Coronavirus infections continue to climb worldwide — officially at 2.5 million confirmed cases and 178,000 deaths linked to COVID-19, though the true toll is certain to be far higher. A top United Nations official warned Tuesday that governments must act immediately to prevent a “second pandemic of hunger” from economic freefall unleashed by the virus. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday the number of hungry people worldwide could soon double to 265 million unless urgent steps are taken.
David Beasley: “There are no famines yet. But I must warn you that if we don’t prepare and act now to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade, we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”
The Trump Organization is seeking rent relief for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which is housed in a federally owned building leased from the Trump administration. The watchdog group Common Cause tweeted in response, “This is what we call a conflict of interest. Also known as corruption or unconstitutional Emoluments violations.”
In South Dakota, a second worker at a massive Smithfield pork processing plant has died of COVID-19. At least 761 coronavirus cases are linked to the plant, which shut down indefinitely last week as cases exploded.
In Iowa, local officials are urging Governor Kim Reynolds to shut down the Tyson Foods pork plant in Waterloo, as at least 90% of coronavirus cases in Black Hawk County are traced back to Tyson plant workers.
Outside the White House, dozens of nurses held a protest and vigil Tuesday, reading the names of 50 healthcare workers who have died after becoming infected by the coronavirus on the job.
Nurse protester: “Larrice Anderson, New Orleans, Louisiana. Divina Accad, Detroit, Michigan. John Abruzzo, Long Island, New York.”
The protest was organized by National Nurses United, which is demanding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require adequate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
Rachel: “I would help anyone until I couldn’t, but I can’t help anyone if I’m dead or sick.”
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 9,200 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19, though the CDC admits the true rate is likely much higher.
In California, Santa Clara County’s medical examiner on Tuesday said two people died of COVID-19 on February 6 and 17 — weeks before Washington state reported the first U.S. fatality from the disease on February 28. The finding adds to evidence the coronavirus was circulating in the United States much earlier than previously thought.
A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health has found coronavirus patients administered the drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin had a higher death rate than those receiving standard care alone. On Tuesday, a panel of experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommended against the use of the drugs, saying they increase the risk of sudden cardiac death in patients. President Trump has repeatedly touted the drugs as a miracle cure for COVID-19. In March, he tweeted they “have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
Meanwhile, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Tuesday that a second wave of coronavirus infections may sweep the United States next winter, which could be even deadlier than the first wave, since it would coincide with the flu season.
Hundreds of workers called in sick Tuesday at Amazon warehouses around the United States, demanding paid time off work while improved safety measures are implemented. This is Jordan Flowers, a worker at Amazon’s vast JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York City.
Jordan Flowers: “We have over 50-plus COVID cases inside our warehouse. We are putting our lives at risk, our communities at risk, our families at risk and, most important, our customers at risk. We need Jeff Bezos to close down these warehouses and have us on two weeks’ paid leave, with retro pay for UPT. We need our governor, Cuomo, to clean up Amazon. I am home on strike, not planning to return to work, no time soon.”
President Trump said Tuesday he will issue an executive order suspending permanent residency applications, or green cards, for the next 60 days.
President Donald Trump: “By pausing immigration, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important. It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”
Trump, however, will not suspend visas for temporary farmworkers who are essential to the country’s food supply.
In Texas, two dozen asylum seekers at the for-profit Prairieland Detention Center near Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19.
In Arizona, asylum seekers jailed at the La Palma Correctional Center near Phoenix are receiving waivers from CoreCivic, freeing the for-profit prison company from liability if immigrant prisoners contract COVID-19. In exchange, CoreCivic will provide prisoners with a single face mask to use indefinitely. The forms, written in Spanish, read in part, “I understand and accept that I must complete and sign this form in order to use a face mask at CoreCivic facilities.”
In Michigan, 60-year-old prisoner William Garrison died of COVID-19 on April 13, just days before he was set to be released on parole because his age made him vulnerable to the coronavirus. Garrison served 44 years in prison after he was convicted of murder as a 16-year-old.
In Ohio, more than 1,800 prisoners and over 100 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Marion Correctional Institution. The prison is now the nation’s leading coronavirus hot spot.
In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that nearly 40% of the state’s coronavirus cases are concentrated at the Cummins maximum-security prison, where some 850 prisoners have tested positive.
In southern Greece, 148 asylum seekers have tested positive for COVID-19 at a hotel converted into a quarantine center for migrants. Most of those infected are single parents from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. This follows two other coronavirus outbreaks at crowded migrant camps near Athens.
Mexican officials say the country has entered its most severe stage in the spread of the coronavirus — what they refer to as Phase 3. Meanwhile, hundreds of factory workers in Ciudad Juárez protested on Monday demanding a closure of maquiladora assembly plants along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Protester: “They say we are under quarantine and we should be in our homes, but the company has not closed because this company is essential — as if people are desperate to buy refrigerators, stoves or washing machines, as if they’re very important. Of course they aren’t. Now the most important thing is to be safe at home. We have children, and we are risking our children’s health by coming to work.”
Chihuahua state officials say COVID-19 deaths have increased nearly sixfold within 10 days in Ciudad Juárez. At least 13 of those deaths were of employees working at U.S.-run maquiladoras. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is urging Mexico to reopen factories that were shuttered amid the pandemic, as many U.S. weapons manufacturers rely on Mexican labor.
President Trump promised Tuesday to bail out U.S. fossil fuel producers, after an unprecedented collapse in oil markets pushed benchmark crude prices into negative territory, meaning some traders were paying customers to offload oil. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down. I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!”
In response, journalist and activist Naomi Klein wrote, “Democrats need to counter with a sweeping plan to cover the full salaries of fossil fuel workers while they retrain for the clean economy. Time to wind down this abusive industry that has always relied on massive public subsidies.”
This week, Oxford University passed a resolution requiring its endowment fund to divest from fossil fuel companies. At Harvard, President Larry Bacow said Tuesday his university would move its $41 billion endowment to carbon-neutral investments by 2050. The student group Divest Harvard called the move “insufficient,” writing in a statement, “By evading divestment, Harvard is once again standing with fossil fuel companies and against its students’ futures.”
Iran said Wednesday it has launched its first military satellite into orbit, after a series of launch attempts last year ended in failure. Iran has long accused the United States of a covert program of sabotage targeting its aerospace supply chain, and last year President Trump seemed to confirm the program in a tweet taunting Iran following a mysterious explosion at a rocket launch site.