Here in New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, hospitals are seeing the same surge in cases that overwhelmed healthcare systems in China, Italy and Spain. Refrigerated trucks and tents have been stationed outside some hospitals to hold the bodies of the dead as morgues fill up.
In just 24 hours on Tuesday, 13 people reportedly died at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. New York City is reporting 366 deaths and over 33,000 confirmed cases — though the number is likely far higher due to a critical lack of tests. More than 4,000 coronavirus patients have been hospitalized in New York, where a leaked FEMA briefing shows all 1,800 intensive care beds in the city are expected to be full by Friday. We’ll have more on the healthcare crisis here in New York after headlines, when we’ll speak with Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.
Amazon says it will keep its massive fulfillment centers open amid a surge of online orders, after workers in at least eight Amazon warehouses around the U.S. tested positive for COVID-19.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, hundreds of sanitation workers held a wildcat strike Wednesday demanding more protection from the virus. This is one of the workers, Sheldon White.
Sheldon White: “We want better equipment, protective gear. We have no mask. We want hazard pay. Hazard pay is very important. Why? Because we have high copayments for any type of bill. We risk our life. Every time we grab a garbage bag, there could be a needle or something in there.”
Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally has died in Florida of complications from COVID-19. McNally’s career spanned six decades and included celebrated productions like “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” McNally was an openly gay writer whose plays tackled issues of love, homophobia and the HIV/AIDS crisis. He was 81 years old.
Celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz has died from a coronavirus infection. Cardoz was the first chef born and raised in India to head a major kitchen in New York City, Tabla.
In the Dominican Republic, acclaimed fashion designer Jenny Polanco has died from complications of COVID-19. Polanco’s career spanned four decades, and she was a regular fixture at Miami Fashion Week.
In Italy, the nation hardest hit by the pandemic, the death toll has topped 7,500. But for the fourth straight day, the pace of new coronavirus cases fell Wednesday, raising hopes that a nationwide lockdown is beginning to flatten the curve of infections.
Spain announced 738 coronavirus new deaths Wednesday, surpassing China’s death toll with over 3,600 fatalities.
In China, authorities have lifted restrictions on millions of residents of Hubei province — the original epicenter of the pandemic — although the provincial capital Wuhan remains on lockdown. Chinese officials say new cases of COVID-19 have all but stopped in Hubei, but some observers question that assessment and fear a potential second wave of cases.
In cities across India, police are using violence to crack down on curfew violators, beating and whipping anyone flouting a nationwide lockdown for 1.3 billion people. Viral videos showed Indian police forcing groups of men to do squats and pushups as punishment. India’s bus and train services have been canceled, creating a crisis for thousands of migrant workers trapped in big cities. There are widespread reports of hoarding, raising fears of shortages of food, medicine and supplies. We’ll have more on India’s coronavirus crisis later in the broadcast.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked her nation’s 5 million residents to behave as though they were contagious, as a sweeping nationwide “remain at home” policy came into effect at midnight Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: “If you have any questions about what you can or can’t do and you’re looking for answers, apply a simple principle: Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you make could be a risk to someone else.”
Ardern’s plea came on the same day that the white supremacist terrorist who massacred Muslim worshipers in two New Zealand mosques last March pleaded guilty to the murder of 51 people. His sentencing trial will be delayed until New Zealand’s COVID-19 epidemic is under control and family members of the victims have a chance to attend.
Senator Bernie Sanders has challenged former Vice President Joe Biden to a 12th and final debate next month, signaling he will continue to compete for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. The Democratic National Committee has yet to schedule a date or a broadcast partner for an April debate, and on Wednesday Biden dismissed the idea.
Joe Biden: “My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now. I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this.”
The Intercept is reporting that the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, set up to help survivors of rape and sexual assault, refused to fund a #MeToo investigation into allegations against Joe Biden. The charges were brought by Tara Reade, who worked as a staff assistant for then-Senator Biden in 1993, when she was in her mid-twenties. Reade told journalist Katie Halper in an interview published Tuesday that Biden repeatedly touched her without her consent and sexually assaulted her. A warning to listeners and viewers: Her account is graphic.
Tara Reade: “And then his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. And yeah, and then he went — he went down my skirt but then up inside it, and he penetrated me with his fingers.”
Reade approached the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in January looking for assistance, but was reportedly told the fund could not help her because Biden is a candidate for federal office, and pursuing a case could jeopardize the fund’s nonprofit status. The Intercept reports the public relations firm representing Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.
At the White House, President Donald Trump Wednesday repeated his call for the United States to reopen for business on April 12, Easter Sunday — around the time the coronavirus crisis is expected to peak in New York City. Trump’s call for “packed churches” across the U.S. in mid-April came as Pope Francis ordered bishops around the world to instruct Catholics to celebrate Easter in their homes.
Trump’s plan also defies the entire medical establishment, which is pleading with Americans to remain at home to prevent new COVID-19 patients from overwhelming the healthcare system. Researchers at the Imperial College of London estimate that without measures like lockdowns and social distancing, 2.2 million people in the United States will die of COVID-19.
In a major victory for environmentalists and indigenous water protectors, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it permitted construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The court ruled the corps failed to resolve concerns by the Standing Rock Sioux about the potential impacts of oil spills, and ordered the Trump administration to prepare a full environmental impact statement on the pipeline.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Mike Faith celebrated the ruling, writing, “It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too.”