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HeadlinesApril 13, 2020

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U.S. Leads in Coronavirus Death Toll, as Trump Eyes Easing Restrictions in Weeks

Apr 13, 2020

The United States has the highest recorded COVID-19 death toll in the world, topping 22,000, after it surpassed Italy’s death toll on Saturday. All 50 states now have a disaster declaration in place for the first time in history. Over half a million cases have been identified nationwide, but testing remains limited, making the true number of cases unknown. Worldwide, there are over 1.8 million confirmed cases and over 115,000 deaths.

Over Easter weekend in the U.S., many churches and families held virtual celebrations, though some pastors defied social distancing guidelines to hold in-person gatherings.

President Trump appeared to boast about the nationwide disaster declaration Sunday, tweeting, “For the first time in history there is a fully signed Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 50 States. We are winning, and will win, the war on the Invisible Enemy!”

Meanwhile, a grim picture is emerging of the coronavirus’s impact on nursing homes, where over 2,200 deaths have been reported, though the true number is also expected to be much higher since many states either do not report this data or in some cases do not even track it.

Here in New York City, nearly 6,000 new cases over the past day has put the city’s total number of coronavirus infections at over 104,000, with over 9,300 deaths. Sunday was the sixth straight day in which more than 700 deaths were reported, though Governor Andrew Cuomo noted hospitalizations were down.
On Sunday, Trump reposted a tweet calling for the firing of White House coronavirus task force scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci after he acknowledged in an interview on CNN that adopting lockdown measures earlier on could have saved lives.

Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you’re right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

On Friday, President Trump suggested he could order the reopening of the country as early as May 1.

President Donald Trump: “I will say this: I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get our country open, Jeff.”

Jeff Mason: “Will you say, sir, what metrics you will use to make that decision?”

President Donald Trump: “The metrics right here.”

He pointed to his head. The World Health Organization has warned against prematurely easing restrictions.

Meanwhile, dozens of tornadoes and severe storms have left a trail of damage in states including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia, as the southern United States grapples with the coronavirus outbreak. At least 14 people have been killed by the extreme weather.

Trump Moves to Slash Pay for Essential Migrant Farmworkers

Apr 13, 2020

The Trump administration is working to slash the wages of migrant farmworkers, even as it works to send direct aid to farmers and ranchers hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The plan, led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, would lower pay for some 250,000 foreign guest laborers, even though they’ve been declared “essential workers.” The immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha tweeted in response, “The lives of essential workers feeding the country during this pandemic simply do not matter to the agriculture industry or to the government.”

USPS Says It Will Become Insolvent Without Gov’t Help, But Trump Refuses to Bail It Out

Apr 13, 2020

The United States Postal Service is appealing to Congress for $89 billion in federal grants, warning that without assistance, the coronavirus pandemic will leave the agency insolvent by September. The appeal came after the Trump administration successfully blocked a $13 billion direct grant to the Postal Service in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, instead offering the agency a $10 billion loan. Postmaster General Megan Brennan says that’s not enough to prevent disruption of regular mail delivery by the fall. The looming crisis comes as many states are looking to expand voting by mail ahead of the November election. In a tweet, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders urged Congress to act to save the USPS.

200+ Prisoners Released in Philadelphia After Weeks of Protest Calling for Decarceration

Apr 13, 2020

In Philadelphia, over 200 nonviolent prisoners were released from jails in the first week of judges holding emergency hearings aimed at reducing the prison population amid the coronavirus outbreak. Protesters have been calling for prisoners to be freed since the lockdowns started. On Friday, hundreds of cars rallied outside Philadelphia jails for a #FreeOurPeople rally.

Protests Call Out Mounting COVID-19 Cases at Immigrant Prisons in Arizona, California

Apr 13, 2020

In Arizona, over 700 people joined a car rally Friday outside the privately owned Eloy Detention Center and La Palma Correctional Facility near Phoenix, demanding the immediate release of all immigrants in custody as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. As of last week, there were five confirmed cases in Arizona immigration jails, including two inside La Palma, though activists say the numbers are likely much higher. This is Stephanie Figgins Ramirez, an activist with Trans Queer Pueblo at Friday’s rally.

Stephanie Figgins Ramirez: “We call on Governor Ducey to publicly pressure ICE to shut down detention centers, to free all migrants and stop removal operations. We also call on Governor Ducey to stop funneling more people into ICE centers by ending sheriff and ICE collaboration in county jails.”

In related news, women imprisoned at the Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego say CoreCivic — the private company that runs Otay Mesa — sent a shipment of surgical masks to the facility last week, but that prisoners were told they first had to sign a contract protecting CoreCivic from liability if they became sick. When the women refused to sign, ICE guards reportedly pepper-sprayed them. The contract requirement has since been withdrawn. Activists held a car rally outside Otay Mesa Saturday protesting the attack.

Mounting COVID-19 Clusters Reported at Meat Processing Plants

Apr 13, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has hit workers in the food processing industry hard, with meatpacking plants reporting explosions in coronavirus cases. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a Smithfield Foods pork processing plant closed down after nearly 240 workers tested positive — representing over half the active COVID-19 cases in the state. One hundred thirty workers at a Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Pennsylvania tested positive for COVID-19, with many others calling in sick.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, a union steward at the JBS Beef slaughterhouse died last Friday of a coronavirus infection. Deaths of slaughterhouse workers have also been reported in Georgia and Colorado. Many meat processing facilities employ large numbers of immigrants, including undocumented workers. Smithfield’s CEO warned the pandemic is pushing U.S. meat supplies “perilously close to the edge”.

Almost 600 Sailors On Board USS Theodore Roosevelt Test Positive for COVID-19

Apr 13, 2020

In Guam, the U.S. Navy says nearly 600 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 after evacuating the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier. Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly was forced to resign last week, after he called the former captain of the nuclear-powered vessel, Brett Crozier, “too naive or too stupid” to run the ship. The insult came after Crozier sent a memo to naval commanders pleading for help as his crew started testing positive for the coronavirus.

Judge Blocks Alabama Coronavirus Abortion Ban; Texas Providers Ask SCOTUS to Allow Medical Abortions

Apr 13, 2020

In reproductive rights news, a federal judge ruled Sunday that Alabama cannot ban abortions during the coronavirus outbreak. Alabama and other states have sought to ban abortions during the crisis by claiming they are not “essential” medical procedures. Meanwhile, abortion providers in Texas asked the Supreme Court Saturday to allow medical abortions — meaning abortions that do not require surgery but simply taking medication — during the pandemic. Texas has banned nearly all abortions during the coronavirus crisis.

Boris Johnson Leaves Hospital, Lauds NHS as U.K. Health Workers Say They Lack Critical Protection

Apr 13, 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from the hospital Sunday as he continues to recover from COVID-19. In a video message, he thanked the National Health Service staff who took care of him.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson:: “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

This comes as criticism mounts over the Johnson government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, including failure to get enough PPE and tests to NHS workers. Britain’s official coronavirus death toll has now topped 10,000, and officials warned it could end up with the highest number of fatalities in Europe.

Italy Extends Lockdown, Spain Eases Restrictions, and Russia Notes Surge in COVID-19 Cases

Apr 13, 2020

At the Vatican, Pope Francis delivered an Easter sermon via video stream from a nearly empty Saint Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

Pope Francis: “The whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless.”

With over 20,000 deaths, Italy has suffered the highest death toll in Europe, and the second highest globally after the United States. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte extended the country’s lockdown to May 3; it was originally set to expire today.

Meanwhile, Spain, which now has over 17,000 COVID-19 deaths, is slowly reopening some sectors of its economy. Spain’s daily death toll rose again over the weekend but then fell to 517 on Monday. Authorities say the rate of new infections in Spain continues to fall.

In Russia, Moscow hospitals say they are seeing a major spike in cases and have been overwhelmed with admissions in recent days as Russia’s death toll topped 100. Winding lines of ambulances were reported at one Moscow hospital Saturday, where one ambulance driver said he had to wait 15 hours to drop off a patient.

China Reports Spike in New “Imported” COVID-19 Cases

Apr 13, 2020

China has reported over 100 new COVID-19 cases over the past day, the highest number of new infections in over a month. Chinese authorities say most of the cases are so-called imported infections involving people returning from other countries. The increase has stoked fears of a second wave of infections in China.

Yanomami Teen Dies of COVID-19 as Fears Mount of Outbreaks Among Indigenous Groups

Apr 13, 2020

In Brazil, a Yanomami teenager has reportedly died of COVID-19, making him the first member of the community to succumb to the coronavirus. Yanomami leaders say they suspect illegal gold miners may be responsible for bringing the coronavirus into the community. The teen’s passing is the second death of an indigenous person in Brazil, as fears mount of a massive deadly outbreak among isolated indigenous groups living deep in the Amazon.

Chloroquine Study in Brazil Halted After 11 Patients Died

Apr 13, 2020

In Brazil, a study involving chloroquine’s effect on coronavirus patients was stopped after 11 of the 81 participants died, and others developed irregular heart rates, which can increase the risk of potentially fatal arrhythmia. President Trump has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine, a derivative of chloroquine, to treat COVID-19.

War-Displaced Syrians Return Home as They Now Flee the Coronavirus

Apr 13, 2020

In Syria, thousands of people displaced by fighting in Idlib province have begun moving back into their homes, hoping a tentative ceasefire remains in effect. About 1 million people have fled a Russian-backed, Syrian government offensive over the past year to crowded camps near the Turkish border. One man who recently returned home said his family feared the spread of disease more than bombs and mortars.

Zakaria Sawish: “The living spaces are overcrowded. There’s been a lot of displacement recently, from Saraqib, from the Maara, from Ariha, so the camps became very crowded. We grew worried of diseases, so we decided to come back to our town, thank God. We pray that we are safe here.”

DRC Reports New Ebola Cases as Health Authorities Tackle Triple Public Health Crisis

Apr 13, 2020

The Democratic Republic of the Congo reported two new cases of Ebola over the weekend, just days before officials were set to declare an end to the latest outbreak of the deadly disease. The DRC is also struggling to contain a measles outbreak, and fears are growing that the novel coronavirus has spread far beyond the 235 cases and 20 deaths reported so far.

Liberians Say They Fear Hunger More Than COVID-19 as Police Violently Enforce Lockdown

Apr 13, 2020

In Liberia, police in riot gear used truncheons and sticks to beat people who remained in the streets of the capital Monrovia Saturday as a lockdown for the city of 1 million people went into effect. Many residents said the threat of hunger far outstripped the threat of the coronavirus.

Jettroy Kolleh: “If today you tell them that tomorrow will be a state of emergency, that everyone should stay in and quarantine themselves, then how do you expect them to be fed? You know what’s going to kill many people? Corona is not going to kill many people. It’s the hunger that will kill many Liberians.”

Africans in China Say They Are Being Targeted Amid Coronavirus Crackdown

Apr 13, 2020

African nationals in China say they face stigmatization and discrimination over the coronavirus. African immigrants in Guangzhou say they have had their passports seized, been evicted from apartments and hotel rooms, and repeatedly been tested for the coronavirus without receiving results.

OPEC Deal Will Cut Oil Production by 10% in Effort to Stem Crash in Oil Prices

Apr 13, 2020

OPEC members, Russia, and other oil-producing countries have made an agreement to cut oil production by 10 million barrels per day — or a tenth of global supply — in response to the oil price crash as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The cuts may not be enough, however, to boost prices, since the output would still significantly exceed current demand.

May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, condemned the agreement, saying, “it does not address the structural overproduction of oil and it doesn’t get us towards what’s really needed, a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry. The oil price collapse is a stark warning to any investor who thinks that they can still profit from funding fossil fuel companies.”

Canada Subsidizes Employee Salaries in Bid to Curb Unemployment

Apr 13, 2020

Canada passed a record $52 billion bill Saturday subsidizing salaries by 75% for qualified businesses in order to stem mass layoffs amid the coronavirus crisis. Canada has reported nearly 25,000 cases and over 700 deaths.

Fiancée of Julian Assange Reveals Couple Have 2 Children, Calls for His Release

Apr 13, 2020

The partner of Julian Assange is calling on British authorities to release the WikiLeaks founder over fears of coronavirus infection, as she reveals the pair had two children together and got engaged while Assange was taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. In a video released by WikiLeaks, lawyer Stella Moris says she met Assange when she started helping with his extradition case. He faces up to 175 years in prison for his role in publishing U.S. classified documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange is currently locked up at London’s Belmarsh prison for bail violations and is scheduled to face extradition hearings next month.

NYT Reports on Tara Reade’s Joe Biden Sexual Assault Allegation But Retracts Mention of Prior Sexual Misconduct

Apr 13, 2020

Tara Reade, who has accused Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her when she worked in his Senate office in 1993, has filed a report with the Washington, D.C., police. Although the statute of limitations has expired, Reade said she filed the report for “safety reasons.” Over the weekend, The New York Times published a piece in which several witnesses corroborate elements of Reade’s account. The Times came under fire for then deleting a sentence in the article — which was also tweeted out — detailing previous accusations against Biden. The New York Times originally wrote, “We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” The Times then removed the phrase “beyond hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.”

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