people who spread the virus are asymptomatic, helping the pathogen to pass undetected from host to host. Researchers at the Imperial College of London warn in a new study that without dramatic action, the novel coronavirus could kill as many as 2.2 million people living in the U.S.

Despite the dire warnings, large crowds continue to gather in many parts of the country. In Florida, beaches were full of spring break revelers Tuesday and were set to reopen today, though Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered bars and nightclubs closed. Officials in New Orleans, Louisiana and Nashville, Tennessee, ordered concert venues closed after viral videos showed densely packed crowds holding early St. Patrick’s Day celebrations over the weekend. 

New Yorkers Prepare to Shelter in Place as Hospitals Face Severe Shortages

Mar 18, 2020

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. 

Coronavirus Fears Grow for Prisoners and Migrants in ICE Jails

Mar 18, 2020

A resident of a New York City homeless shelter tested positive for coronavirus, and an employee at Sing Sing prison north of New York City tested positive. In Colorado, 10 prisoners at the for-profit Aurora immigration detention center were put into quarantine over COVID-19 fears and are awaiting test results. This comes as the L.A. Times reports ICE agents equipped with protective masks continued to arrest immigrants in their homes in California Monday even as much of the state locked down. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is planning a broad crackdown on asylum seekers crossing the southern border. Under the emerging plan, Border Patrol agents would immediately return anyone to Mexico who crosses outside of official ports of entry — without due process. Mexico has 82 confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to over 6,200 in the U.S.

Trump Admin Pushes Economic Stimulus Package Worth Over $1 Trillion

Mar 18, 2020

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.

WHO Considers Airborne Precautions for Medical Workers After Coronavirus Found in Aerosols

Mar 18, 2020

The World Health Organization is considering ordering medical workers to take “airborne precautions” while treating COVID-19 patients, after a new study showed the virus may be transmissible for up to three hours in aerosolized droplets. The report in The New England Journal of Medicine also warns the virus can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Rewriting History, Trump Says “I’ve Always Known” About Pandemic

Mar 18, 2020

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.”

Internet Providers Drop Data Caps as Calls for Net Neutrality Grow

Mar 18, 2020

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.

Biden Wins 3 States as Coronavirus Fears Cause Election Chaos

Mar 18, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden consolidated his lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday in a primary election marred by chaos, confusion and fears over the spread of coronavirus at polling places. Biden won Florida and Illinois by a wide margin and scored a victory in Arizona. He addressed his supporters via video stream Tuesday night from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, in a speech focused on the coronavirus.

Joe Biden: “You know, tackling this pandemic is a national emergency akin to fighting a war. It’s going to require leadership and cooperation from every level of government, and it’s going to require us to move thoughtfully and decisively to quickly address both the public health crisis as well as the economic crisis.”

In Illinois, which recorded its first coronavirus death Tuesday, more than 800 election judges — many of them elderly and highly at risk — refused to participate in Tuesday’s election. At least 200 Chicago polling places were moved away from highly sensitive sites including nursing homes and senior centers. At the Thurgood Marshall Public Library, scores of mostly African-American voters waited for up to two hours in a cramped lobby for their turn to cast a ballot.

Ohio was also scheduled to vote Tuesday, but Governor Mike DeWine delayed his state’s primary until June 2 after declaring a public health emergency.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez came under intense criticism for supporting in-person voting during the pandemic. Bernie Sanders campaign adviser David Sirota tweeted, “There is something very wrong with a political culture that tells people to run out of their homes in the middle of a lethal pandemic to cast votes to protect health insurance industry profits and kill proposals to guarantee basic medical care to all.” 

Sen. Bernie Sanders Outlines $2 Trillion Coronavirus Emergency Plan

Mar 18, 2020

In a speech Tuesday evening, Senator Bernie Sanders made no mention of his primary losses and instead outlined a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency plan. His proposal would send $2,000 monthly cash payments to every U.S. household during the crisis, full unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, an end to evictions and utility shutoffs, a moratorium on mortgage and student loan payments, and expanded health coverage through Medicare. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders: “If you’re uninsured, if you are underinsured, if you have high deductibles, if you have high copayments, if you have out-of-pocket expenses, Medicare will cover those expenses.”

Illinois Progressive Marie Newman Defeats Anti-Abortion Incumbent Dan Lipinski

Mar 18, 2020

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.

China to Expel U.S. Journalists in Retaliation for Trump-Imposed Restrictions

Mar 18, 2020

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.”

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