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HeadlinesApril 17, 2020

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U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Surge to New Record High as 4,500+ People Die in 24 Hours

Apr 17, 2020

Deaths from COVID-19 in the United States surged to another record high Thursday, nearly doubling to surpass the previous record set just a day before. Four thousand five hundred ninety-one U.S. residents died over a single 24-hour period, with another 31,000 newly confirmed coronavirus cases across the U.S. Worldwide, over 145,000 people have died of COVID-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. At the White House, President Trump on Thursday outlined federal guidelines for states to reopen their economies, saying it was up to individual governors to decide when and how to relax social distancing measures.

President Donald Trump: “Some states are not in the kind of trouble that others are in. Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we’re starting our life again. We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”

Trump told governors in a conference call Thursday, “You’re gonna call your own shots” — reversing his claim last Monday he has “total” authority to tell states when and how to reopen. Medical professionals say it’s far too early to reopen schools, businesses and large gatherings without spawning a new surge in COVID-19 cases. They say a massive increase in testing and contact tracing capacity is needed before social distancing measures can be relaxed.

New York COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 12,000 While Hospitalizations Continue to Fall

Apr 17, 2020

Here in New York, health officials reported another 606 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, bringing the statewide death toll to more than 12,000. But the number of hospitalizations continues to fall, suggesting New York has passed its peak of coronavirus infections. As of 8 p.m. this evening, New Yorkers are required to carry facial coverings whenever they leave their homes and to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.

CDC Investigating SD Pork Processing Plant, Single Biggest COVID-19 Hot Spot in U.S.

Apr 17, 2020

In South Dakota, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating one of the largest pork processing plants in the world, where cases of COVID-19 related to the factory have surged to at least 730. The Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls is now the biggest single coronavirus hot spot in the United States. The mayor of Sioux Falls has ordered residents to shelter in place, after Republican Governor Kristi Noem refused to issue a statewide remain-at-home order.

Nurses Suspended in CA for Refusing to Treat COVID-19 Patients Without N95 Masks

Apr 17, 2020

In California, Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica has suspended 10 nurses who refused orders to treat COVID-19 patients without N95 masks and other personal protective equipment. In Michigan, where protesters on Wednesday defied a ban on gatherings to protest at the state Capitol, Republicans have introduced bills to strip Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer of her power to order residents to maintain social distance. Whitmer has promised to veto the legislation. In Washington state, Boeing says it will begin bringing 27,000 employees back to factories to resume production of airplanes. It’s the first large-scale attempt by a U.S. manufacturer to resume operations.

$349B Paycheck Protection Program for Small Businesses Exhausted

Apr 17, 2020

The Small Business Administration said Thursday it has exhausted a $349 billion emergency loan fund. The Paycheck Protection Program will no longer accept new applications unless Congress approves additional funding. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is seeking an additional $250 billion for the program; Democrats want to expand any new relief measure to include $100 billion for healthcare providers and $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments.

USAA Will No Longer Seize Stimulus Checks; ProPublica Finds Landlords Violated Eviction Ban

Apr 17, 2020

Banking giant USAA, which serves former military members and their families, said Thursday it will no longer seize the stimulus checks of people with negative account balances. USAA’s reversal came after The American Prospect reported on a disabled veteran whose family had $3,400 in CARES Act payments rerouted by the bank to pay an outstanding debt.

ProPublica reports landlords in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida have flouted a ban on evictions passed by Congress last month as part of the coronavirus relief bill. Investigative reporters found scores of incidents where landlords removed tenants from federally backed rental units without consequence. ProPublica says the true number of evictions is likely far higher because there’s no nationwide database of eviction filings.

NY Gov. Cuomo Rules Out Relief for Undocumented Residents

Apr 17, 2020

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo refused Thursday to commit to providing emergency relief to millions of undocumented immigrants living in New York, after California announced one-time payments of up to $1,000 per immigrant household.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “When you are broke, it would be irresponsible to do these things. I do hope and believe the federal government should have a more inclusive policy. All right, let’s do one” —

Josefa Velásquez: “For example, that undocumented immigrants, that there’s no shot” —

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Well, we’re looking at it, but we have real financial problems right now.”

Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said Thursday the United States needs to take dramatic action to prevent tens of millions of middle-class Americans from falling into poverty. He added, “Low-income and poor people face far higher risks from the coronavirus due to chronic neglect and discrimination, and a muddled, corporate-driven, federal response has failed them.”

UnitedHealth Group Profits Surge as Coronavirus Spreads

Apr 17, 2020

The for-profit health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group reported profits grew by over $160 million during the first quarter of 2020, as demand for nonessential medical treatment plummeted while coronavirus hospitalizations surged. UnitedHealth reported a 3.4% year-over-year increase in quarterly earnings to $5 billion. Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter tweeted in response, “The earnings were so good, the company said it still expects to make as much in total profits this year as they predicted in December … when no one could predict the massive loss of life & jobs caused by the coronavirus. In other words, they’re thriving during a pandemic.”

Report: COVID-19 Cases in U.S. Amazon Warehouses Will Likely Skyrocket

Apr 17, 2020

A report by two grassroots workers’ rights organizations suggests coronavirus cases in U.S. Amazon warehouses will likely “exponentially increase” in the coming days as the corporation refuses to shut down some of its facilities — even when workers test positive for COVID-19. More than half of Amazon’s 110 warehouse facilities in the country have reported cases of coronavirus. Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has told shareholders he now wants to test all employees for COVID-19. Despite the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, Amazon’s stock continues to climb, lifting Bezos’s personal fortune to nearly $140 billion. In related news, Amazon has shut down all of its warehouses in France after a court ruled Tuesday the company needs to reassess the safety of its workers during the pandemic.

China Revises COVID-19 Death Toll in Wuhan Upwards by 50% Since Outbreak First Emerged

Apr 17, 2020

China has revised the death toll from COVID-19 in Wuhan upward by 50%, saying nearly 3,900 people have died since the novel coronavirus first emerged in the city of 11 million people late last year. The revised death toll came as China reported its economy shrank 6.8% in the first three months of 2020 — ending nearly 50 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Abruptly Fires Health Minister for Urging Social Distancing

Apr 17, 2020

In Brazil, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro abruptly fired Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta Thursday, after Mandetta repeatedly urged Brazilians to practice social distancing measures. Bolsonaro, who is a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, has dismissed COVID-19 as a “fantasy” and a “little flu.” Bolsonaro has repeatedly ignored stay-at-home orders issued by Brazilian governors, joining political rallies and shaking hands with constituents. At his final press briefing Thursday, Mandetta warned the coronavirus will continue to claim lives.

Luiz Henrique Mandetta: “Don’t think that we are going to escape a sharp rise in cases of this disease. The health system is not yet prepared for a surge of cases.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 beds in Rio de Janeiro’s public emergency facilities are already full — even though coronavirus cases aren’t expected to peak until May or June.

Guatemalan Indigenous Communities Fear Country’s Health System Unprepared to Respond to COVID-19

Apr 17, 2020

In Guatemala, Al Jazeera reports rural and indigenous communities are increasingly afraid of the potentially devastating impacts coronavirus could have on their people as they question whether the country’s already troubled and fragile health system is able to adequately respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

In South America, hundreds of Venezuelan migrants attempting to return home after losing their jobs in neighboring countries say they are being housed in squalid and crowded quarantine facilities, where they’re afraid coronavirus could rapidly spread.

In Chile, as the country remains in a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, anti-government and anti-austerity protesters are continuing the movement from inside their homes, using social media. Each Friday night, quarantined Chileans stand in their gardens or balconies banging pots, demanding the release of people arrested during recent mass protests.

Nigerian Security Forces Have Killed at Least 18 While Enforcing Social Distancing Rules

Apr 17, 2020

Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission says security forces have killed at least 18 people while enforcing social distancing measures aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. That’s more than the 13 deaths so far attributed to COVID-19 across Nigeria. The commission documented over 100 incidents of human rights violations in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

Puerto Ricans Protest Gov. Vázquez Coronavirus “Propaganda,” Demand More COVID-19 Testing on Island

Apr 17, 2020

In Puerto Rico, protesters in cars rallied Wednesday outside the island’s government-funded public television station WIPR, denouncing what they called propaganda produced by Governor Wanda Vázquez about the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters also demanded more COVID-19 testing on the island. Elsewhere, emergency medical workers held a protest that ended in front of the governor’s mansion, demanding they be included in the government’s economic coronavirus relief package.

U.N. Warns of Pandemic’s “Potentially Catastrophic” Toll on Children

Apr 17, 2020

The United Nations warns the coronavirus pandemic could prove catastrophic for children around the world, with 1.5 billion affected by countrywide school closures; millions losing access to school meal programs; and widespread disruptions to maternal and newborn care. This is U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

Secretary-General António Guterres: “Reduced household income will force poor families to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, particularly affecting children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Polio vaccination campaigns have been suspended. Measles immunization campaigns have stopped in at least 23 countries. And as health services become overwhelmed, sick children are less able to access care. With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands additional child deaths in 2020.”

Lila Fenwick, First Black Woman to Graduate Harvard Law in ’56, Dies of COVID-19

Apr 17, 2020

Lila Fenwick, who in 1956 became the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Law School, has died from COVID-19. She became a student at Harvard in 1954, following the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, joining the cohort as part of only a handful of women and the only black woman. Fenwick was 87 years old. Renowned Chilean author Luis Sepúlveda, who in the 1980s fled the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, has died from COVID-19. Sepúlveda is celebrated for his literary work depicting life in South America. He was 70 years old.

Vice: Ex-Michigan Gov. Snyder Knew About Flint Water Crisis as Early as 2014 & Lied About It to Congress

Apr 17, 2020

Vice News reports Michigan’s former Republican Governor Rick Snyder knew about toxic levels of lead in Flint’s water supply as early as 2014 — some 16 months before he claimed to have learned of the contamination during sworn testimony to Congress. Vice also found Snyder was warned about the dangers of using the Flint River as a water source a year before the water switch even occurred. The water corroded Flint’s aging pipes, causing poisonous levels of lead to leach into the drinking water. Michigan has admitted the switch claimed 12 lives, but a PBS investigation found the true toll might be far higher.

Alaska Says Surgical Abortions Could Be Banned During Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 17, 2020

The state of Alaska has put surgical abortions on a list of medical procedures that could be banned during the coronavirus outbreak, claiming abortions are not essential and that the measures will conserve personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The Alaska chapter of Planned Parenthood has called the new rule shameful and an attempt by local officials to exploit a public health crisis to restrict abortion access.

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