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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.”
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 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.