More Southern states announced plans to start rolling back lockdowns. Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp said Monday gyms, hair and nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors will be able to operate starting Friday, and restaurants and movie theaters will reopen next Monday. Kemp acknowledged his decision would make more Georgians contract COVID-19.
Gov. Brian Kemp: “When we have more people moving around, we’re probably going to have — see our cases continue to go up. But we’re a lot better prepared for that now than we were over a month ago. We have the hospital bed capacity.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was not given advance notice of the move and that the number of fatalities is still on the rise. Savannah, Georgia, Mayor Van Johnson said he was “beyond disturbed,” noting testing was still lacking and the state has not seen the recommended 14-day decline before reopening.
In South Carolina, Republican Governor Henry McMaster is reopening public beaches, department stores and some retail businesses starting today. Ohio and Tennessee said they would start to reopen businesses from May 1.
This comes as anti-lockdown protests continued around the country Monday. The government’s top adviser on the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned protests against state lockdowns will “backfire” and cause a spike in new cases.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority confirmed plans to hire another 350 police officers this year, despite the fact that it is facing $8 billion in losses due to the coronavirus crisis. The MTA is seeking another $4 billion in federal bailout money — after receiving $3.8 billion in the first relief bill passed last month. MTA data shows black and brown people are the most targeted by fare evasion policing. At least 79 MTA employees have died, and thousands more tested positive for COVID-19.
In California, a federal judge has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to urgently review the cases of detainees most likely to suffer severe illness or death from the coronavirus, to determine whether they can be released. Judge Jesus Bernal condemned the “system-wide inaction” in responding to the outbreak. The order cites detainees over 55, pregnant immigrants and those who suffer from chronic health conditions. Around 31,000 immigrants are in immigration prison — at least 220 have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The Supreme Court said it will consider the role that undocumented workers are playing to help combat the coronavirus outbreak, ahead of a major case challenging Trump’s move to end DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. About 27,000 DACA recipients are healthcare workers. Legal groups involved in the case say terminating DACA during the public health crisis would be “catastrophic.”
The Treasury Department announced Monday it is providing nearly $3 billion in payroll support for airlines. The L.A. Times reported at least 15 airline workers died from the coronavirus over a nine-day period earlier this month, but the true number is likely much higher, and there is no central tracking mechanism for COVID fatalities. Airline workers were previously barred from wearing face masks as the outbreak spread in earlier weeks, and some say they were kept in the dark about colleagues who contracted the virus.
Disney will stop paying over 100,000 employees this week — nearly half its workforce. The company is maintaining its executive bonus plan and a planned $1.5 billion dividend. Disney chief executive Bob Chapek said he would take half of his $2.5 million base pay due to the crisis, but he makes an estimated $25 million annually thanks to bonuses and a long-term incentive award. Disney chair and former CEO Bob Iger earned $47.5 million as CEO last year and is worth $690 million.
Jeremy Haicken, president of the UNITE HERE local representing Disney World workers in Florida, told The Hollywood Reporter, “Florida is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. The system was designed to fail even in the best of times, and now hundreds of thousands of workers are paying the price. What are workers going to do when their children are starving — ask them to wait seven weeks for [Governor Ron] DeSantis to send them a check?”
In Michigan, a 5-year-old girl from Detroit, the daughter of two first responders, died of COVID-19. Skylar Herbert is Michigan’s youngest known death from the coronavirus. She spent two weeks on a ventilator after developing a rare complication that caused her brain to swell.
As countries including Germany, Norway and Australia start to ease coronavirus restrictions, the World Health Organization has cautioned against a hasty lifting of protective measures, warning “the worst is yet ahead of us.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We want to reemphasize that easing restrictions is not the end of epidemic in any country. Ending the epidemic will require a sustained effort on the part of individuals, communities and governments to continue suppressing and controlling this deadly virus.”
In Britain, a government official has said the nationwide lockdown could last for three more months as the official death toll tops 16,000. New data suggests the COVID-19 death toll in parts of the U.K. is up to 40% higher than the hospitals-only figures reported by the government earlier this month.
On Monday, France became the fourth country to report over 20,000 deaths.
In the Philippines, authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to impose martial law to enforce lockdown and social distancing measures. Duterte previously said police and military should shoot people dead if they flouted lockdown measures. Police say 120,000 people have been arrested or given warnings for violating government-imposed rules.
In the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, 14 asylum seekers have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with a man recently deported from the United States. Meanwhile, three migrants deported two weeks ago from the U.S. to Haiti have tested positive for COVID-19.
CNN is reporting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “in grave danger after a surgery.” South Korean media reported Kim had a heart surgery, but few details about his condition are known. Speculation about Kim’s health was fueled when he did not appear at a recent celebration for his grandfather and state founder Kim Il-sung.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former political opponent Benny Gantz signed a deal Monday to form a national emergency government. The deal puts an end to a protracted political stalemate after neither candidate received enough votes to claim victory after three elections over the past year. Gantz previously had said he will not work with Netanyahu. Netanyahu is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases. His trial was postponed to next month because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The price of oil dropped below zero for the first time ever Monday. The historic collapse is due in part to a massive drop in demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. The news came on the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which led to the largest offshore oil spill in history, releasing over 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean, killing 11 people and tens of thousands of wildlife.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day tomorrow, a group of New York City Council members announced a resolution Monday calling for the city to divest from financial institutions that back the fossil fuel industry. The move comes after sustained campaigning by climate justice groups and is supported by the Stop the Money Pipeline campaign. JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and Liberty Mutual are some of the companies targeted by the resolution. Earlier this month, Reuters reported JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup are preparing to seize oil and gas assets as energy producers reel from the oil industry crash. This is 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, speaking during a virtual press conference announcing the resolution.
Bill McKibben: “Unlike political change in Washington, change on Wall Street could come, A, very fast, because when banks and things make announcements, they move stock markets within minutes, and, B, could come globally. Washington, for better and — better mostly, doesn’t really rule the world anymore, but Wall Street still kind of does. And so, the things that happen in New York with money are of absolute, first-order importance in this fight, especially given how little time we have.”