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HeadlinesApril 15, 2020

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Lancet Editor Calls Trump’s WHO Funding Freeze a “Crime Against Humanity”

Apr 15, 2020

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he would cut off U.S. support for the World Health Organization — even as the death rate from the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate, with worldwide confirmed deaths topping 127,000. Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump sought to shift blame for his administration’s disastrous handling of the pandemic onto the United Nations public health agency, accusing the WHO of helping China to cover up the spread of the coronavirus when it emerged late last year.

President Donald Trump: “The world depends on the WHO to work with countries to ensure that accurate information about international health threats is shared in a timely manner and, if it’s not, to independently tell the world the truth about what is happening. The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”

Trump’s decision sparked international outrage and condemnation. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, tweeted, “President Trump’s decision to defund WHO is simply this — a crime against humanity. Every scientist, every health worker, every citizen must resist and rebel against this appalling betrayal of global solidarity.”

NYC Coronavirus Toll Tops 10,000 as Thousands of Uncounted Deaths Added

Apr 15, 2020

The United States reported 2,228 people died of COVID-19 on Tuesday — the highest one-day death toll for any nation. Here in New York, city officials have revised the death toll since the start of the pandemic to more than 10,000, adding in nearly 4,000 previously unreported deaths presumed to be caused by the coronavirus. About 1 in 800 New York City residents has died of the disease.

On Tuesday, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to a union demand for COVID-19 death benefits. Beneficiaries of transit workers who die of the virus will receive $500,000 and three years’ worth of healthcare benefits. At least 59 New York City subway and bus workers have died of COVID-19 so far, with more than 2,200 testing positive.

Health Official Says COVID-19 May Be Present in All New Jersey Nursing Homes 

Apr 15, 2020

New Jersey reported 365 coronavirus deaths Tuesday — a record daily toll for the nation’s second-most impacted state. New Jersey’s health commissioner says 324 of the state’s 375 nursing homes have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Judith Persichilli: “We’re making the assumption that COVID-19 is in most, if not all, of our nursing homes at this point.”

Nationwide, more than 3,800 people have died at long-term care facilities — about 15% of all U.S. deaths.

California Governor Outlines Roadmap for Easing Coronavirus Lockdown

Apr 15, 2020

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday outlined a roadmap to eventually reopen parts of the economy, in tandem with Oregon and Washington state. Newsom’s plan calls for greatly expanded testing, tracing the contacts of people who test positive, and isolating those exposed to the virus. It would also expand protections for seniors and other vulnerable groups while ensuring that hospitals don’t get overwhelmed by surges of COVID-19 patients. Schools would develop new protocols for keeping students physically separated. And restaurants would be required to provide strong safety measures.

Gov. Gavin Newsom: “You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask, a dinner where the menu is disposable, where the tables, half of the tables in that restaurant, no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment. These are likely scenarios.”

Florida Governor Declares Pro Wrestling an “Essential Service” Amid Lockdown

Apr 15, 2020

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is defending his administration’s decision to classify professional wrestling events as essential services during the lockdown. World Wrestling Entertainment resumed live matches without audiences on Monday. The governor has repeatedly defied calls by local officials to take stronger action to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

On Monday, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees was removed from a press briefing after he said social distancing measures might need to remain in place for a year or longer.

Dr. Scott Rivkees: “So, as long as we’re going to have COVID in the environment — and this is a tough virus — we’re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected.”

Just moments after those remarks, Dr. Rivkees was ushered out of the room by Governor DeSantis’s spokesperson.

Pandemic to Increase U.S. Budget Deficit to World War II Levels

Apr 15, 2020

A budget watchdog warned Tuesday the federal budget deficit would rise by a record-smashing $3.8 trillion this year — even if lawmakers don’t pass any more stimulus bills, which they’re widely expected to do. Deficit spending is on track to top 18.7% of the U.S. gross domestic product — the highest rate since World War II.

Today, April 15, is typically Tax Day, but the IRS has extended the deadline for income tax filings until July 15. The Treasury Department says more than 80 million people who’ve authorized the IRS to make a direct deposit on a recent tax return will see stimulus payments of up to $1,200 added to their bank accounts.

Others will have to wait for a check. In an unprecedented move, President Trump has ordered the Treasury to print his name on all stimulus checks. Senior IRS officials told The Washington Post the request could slow delivery of the checks by a few days. 

IMF Warns Global Economy Faces Worst Downturn Since Great Depression

Apr 15, 2020

In more economic news, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic will spark the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF said global economic output could contract by 3% this year. It originally predicted a 3.3% rate of growth for 2020. 

Indian PM Modi Cracks Down on Political Opponents Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

Apr 15, 2020

In India, press freedom and civil liberties groups are sounding the alarm that the government of Narendra Modi is using the coronavirus outbreak to crack down on opponents and dissidents. Earlier this month, police arrested prominent journalist Siddharth Varadarajan, accusing him of spreading “discord” and “rumors,” after he reportedly criticized a Hindu nationalist politician for participating in a religious ceremony with dozens of people during the national lockdown. Elsewhere, activist Anand Teltumbde and journalist Gautam Navlakha were arrested Tuesday over charges that both say were fabricated.

Prime Minister Modi has announced India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown, affecting 1.3 billion people, will be extended until May. In Mumbai, hundreds of migrant workers left homeless and unemployed by the lockdown held a protest Tuesday, demanding the government deliver food and assistance.

Shahbaz: “We are not getting anything here. The government promised to provide money and other amenities, and nothing has been delivered yet.”

Shabana: “We have nothing to do now. We have small kids, and they are not getting anything to eat. What should we do?”

Scientists Warn 400,000 Will Die of Coronavirus in Japan Without Tough Measures

Apr 15, 2020

In Japan, a team of medical experts predicts 400,000 people could die from COVID-19 across Japan unless strong measures are taken to stop the spread of the disease. The findings, commissioned by Japan’s Health Ministry, come as Japan still has no stringent lockdown measures in place. Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency and asked citizens to voluntarily maintain social distancing, though many retail outlets remain open. Japan has confirmed more than 8,000 cases and 162 deaths from COVID-19. 

Italy and Spain Relax Lockdowns as COVID-19 Deaths Surge in U.K., Germany

Apr 15, 2020

British officials said Tuesday the rate of COVID-19 deaths may be 10% higher than official reports, adding to evidence that European nations have been significantly undercounting the true toll of the virus.

This comes as some hard-hit European countries have begun reopening some businesses. In Italy, which recorded its smallest number of new coronavirus cases in a month, some bookstores and children’s clothing shops have reopened. In parts of Spain, some construction and factory workers are back on the job.

Meanwhile, German health officials said 285 people died of coronavirus-related symptoms on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll in Germany so far. 

Turkey’s Release of 45,000 Prisoners Won’t Include Political Prisoners

Apr 15, 2020

Turkey’s Parliament voted Tuesday to temporarily free 45,000 prisoners — about a third of its prison population — to limit the spread of COVID-19. The prisoner release will exclude critics of authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who’ve been convicted of terrorism charges. In a statement, Amnesty international called for the release of all political prisoners, adding, “Those convicted in unfair trials under Turkey’s overly broad anti-terrorism laws are also now condemned to face the prospect of infection from this deadly disease.”

COVID-19 Deaths and Infections in Ecuador and Brazil Go Largely Uncounted

Apr 15, 2020

In Ecuador, emergency workers have collected the remains of nearly 1,900 people from hospitals and homes in the city of Guayaquil over the past two weeks. The deaths represent a fivefold increase in the city’s usual mortality rate, as hospitals are overwhelmed with hundreds of COVID-19 patients.

In Brazil, a study has found the number of coronavirus cases in the country is likely 12 times higher than government figures and that only 8% of cases are being officially reported. Testing remains scarce in Brazil, and there are extremely long waits to confirm test results. 

Guatemalan Surge of COVID-19 Cases Blamed on U.S. Deportations

Apr 15, 2020

In Guatemala, Health Minister Hugo Monroy on Tuesday blamed a spike in coronavirus cases on U.S. deportations, saying at least half of people who have recently been deported have tested positive for COVID-19.

Hugo Monroy: “This is the situation. There are flights with Guatemalan citizens who have been deported from the United States and who are put on the planes, and they have fevers. And so, once they arrive here, we automatically evaluate their health, immediately test them for COVID-19. And a lot of them have been testing positive.”

China Approves Two More Clinical Trials of Potential Coronavirus Vaccines

Apr 15, 2020

China has approved clinical trials for two experimental vaccines against the novel coronavirus. Both Chinese research teams have skipped testing on laboratory animals and are fast-tracking tests on human subjects. In the United States, human trials of a vaccine candidate began in Washington state last month. Top scientists at the World Health Organization caution it will be at least a year before any vaccine becomes widely available.

Meanwhile, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem announced the first statewide trial of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19. President Trump on Tuesday once again touted the drug, as he’s done repeatedly for weeks, even though there’s no medical evidence it’s an effective treatment. 

Prisoner Deaths Mount as Coronavirus Spreads Rapidly Behind Bars

Apr 15, 2020

In Ohio, the head of a prison guards’ union says a fifth prisoner has died of COVID-19 at the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution, where 36 prisoners and 26 staff members have tested positive. Elsewhere, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio and Indiana have reported the first COVID-19 deaths of people in state prisons. A prisoner at the D.C. Central Detention Facility died of the disease on Monday, and at the Rikers Island jail here in New York, a second prisoner has died of COVID-19. In Michigan, where at least 10 incarcerated people have died, prisoners have filed a federal lawsuit alleging they’ve been given a “death sentence.” 

New York Police Detain Child for Social Distancing Violation in Subway

Apr 15, 2020

In New York, viral videos show a group of police officers in a Harlem subway station forcibly detaining a young boy for selling candy at the subway station in an alleged violation of social distancing rules. Police officers are also seen pulling the boy’s sweater and holding him by the chest as he cries and struggles to get away from officers. The boy’s mother was reportedly present during the incident. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, police officers were filmed violently pulling out a man from inside a bus because the man was not wearing a face mask. 

Barack Obama Endorses Joe Biden for President

Apr 15, 2020

In campaign news, former President Barack Obama on Tuesday endorsed his former running mate, Joe Biden, for president — with an appeal to Senator Bernie Sanders’s supporters.

Barack Obama: “If I were running today, I wouldn’t run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different. There’s too much unfinished business for us to just look backwards. We have to look to the future. Bernie understands that, and Joe understands that.”

Obama’s endorsement came one day after Senator Sanders backed Joe Biden’s bid for the White House, calling President Trump the most dangerous president in the modern history of the United States. 

Ohio Delays Executions Amid Shortage of Death Penalty Drugs

Apr 15, 2020

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has delayed three upcoming executions, saying the state has struggled for years to obtain a new combination of lethal injection drugs. This is the eighth time DeWine has delayed an execution since he took office in 2019. Last year, a federal judge ruled the lethal injection drugs that have been used in Ohio are unconstitutional and produced a painful drowning sensation similar to waterboarding. That ruling was later overturned by an appeals court. 

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