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HeadlinesMarch 20, 2020

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Worldwide COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 10,000 as Italian Nurses “Stop Counting the Dead”

Mar 20, 2020

The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 10,000, with nearly a quarter of a million confirmed cases of COVID-19. Italy’s death toll has now surpassed China’s, where the outbreak was first reported, with over 3,400 deaths and more than 41,000 confirmed cases. In Milan, nurses report they’ve stopped counting the dead as wave after wave of COVID-19 patients with respiratory ailments overwhelm intensive care units.

Daniela Confalonieri: “The problem is that so many of our staff are at home, as they are testing positive for COVID-19. So that leaves a handful of us to run everything. … We’re working in a state of very high stress and tension. Psychological tension has gone through the roof. Unfortunately, we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy. There’s a high level of contagion, and we’re not even counting the dead anymore.”

Refugee Groups Warn of COVID-19 “Carnage” in Camps Housing Millions

Mar 20, 2020

Fears are growing for millions of refugees living in overcrowded and unsanitary camps around the world, including a million South Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Uganda, tens of thousands of Central Americans in Mexico near the U.S. border, and some 1 million Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh. Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned, “There will also be carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen and Venezuela where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.”

Coronavirus Multiplies Across Australia, Latin America, Africa and Middle East

Mar 20, 2020

In Australia, officials are tracking down thousands of passengers who left a Princess Cruise ship in Sydney after four people tested positive with COVID-19.

Prince Albert II of Monaco has become the first head of state to announce a positive test.

In Latin America, El Salvador and Nicaragua have reported their first confirmed cases, while South America has nearly 1,000 confirmed infections; Brazil, Chile and Peru all report hundreds of infections. Venezuela has also announced a nationwide quarantine.

In South Africa, government officials plan to install a 25-mile fence on the border with Zimbabwe to block entry to undocumented immigrants as part of an “emergency measure” to contain the spread of coronavirus. There are now more than 700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has suspended all prayers in overflow arenas outside holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, Netflix and YouTube say they’ll reduce the quality of their streaming video services in Europe, as millions of people on lockdown in Italy, Spain and other countries have dramatically increased their internet use.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Issues Statewide “Stay at Home” Order for 40 Million

Mar 20, 2020

In the United States, where confirmed coronavirus cases have doubled over the past two days, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all of California — 40 million residents — to remain at home, effective immediately. The order came as models for the coronavirus outbreak estimated 56% of Californians — or over 22 million people — will become infected, with the state’s hospital capacity at 20,000 fewer beds than will be needed at the peak of the epidemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We need to bend the curve in the state of California. And in order to do that, we need to recognize the reality. The fact is, the experience we’re having on the ground throughout the state of California, the experience that’s manifesting all across the United States and, for that matter, around the rest of the world, require us to adjust our thinking and to adjust our activities.”

Governor Newsom’s order will close restaurants, bars, social clubs and gyms across California. Essential services will remain open, including pharmacies, grocery stores, takeout and delivery restaurants, and banks.

The lockdown order came as a group of unhoused and housing-insecure people in Los Angeles — including mothers and their children — have moved into at least 12 vacant and publicly owned homes in the neighborhood of El Sereno. The families say the government has failed to provide them with shelter to protect their health during the pandemic.

New York Mayor Calls on Trump to Mobilize Military to Aid Overwhelmed Hospitals

Mar 20, 2020

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s hospitals are dramatically undersupplied for the coming wave of COVID-19 patients, with a peak expected in six weeks’ time. At a news conference Thursday, the mayor called on President Trump to mobilize massive industrial production of medical equipment, including 3 million air-filtering masks, 50 million surgical masks, 15,000 ventilators, and tens of millions of surgical gowns, coveralls, gloves and face masks.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “If we expect those goods that are produced that we need for our hospitals to get there in time, there’s only one organization that can guarantee that, and that is the United States military. When will President Trump give the order? That is my question. When will he give the order? Why is he hesitating? People are suffering now, and they will be suffering so much more in the month of April. And the president gives himself an A grade, and he congratulates himself, and yet he will not act in the way we need it most. This is patently unacceptable.”

Around the country, healthcare workers are being told to reuse N95 air-filtering respirator masks amid a critical shortage. President Trump says the federal government has ordered 500 million of the masks, but Bloomberg News reports they could take up to 18 months to deliver.

Georgia State Legislators Urged to Self-Quarantine; Spring Break Revelers Party On in Florida

Mar 20, 2020

In Georgia, all 236 state legislators have been urged to self-isolate for weeks, after a state senator disclosed he tested positive for COVID-19. In Florida, Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have closed beaches, but many others remain open. Florida Senator Rick Scott pleaded Thursday for spring break revelers to stop crowding together on beaches. Two regional airlines — Compass and Trans State, which partner with United, American Airlines and Delta — said they will suspend service by the end of the month. Elsewhere in the U.S., at least 90 cities and states have suspended water shutoffs during the pandemic.

Demands Grow to Empty ICE Jails as NJ Detention Center Worker Tests Positive

Mar 20, 2020

In New Jersey, a medical worker at the Elizabeth Immigration Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered self-quarantine. Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said one other ICE employee had tested positive elsewhere in the U.S., though the agency declined to say where. In a letter sent to acting ICE Director Matthew Albence Thursday signed by nearly 800 nongovernmental organizations, the Detention Watch Network wrote, “Outbreaks of mumps, scabies and other highly contagious diseases have been documented to spread aggressively in detention facilities. ICE has repeatedly proven to be incapable of adequately responding and providing the proper care for people in its custody, under normal circumstances.”

Meanwhile, imprisoned immigrants and asylum seekers at the Essex County Jail in Newark are on a hunger strike, demanding their immediate release on bond or deportation to their home countries. This comes as a 27-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras has died of an apparent suicide Wednesday while imprisoned by ICE in Texas. His death is the ninth in ICE custody in the 2020 fiscal year.

Trump Blasts “Corrupt” Media at Rambling Coronavirus Press Conference

Mar 20, 2020

At the White House, President Donald Trump sought to deflect criticism of his administration’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus crisis, lashing out at China and excoriating the media as “fake” and “corrupt news.” Reporters in Thursday’s White House press briefing sat in every other chair to increase social distancing. Faced with a barrage of critical questions, Trump threatened to empty the room even further.

President Donald Trump: “You’re actually sitting too close. You should — really, we should probably get rid of about another 75, 80% of you. I’ll have just two or three that I like in this room. I think that’s a great way of doing it. We just figured a new way of doing it. But you’re actually much too close. You know, you two, you should leave immediately.”

Trump gave the final question of Thursday’s press briefing to Chanel Rion, a Republican political operative with the far-right website One America News.

Chanel Rion: “Is it alarming that major media players, just to oppose you, are consistently siding with foreign state propaganda, Islamic radicals and Latin gangs and cartels, and they work right here at the White House with direct access to you and your team?”

During the press conference, Trump recommended the use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine for patients suffering from COVID-19.

President Donald Trump: “We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that’s where the FDA has been so great. They’ve gone through the approval process. It’s been approved.”

Moments after Trump made those comments, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn denied his agency had approved chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment, saying the drug first needs to be tested in a large clinical trial. Rising Pharmaceuticals, the New Jersey-based company that produces chloroquine, doubled the price of the drug after Trump’s comments — before reversing its decision later Thursday.

At Least Five U.S. Senators, Briefed on Coronavirus, Sold Stocks Before Market Crash

Mar 20, 2020

Calls are growing for a number of U.S. senators to resign, following reports they sold millions of dollars’ worth of stocks after receiving privileged briefings about the threat of coronavirus to the global economy. ProPublica reports Republican Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, unloaded as much as $1.7 million of his holdings on February 13 in 33 separate transactions. At the time, he had access to classified information about the coronavirus and was receiving daily intelligence briefings. The stock market began plummeting a week after Burr’s sales and has since lost about 30% of its value.

At least four other senators also sold major holdings ahead of the crash: Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, as well as Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Senator Feinstein is also on the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Loeffler is married to the chair and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.

The news came as NPR published a secretly recorded audiotape of Senator Burr addressing business leaders and members of the elite Tar Heel Circle at a luncheon in the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on February 27, when there were just 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Sen. Richard Burr: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

After the NPR and ProPublica stories broke, the hashtag #BurrMustResign trended on social media, and even far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson called for Senator Burr’s resignation.

Unemployment Skyrockets as Estimated 2.5 million U.S. Workers Apply for Benefits in One Week

Mar 20, 2020

Economists at Goldman Sachs estimated Thursday some 2.25 million Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits this week — the fastest rush of jobless claims in U.S. history. Many of those working outside of their homes report traumatic levels of stress and a dangerous lack of safety equipment.

In San Diego, hospital nurses treating COVID-19 patients are protesting a new policy that allows the use of less-protective surgical masks, instead of more-protective N95 respirator masks, which are in short supply.

In California’s fields, farmworkers, many of whom are immigrants, say they’re caught between the risk of catching the coronavirus and not earning enough to feed their families.

Minnesota and Vermont have classified grocery store clerks as emergency personnel and will offer them free child care.

New York City Workers Revolt over Lack of Coronavirus Safety Protections

Mar 20, 2020

In Queens, New York, Amazon employees shut down a fulfillment center after a worker tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed case came two days after 1,500 Amazon workers around the world called publicly for Amazon to adopt stronger safety measures. In Brooklyn, employees of the retail store Art To Frames held a protest outside their shop yesterday to demand more protections.

Digna Isabel Rivera: “My name is Isabel. We’re out here of Art To Frames because this morning we came in asking for something so simple as a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. We were denied. We were told that there is no more masks. We were told that there is no more hand sanitizer, that they couldn’t get it. We gave the manager the opportunity to give us a solution, and his only solution was, 'Whoever wants to stay can stay, whoever wants to go can go, but we're not paying you for your time off.’ … I have kids that I have to take care of. I have kids that I have to go home to and that I have to support. I’m here, and I come here to work, because I need to provide for them. And I’m going to be bringing germs to them? And I’m going to go home to be — not to bring germs to them, I’m going to stay home with them, but with what income, if my company, my employer, is not willing to pay me?”

India Hangs Four Men Convicted of Brutal 2012 Gang Rape in Delhi

Mar 20, 2020

India has hanged four men convicted of the brutal gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012. Hundreds of police deployed outside the Delhi jail where the men were executed, as packed crowds of protesters held signs reading “Justice for women” and “Hang the culprits.” The protesters gathered as Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on nationwide television to urge India’s 1.3 billion citizens to avoid crowds, stay at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Greenland Lost Record 600 Billion Tons of Ice in 2019

Mar 20, 2020

In climate news, newly released data from NASA shows Greenland lost a record 600 billion tons of ice during an exceptionally warm summer in 2019, surpassing the previous record melt set in 2012. Greenland’s ice sheets are now losing ice six times faster than in the 1990s. The melt from Greenland over the past year alone was enough to raise global sea levels by more than two millimeters. The past winter, which officially ended Thursday, was the warmest on record for Europe by far, with average temperatures 1.4 degrees Celsius — or 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit — above the previous high set in 2016.

Indigenous People Left Homeless by Flooding in Ecuador’s Amazon Region Blame Climate Change

Mar 20, 2020

In Ecuador’s Amazon region, hundreds of families were left homeless this week as extreme weather swelled the Bobonaza River basin, washing away homes, schools, crops, animals and a bridge in the Sarayaku community. This is resident Helena Gualinga.

Sumak Helena Gualinga: “It’s important to know that this has everything to do with climate change. And these communities that right now are being affected by these floodings have for years been fighting against the fossil fuel industry, have for years been fighting against extractivists, and now they’re directly being affected by climate change.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Drops 2020 Presidential Bid, Endorses Joe Biden

Mar 20, 2020

In election news, Hawaii Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard dropped out of the presidential race Thursday and immediately endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in a video posted on Twitter. In 2016, she endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for president. Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran and current National Guard member who ran on a foreign policy-focused campaign and advocated to end “forever wars.” The 38-year-old is the first Hindu elected to Congress.

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