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Global COVID-19 Death Toll Passes 15,000 as Italy Drafts Military to Enforce Lockdown

Mar 23, 2020

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has now topped 15,000, with over 340,000 confirmed cases. Italy remains the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe with nearly 5,500 deaths — 650 of those just on Sunday — and nearly 60,000 identified cases. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte instructed all residents to stay at home except to procure medicines and food, and ordered nonessential businesses to shut down for the next two weeks as the country scrambles to slow down the outbreak. Italy has drafted its military to enforce lockdown orders in the hard-hit Lombardy region. It also has appealed to the U.S. military to assist with medical needs.

A group of over 50 Cuban doctors and nurses landed in Italy Sunday to assist with the fight against the coronavirus. Cuban doctors have regularly deployed to pandemic-stricken regions as part of a medical diplomacy program.

Angela Merkel to Self-Quarantine After Her Doctor Tests Positive for COVID-19

Mar 23, 2020

Spain plans to extend its lockdown by two weeks as the virus killed close to another 400 people Sunday, bringing the total number of reported deaths to more than 2,000.

Greece also announced a nationwide lockdown starting today.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was self-quarantining after her doctor tested positive for coronavirus, as the country barred groups of more than two people from gathering, with the exception of families. This is Chancellor Merkel addressing the German public during a Sunday broadcast.

Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The overwhelming majority of people understand that it’s now down to every individual, that everybody can and must do their bit to stop the virus. … That’s how we show that we care for older people and the sick, for whom the virus is the most dangerous. In short, that’s how we save lives.”

First COVID-19 Cases Reported in Occupied Gaza, War-Stricken Syria and Afghanistan

Mar 23, 2020

In Gaza, the first two coronavirus cases were announced Saturday. Authorities have shut down restaurants and cafes and suspended Friday prayers as residents fear an outbreak will further cripple a health system already suffering from Israel’s blockade, which causes constant shortages of medicine and poor sanitation services. With a population of over 1.8 million people, the besieged Gaza Strip is also one of the most densely populated places on Earth and has often been called an “open-air prison.”

Meanwhile, shelter-in-place orders were announced in the occupied West Bank, where around 60 cases have been reported.

On Sunday, Syria announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 as humanitarian groups warn of the catastrophic effects the disease will have in the war-torn country.

In Afghanistan, a health official confirmed the country’s first coronavirus-related death Sunday.

Coronavirus Cases Mount Across Africa

Mar 23, 2020

The World Health Organization has warned African nations to prepare for the worst, as cases continue to multiply. The continent now has over 1,000 confirmed cases in over 42 countries.

In South Africa, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has topped 270, making it the country with the highest number of infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Burkina Faso, four government ministers tested positive for coronavirus as cases there topped nearly 100 — the highest number in West Africa.

Lockdowns are underway in multiple countries, including Rwanda, Ghana and Tunisia, which now has 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, travelers who arrive in Ethiopia will face mandatory quarantine as of today. Somalia is lifting its ban on international flights for two days so that citizens outside the country can come home.

Two Nigerians Overdose Self-Medicating with Chloroquine After Trump Praised Anti-Malaria Drug as Possible COVID-19 Treatment

Mar 23, 2020

In Nigeria, health authorities are warning against self-medicating, after two patients overdosed on the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, which President Trump has praised as a possible treatment for coronavirus. Tests are currently being carried out with anti-malarials in the U.S. and other countries, but the FDA and the WHO have not approved its use as a treatment for COVID-19. Back in the U.S., lupus patients have reported shortages of the drug hydroxychloroquine — which is used to treat both malaria and lupus — following Trump’s recent statements.

Coronavirus Leads to Lockdowns, Travel Bans in Latin America, as a Colombian Prison Riot Turns Deadly

Mar 23, 2020

In Latin America, Chile has confirmed at least 630 cases of COVID-19. Brazil has closed its borders to eight neighboring countries for the next 15 days as cases there top 1,600.

Twenty-five deaths have been reported in Brazil.

In Ecuador, where all flights are currently banned, the mayor of Guayaquil ordered vehicles to block the runway of the city’s international airport to prevent an airplane from the Spanish carrier Iberia from landing. The plane later landed in Quito. Ecuador has reported nearly 800 cases and 14 deaths. The country’s health minister has resigned, citing lack of resources and government mismanagement.

In Colombia, at least 23 people were killed and dozens injured as a riot rocked a Bogotá prison, where prisoners have been protesting dire sanitary conditions and demanding protection from the coronavirus. Colombia is set to go on lockdown starting Tuesday for a period of three weeks.

Meanwhile, Bolivia announced it was postponing presidential elections in May, as it heads into a two-week nationwide quarantine period.

In Central America, Guatemala and El Salvador have both enacted strict curfews.

Fate of Tokyo Olympics Still Unknown as Canada, Australia Refuse to Send Athletes

Mar 23, 2020

The International Olympic Committee said Sunday it is still weighing options for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, including postponement. The Japanese government also appears to be open to a postponement following earlier rejections of the idea. Canada and Australia said they would not send their athletes to Japan this summer and urged for a one-year postponement.

India Locks Down Major Cities in Effort to Contain Coronavirus Spread

Mar 23, 2020

In India, authorities have placed lockdown orders on 75 districts, which include the heavily populated cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, after a nationwide 14-hour “test” curfew took place on Sunday. India currently has just over 400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but health officials say the disease could spread extremely fast through the country, which has the world’s second-highest population at 1.3 billion.

1 in 3 People in U.S. Under Lockdown as Cases Soar and Critical Supplies Dwindle

Mar 23, 2020
Image Credit: Flickr/Brandon Watts

Here in the United States, cases have now topped 35,000 and over 450 deaths. The U.S. now has the third most confirmed cases worldwide. A widespread lack of testing nationwide means the actual number of cases, however, is likely significantly higher.

Around one out of every three Americans or U.S. residents are now under stay-at-home orders as Ohio, Louisiana, Delaware and the city of Philadelphia became the latest places to announce lockdown measures, joining the states of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Connecticut.

New York has around half of coronavirus cases in the U.S., with nearly 17,000 known infections and 150 fatalities. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government to take over the production and acquisition of much-needed medical supplies as states have had to compete with one another for the fast-dwindling resources. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned the city is just 10 days away from massive shortages of critical supplies as he blasted Trump for his response to the pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Right now I have asked repeatedly for the military to be mobilized, for the Defense Production Act to be used to its fullest, to get us things like ventilators, so people can live who would die otherwise. Chuck, I can’t be blunt enough: If the president doesn’t act, people will die who could have lived otherwise.”

New York Hospital Network Bans All Visitors During Birth, Including Partners

Mar 23, 2020
Image Credit: NYC Health+ Hospitals

The New York-Presbyterian hospital system announced Sunday it would no longer allow any visitors for patients giving birth, including partners. The World Health Organization has said that all pregnant people, including those with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections, should have the right to have a chosen companion present during labor.

Harvey Weinstein Reportedly Tests Positive for COVID-19 in Prison; 38+ Test Positive at Rikers

Mar 23, 2020

Disgraced Hollywood mogul and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for COVID-19, according to local reports. He is currently being held at the Wende Correctional Facility in western New York but was previously at Rikers Island, as well as a patient at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. At least 38 people at Rikers — including prisoners and staff — have tested positive for the coronavirus as fears mount over the disease ravaging prison populations. At least 23 people have been released from Rikers so far. Hundreds of prisoners around the country have been released in recent days as part of an effort to curb prison populations amid the coronavirus crisis. The first confirmed case at a federal prison was reported at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. Trump said at his Sunday press briefing the White House is considering releasing elderly and nonviolent federal prisoners.

Coronavirus Cases Grow Across U.S.

Mar 23, 2020

In Washington state, an outbreak at another nursing center is being reported, with at least one dead and dozens more infected. Washington was one of the early epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S. at the Life Care Center of Kirkland, where the disease killed 35 people.

In Ohio, reproductive rights defenders are calling out attempts by Attorney General Dave Yost to close abortion clinics amid the coronavirus crisis by labeling abortions “non-essential” procedures. State Senator Nickie Antonio said, “Every woman who seeks an abortion knows it’s an essential, time sensitive procedure — especially in states like Ohio, which has drastically limited the window when abortions are allowed. It is inexcusable that our state’s attorney would play politics with a global pandemic.”

In Florida, the University of Tampa and several other Florida colleges said a number of its students who celebrated spring break have tested positive for coronavirus, days after images of densely packed revelers on the state’s beaches went viral and caused outrage. A Florida attorney is suing Governor Ron DeSantis to compel him to close all of Florida’s beaches to deal with the pandemic.

Hunger strikes are now underway in three Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention centers in New Jersey as prisoners call out deteriorating conditions and a failure to protect them from a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

In media news, tributes poured in from NBC News hosts and other employees after longtime NBC audio technician Larry Edgeworth died of medical complications related to COVID-19.

Dozens of Mike Bloomberg campaign staffers have been told they were exposed to coronavirus, just hours before they were laid off and days before they were set to lose their health insurance. In other 2020 election news, Bernie Sanders’s campaign raised over $2 million for coronavirus charities in two days after making an appeal to supporters.

Indigenous communities say they have been neglected in the federal response to coronavirus as emergency funds and medical aid for tribal groups have been delayed.

On Friday, the Trump administration said it was limiting nonessential travel on the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite the travel restrictions, construction of Trump’s border wall is continuing, putting construction crews at risk of infection and costing taxpayers billions of dollars as experts say the economy is already in a recession.

And nationwide, the deadline to file taxes has been extended three months to July 15. The deadline for the census has been extended by two weeks.

Trump Activates Nat’l Guard as Lawmakers Fail to Pass Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Mar 23, 2020

At a press conference Sunday, President Trump said the National Guard will be activated in California, New York and Washington state, where states of emergency have been called. Trump referred to himself once again as a “wartime president” during the press conference. When asked if he would exempt his own companies from bailout, Trump refused to do so. Trump also rejected calls from governors and hospitals to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of critical medical supplies, despite earlier statements he would put it “into high gear.” Trump also shot down proposals to nationalize industries to better manage production of such supplies.

President Donald Trump: “We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela, ask them, 'How did nationalization of their businesses work out?' Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our business is not a good concept.”

At another press briefing Friday, Trump lashed out at NBC reporter Peter Alexander after he asked what Trump’s message to the American people is.

Peter Alexander: “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”

President Donald Trump: “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say. Go ahead.”

Reporter: “Mr. President, the units that were just declared” —

President Donald Trump: “I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to debate a massive stimulus package today after Democratic Senators blocked a $2 trillion bill Sunday they say failed to protect workers. This is Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaking Sunday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “They’re trying to advance a proposal that would be great for giant corporations and leave everyone else behind. We’re not here to create a slush fund for Donald Trump and his family or a slush fund for the Treasury Department to be able to hand out to their friends. We’re here to help workers. We’re here to help hospitals. And right now what the Republicans have proposed does neither of those.”

Doctor Rand Paul is First U.S. Senator to Test Positive for Coronavirus

Mar 23, 2020

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is a doctor, became the first senator to test positive for coronavirus. His office says he does not have any symptoms. Several Republican senators say Rand Paul was in the Senate gym and pool on Sunday, just hours before receiving his diagnosis. Utah Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney both announced they’d be self-quarantining following the news.

New Evidence of Trump’s Botched Response to Coronavirus

Mar 23, 2020

As criticism of Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis mounts, Reuters is reporting Trump eliminated a position last year at the Centers for Disease Control which was tasked with helping to detect, investigate and help contain disease outbreaks in China. This comes as reports emerged Friday that Trump continued to play down the threat of coronavirus despite repeated warnings by U.S. intelligence in January and February that a global pandemic was likely.

Meanwhile, Politico is reporting the Justice Department has quietly been pushing lawmakers to grant the department new powers amid the public health crisis, including the ability to have some judges detain people indefinitely without trial, pause court proceedings during emergencies and ban people with COVID-19 from seeking asylum. The measures are not likely to pass a Democrat-ruled House.

In an interview with Science magazine, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, addressed Trump’s many erroneous official statements about the pandemic, saying, “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down.” Fauci added, “OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”

Mike Pompeo in Afghanistan in Attempt to Revive Flailing U.S.-Taliban Deal

Mar 23, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul today amid the mounting coronavirus crisis as he attempts to move forward the historic U.S.-Taliban peace deal, which has been strained by ongoing violence and political turmoil. Pompeo is meeting President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who both claimed victory in September’s elections.

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