The White House coronavirus task force projected Tuesday between 100,000 and 240,000 people will die of COVID-19 in the United States — but only if the strictest quarantine measures are kept in place. President Donald Trump, who this week extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April, said the worst is yet to come.
President Donald Trump: “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. And then, hopefully, as the experts are predicting, as I think a lot of us are predicting, after having studied it so hard, we’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel. But this is going to be a very painful, very, very painful, two weeks.”
President Trump said without efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, up to 2.2 million Americans could die of COVID-19. The grim assessment stood in stark contrast to Trump’s repeated claims in recent weeks that the virus was “under control” and that it would “miraculously” go away by April.
As of today, April 1, the United States has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with over 188,000 people infected and over 4,000 dead. And the true rate of infection is certain to be far higher due to a critical shortage of test kits.
Here in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, the death toll from COVID-19 is nearly 1,100 and continuing to climb. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is dispatching more than 250 ambulances and 85 refrigerated trucks to New York to serve as temporary morgues.
The Intercept reports that prisoners at the Rikers Island jail are being offered $6 an hour and personal protective equipment if they agree to dig mass graves at a public cemetery on Hart Island. The coronavirus continues to spread rapidly at Rikers, where at least 167 prisoners and 137 staff members have tested positive.
In Central Park, an emergency field hospital began operations Tuesday treating spillover patients from nearby Mount Sinai Hospital. The effort is led by the Christian fundamentalist group Samaritan’s Purse, whose leader Franklin Graham is a virulently Islamophobic, anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ preacher. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to send aides to monitor the group to prevent discrimination against patients.
Nationwide, the United States has confirmed over 188,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 4,000 deaths. California hospitalizations have doubled over the past four days, with intensive care cases tripling in that time. California health officials predict the state’s peak of COVID-19 cases will be lower than New York’s because stringent social distancing policies were adopted sooner. In Las Vegas, 500 unhoused people were displaced from a Catholic Charities’ homeless shelter after a resident tested positive for COVID-19. City and county officials have since set up an open-air encampment, painting lines on the pavement of the Cashman Center parking lot to keep unhoused people six feet apart. Meanwhile, thousands of Las Vegas hotel rooms remain empty during the lockdown.
In Chicago, a COVID-19 unit nurse said she resigned Monday after hospital administrators barred her from wearing an N95 protective mask she brought with her to work. The nurse, Imarís Vera, posted this video on social media.
Imarís Vera: “I had my own N95 mask. I told my manager, 'I understand we're short on supplies, but let me protect myself. Let me feel safe. I have family that I have to come home to.’ And the way things are looking, this isn’t going to get any better. America is not prepared, and nurses are not being protected.”
In Austin, Texas, 28 young adults tested positive after a spring break trip to southern Baja California in Mexico, with dozens more under public health investigation. Meanwhile, Russia has promised to deliver a planeload of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies after President Trump placed a call to Vladimir Putin Monday.
Federal Reserve economists are warning the coronavirus pandemic could push the U.S. unemployment rate above 32% by the end of June — higher than the peak jobless rate of 25% during the Great Depression. The news comes as thousands of tenants around the country are calling for immediate rent cancellation. Later in the broadcast, we’ll hear from an organizer of today’s April 1 “rent strike,” and we’ll hear from UPS drivers and Amazon employees organizing for safer working conditions amid the pandemic.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has joined thousands of medical professionals and immigration rights groups in demanding Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, release all prisoners from immigration jails. At least four asylum seekers and five ICE agents have tested positive for COVID-19, raising fears for more than 37,000 immigrants jailed in crowded facilities across the U.S.
In Louisiana, The Intercept reports women jailed at the privately owned South Louisiana ICE Processing Center are terrified that they have been exposed to a person ill with the coronavirus. The women flashed handmade signs to a “video visitation” camera describing an Ecuadorian woman who worked in the kitchen who was given oxygen and carried away on a gurney after presenting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, more than 80 immigrant prisoners at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, continued their hunger strike to protest conditions inside the privately owned facility, demanding their immediate release, reunification with their families and temporary humanitarian visas. On Tuesday, supporters surrounded the immigration jail in a caravan, honking car horns in support of the hunger strikers.
California plans to release 3,500 nonviolent prisoners on parole in the next 60 days to try to reduce prison overcrowding. Although California’s total prison population is about 122,000, this would still be the largest mass release of U.S. prisoners since the pandemic began.
In Guam, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt pleaded with U.S. Navy officials to allow thousands of sailors to disembark to prevent the spread of the coronavirus aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, where more than 100 sailors have tested positive. Captain Brett Crozier warned in a letter to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.” CNN reports sailors aboard a second U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, have also tested positive.
In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has warned the operators of a pair of stricken cruise ships not to seek refuge in his state, telling Fox News he doesn’t want to “see people dumped in southern Florida right now.” Four people have died on board one of the cruise ships, and dozens more have reported flu-like symptoms. This comes as Governor DeSantis has defied calls to order all residents to remain at home, even though Florida is home to one of the nation’s largest populations of people 65 and older.
In Italy, cities nationwide observed a minute of silence at noon Tuesday to remember victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy has reported the world’s highest death toll from the disease — with 837 deaths in the last 24 hours alone, bringing the total to over 12,000. With Italy’s hospitals completely overwhelmed, Germany has continued to receive Italian coronavirus patients.
Spain has reported its highest daily coronavirus toll, with 849 new deaths over 24 hours. One nurse in Madrid, posting on social media, said the official number of confirmed COVID-19 cases — now over 100,000 — is far lower than the true toll.
Irene GS: “We are completely overflowed. Health workers are exhausted, physically and emotionally, because this is awful. This is an inferno. The numbers that I’m seeing on television are false. Why are they false? Because they are not testing people.”
In Greece, an asylum seeker tested positive for COVID-19 after a stay in a crowded refugee camp north of Athens that’s home to 2,500 people.
In Russia, a doctor who gave President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow’s coronavirus hospital unit last week has himself tested positive. Putin says he’ll begin holding government meetings by video conference.
In Brazil, authorities have set up field hospitals for COVID-19 patients in some of the world’s most storied soccer stadiums. Residents of high-rise apartment buildings in cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro continue to hold nightly protests from their windows and balconies, banging pots and pans and calling for the resignation of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed COVID-19 as a “little flu” and urged Brazilians to get back to work.
In Nigeria, Africa’s largest city, Lagos — home to 21 million people — fell quiet Tuesday as a stay-at-home order went into effect. Many residents said they’re more worried about starving than they are of contracting COVID-19.
Omolara Adejokun: “So, it’s not easy at all. Even to buy one week’s food is not easy, talk less of two weeks. And we have three kids, and we still have our grandma that is living with us. So, it’s not easy at all, because the money to use to buy it even, we don’t have it now.”
In Uganda, police arrested at least three Catholic priests after they celebrated Mass on Sunday in violation of a ban on religious gatherings during the pandemic. On the outskirts of the capital Kampala, police raided a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youths, arresting 20 people for allegedly violating quarantine. Those arrested were reportedly beaten and forced to take a “walk of shame” through the village. Uganda LGBTQ campaigners say they were targeted because of their sexual orientation.
In media news, Vanity Fair reports that executives at Fox News are worried they could face lawsuits from viewers over the far-right cable network’s misleading coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. For weeks, as the virus spread, Fox News hosts portrayed the pandemic as a hoax designed to damage President Trump’s reelection prospects.
Meanwhile, CNN’s primetime host Chris Cuomo has tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, Cuomo broadcast from his home basement, where he says he’ll remain in isolation until he recovers. Chris Cuomo is the younger brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Texas will be allowed to enforce its abortion ban during the coronavirus outbreak after an appeals court judge overturned the ruling of a federal judge who had put a temporary hold on the abortion ban just hours before. Texas’s abortion ban was put in place last week as part of the state’s plan to stem the spread of the coronavirus, claiming abortions are “non-essential” procedures.
In environmental news, the Trump administration has finalized its rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for new U.S. vehicles, in a massive blow against efforts to mitigate the worst effects of the climate crisis. The rollbacks will allow U.S. vehicles to emit some 1 billion more tons of carbon dioxide than previously allowed — equivalent to at least a fifth of annual U.S. emissions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday proposed a gradual lifting of U.S. economic sanctions on Venezuela if opposition leaders and some members of President Nicolás Maduro’s political party form an interim government.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “Broadly speaking, it would put the elected members of the National Assembly, representing both sides — would create an acceptable council of state to serve as the transitional government until presidential and National Assembly elections could be held, we hope within six to 12 months.”
The proposal would require both President Maduro and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to step aside. A similar strategy was used in 1989 ahead of the U.S. invasion of Panama. Venezuela’s foreign ministry called the proposal “an effort to win geopolitical advantage in the midst of a frightening global pandemic.” The move comes less than a week after the Trump administration indicted Maduro on charges of narcoterrorism and international cocaine trafficking.