Here in the United States,the White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said Sunday that social distancing will likely last through the summer, even as a growing number of states are preparing to reopen parts of the economy. Restaurants and theaters in Georgia will be allowed to reopen starting today, after other businesses started opening their doors in Georgia last week, including massage and tattoo parlors and nail and hair salons. Some parts of Texas are also allowing restaurants to start serving eat-in diners, as Governor Greg Abbott is expected to announce a further loosening of restrictions for the state today. Colorado announced a new “safer-at-home” policy as elective surgeries and retail businesses with curbside delivery will be allowed to resume. This is Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaking on CNN Sunday.
Gov. Jared Polis: “We have to make the best informed decisions based on data and science with the information we have. What we know is that what matters a lot more than the date that the stay at home ends is what we do going forward and how we — how we have an ongoing, sustainable way — psychologically, economically and from a health perspective — to have the social distancing we need at workplace, where people recreate and across the board.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, however, extended his city’s stay-at-home order to May 8, saying more testing and tracing of the coronavirus is needed before reopening. There are over 13,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colorado, with close to 700 reported deaths.
Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said construction and manufacturing in less-affected parts of the state may be able to open after May 15, when the state’s lockdown order is set to expire. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo warns New York will soon have to slash aid to local governments by over $8 billion, while cutting state agency budgets by 10%, unless Congress agrees to a bailout.
Last week, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew outrage from governors around the U.S. when he suggested state governments should declare bankruptcy rather than receive hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid.
In Oakland, video showing outreach workers for the city’s unhoused population pinned to the ground and arrested by police has prompted outrage. The outreach workers — who are themselves unhoused — had been distributing water, food and supplies to those in need. Police later admitted they thought one of the targeted individuals, a black man, matched the description of a suspect in a local crime.
The fallout continues from President Trump’s dangerous suggestion last week that injecting disinfectants might help patients sick with COVID-19. Governors and other state officials around the country have reported a spike in phone calls about taking disinfectants after Trump’s remarks Thursday. This is Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan speaking on ABC News.
Gov. Larry Hogan: “When misinformation comes out or you just say something that pops in your head, it does send a wrong message. And we had hundreds of calls come into our emergency hotline at our Health Department asking if it was right to ingest Clorox or, you know, alcohol cleaning products, whether that was going to help them fight the virus. So, we had to put out that warning to make sure that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people.”
Trump attempted to walk back his comments Friday, saying he was being “sarcastic.” Trump suggested on Twitter this weekend that he might stop holding daily coronavirus briefings following the recent backlash, saying they are “not worth the time & effort.” Meanwhile, the FDA had to issue warnings against people self-medicating with anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine Friday, after multiple deaths and poisonings were reported. President Trump has repeatedly touted these drugs, telling Americans to “try it.”
The World Health Organization is cautioning governments against issuing so-called immunity passports, warning there is no evidence people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 are immune to reinfection. Chile has said, however, it will move forward issuing certificates to people who have recovered from COVID-19, allowing them to resume work.
People in cities around the country took part in a “Cancel the Rent” car protest Saturday. The action was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This is a protester speaking in Los Angeles.
Protester: “Democrats and Republicans pass legislation which bail out the banks and not the people! And that’s why we’re here today. They’ve been telling us for years — for years — that we don’t have the money, that we don’t have the power, to bail out the people. But somehow, in crisis, when the economy has to shut down, when capitalism has to take a back seat, the workers become the essential class.”
Activists have been calling for a moratorium on rents for the duration of the coronavirus crisis as unemployment numbers continue to surge. President Trump signed off on the latest $484 billion coronavirus relief bill Friday, but neither of the relief bills passed so far includes any assistance for people struggling to pay rent.
The Congressional Budget Office is projecting the unemployment rate in the U.S. will remain high for at least the next 18 months as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic. The unemployment rate is projected to be at 10% at the end of 2021 — higher than it ever was during the Great Recession following the 2008 crash. It is expected to be between 14 and 16% through the fall of this year, though some analyses of the true rate of unemployment put that number much higher.
New evidence has surfaced that may help corroborate a claim by a former staffer of Joe Biden who says he sexually assaulted her in 1993. Tara Reade publicly accused Biden just last month but says she first told her mother and a few others about the incident shortly after it happened. Over the weekend, archival video emerged of Reade’s mother anonymously calling into Larry King’s show on CNN in 1993 and making a reference to what happened to her daughter.
Jeanette Altimus: “Hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do, besides go to the press in Washington. My daughter has just left there, after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all. And the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it, out of respect for him.”
Larry King: “Or she had a story to tell, but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it.”
Jeanette Altimus: “That’s true.”
Tara Reade has confirmed the voice of the caller was her mother, who died in 2016. Joe Biden’s campaign has denied Reade’s sexual assault claim, calling her allegation untrue.
Progressive organizations Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats are demanding Joe Biden remove former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers as an economic adviser. “Larry Summers’ legacy is advocating for policies that contributed to the skyrocketing inequality and climate crisis we’re living with today,” the groups said. Summers previously worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations. He has also been tied to convicted sexual predator and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The Biden campaign says Summers is part of an “informal network of experts” and does not hold a formal position in the campaign.
In Texas, the last remaining patient from the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart last August has died. Guillermo Garcia and his wife were both shot multiple times during the rampage, but his wife survived. Shortly before the massacre, Patrick Crusius published a racist online manifesto echoing President Trump’s rhetoric about an “invasion” of immigrants.
In Saudi Arabia, renowned human rights advocate Abdullah al-Hamid has reportedly died in jail. Al-Hamid co-founded the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association and was awarded the 2018 Right Livelihood Award. He had been imprisoned since 2013 for his activism and had been in a coma after having a stroke earlier this month. Ole von Uexküll, the executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, said, “He has paid the ultimate price for his convictions. We hold Saudi authorities directly responsible for al-Hamid’s death, as they have deliberately denied him access to proper medical care for many months during his imprisonment.” The news comes as Amnesty International reports Saudi Arabia executed 184 people last year — a record for the country.
Yemen is facing a new political crisis. On Sunday, separatists in southern Yemen declared self-rule in the port city of Aden and nearby provinces. The separatists have the backing of the United Arab Emirates. The Saudi-backed Yemeni government blasted the move, warning of “dangerous and catastrophic consequences.” The two factions had been on the same side in the U.S.-backed war against the Houthi rebels. This comes as the United Nations is attempting to secure a nationwide truce in a bid to contain the coronavirus.
Brazil’s powerful justice minister has resigned, accusing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of illegally firing the federal police chief. Sérgio Moro becomes the eighth Cabinet member — and the most high-profile — to depart in the 15 months since Bolsonaro took office. Moro once oversaw a vast anti-corruption investigation known as “Operation Car Wash” and prosecuted former President Lula da Silva for alleged corruption — charges that Lula says were politically motivated and designed to keep him from running for the presidency again. Moro quit Friday just hours after Bolsonaro fired the federal police chief, who was investigating Bolsonaro’s political allies and two of his sons.
Flávio Bolsonaro is under investigation for corruption and ties to mafia in Rio de Janeiro; another son, Carlos Bolsonaro, is charged with leading a “criminal fake news racket” that’s made threats against political opponents while spreading defamatory misinformation.
This all comes as President Bolsonaro faces widespread criticism for minimizing the dangers of the coronavirus outbreak. The death toll in Brazil has topped 4,000, and hospitals report being overwhelmed with sick patients.
In environmental news, new research finds populations of land-dwelling insects around the world have plummeted by about 25% over the last three decades. Publishing in the journal Science, German researchers blame the drop in arthropods on a critical loss of habitat, driven by urbanization and deforestation.