The U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak has topped 56,000, but more evidence is emerging that the actual death toll may be far higher. A new study by a team at the Yale School of Public Health found there were over 15,000 excess deaths in the United States during the month of March and first days of April. The figure is nearly double what officials have been citing as the death toll from the pandemic during that period. Worldwide, the known death toll has topped 211,000, though the true number is also expected to be much higher.
On Monday, President Trump was questioned about the fallout from his dangerous suggestion last week that injecting disinfectants might help patients sick with COVID-19.
Reporter: “Maryland and other states, Governor Larry Hogan specifically said they’ve seen a spike in people using disinfectant after your comments last week. I know you said they were sarcastic, but do you take any.”
President Donald Trump: “I can’t imagine why. I can’t imagine why. Yeah.”
Reporter: “Do you yeah take any responsibility if someone were to die?”
President Donald Trump: “No, I don’t.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the state will start reopening businesses, including restaurants, movie theaters and shops, starting this Friday — but that they can only fill up to 25% of their licensed capacity for now. Cases are still on the rise in Texas. The state has reported 25,000 cases and around 700 known deaths. Ohio said manufacturing would be allowed to resume, and offices will start to reopen next week.
Meanwhile, as reported coronavirus deaths in California topped 1,700 Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom condemned residents who flocked to beaches over the weekend amid a heat wave in Southern California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We are just a few weeks away — not months away — from making measurable and meaningful changes to our stay-at-home order. That is a very optimistic point to emphasize. However, that’s driven by data. It’s driven by behavior. And as we change our behavior, we can impact the science, the health and the data. This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful, sunny day.”
Trump announced he will give the in-person commencement address at West Point, forcing 1,000 cadets, who had been told to leave campus in March, to return for graduation. West Point officials say they were unaware of Trump’s plan to go ahead with the address until he mentioned it earlier this month at a press briefing.
The New York State Board of Elections has canceled the Democratic presidential primary scheduled for June 23 after removing Bernie Sanders from the ballot. While other states have postponed primaries due to the coronavirus outbreak, New York becomes the first to outright cancel a planned primary.
The Bernie Sanders campaign blasted the decision, calling it a “blow to American democracy.” While Sanders suspended his presidential campaign earlier this month, he decided to remain on the ballot in upcoming primaries in an attempt to accrue more delegates to influence the Democratic Party’s platform at the party’s convention.
A law signed earlier this year by Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the New York State Board of Elections the power to remove candidates who have suspended their campaigns from the ballot. Senior Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver said, “Just last week Vice President Biden warned the American people that President Trump could use the current crisis as an excuse to postpone the November election. Well, he now has a precedent thanks to New York state.” Primaries will still be held in New York for other races on June 23, but turnout is expected to be much lower.
The United Nations is urging the United States to release imprisoned immigrants as coronavirus cases continue to mount in overcrowded and unsanitary immigration jails across the country. There are 360 confirmed coronavirus cases in Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisons.
In other immigration news, staff at the privately owned Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego did not allow a group of activists to deliver nearly 1,000 face masks to immigrants imprisoned inside. The group was accompanied Friday by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who said, “These are human beings. We don’t have mass deaths, but we know where this is going.”
In legal news, the Supreme Court declined to temporarily halt the Trump administration’s so-called public charge rule, which allows the government to deny green cards to immigrants who use public benefits such as food stamps. Earlier this month, Connecticut, Vermont and New York state and New York City asked the justices to reverse the rule in light of the economic devastation brought on by the pandemic, which has hit immigrant communities especially hard.
As the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States nears 1 million, more evidence is indicating far more of the population has been already infected while not showing any symptoms. Reuters reports a study of prisoners in Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia found 96% of prisoners in the states’ prison systems who tested positive for coronavirus did not show any symptoms.
In New York, two more prisoners at Fishkill Correctional Facility have died of COVID-19. The Fishkill and Sing Sing correctional facilities account for at least seven of the nine COVID-19-related deaths of incarcerated people in New York.
In California, the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex — which has one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in U.S. prisons — will reportedly reinstate phone contact between prisoners and loved ones after sustained pressure from families of inmates. Family members gathered outside the prison Saturday claiming they hadn’t been able to communicate with their loved ones — some for up to two weeks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who returned to work this week after his own battle with the coronavirus, said it was premature to lift the nation’s lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS.”
In other news from Britain, a judge has postponed extradition hearings for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which were set to go ahead next month, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Earlier this month, Assange’s fiancée made an urgent plea for his release from Belmarsh prison amid the pandemic.
Sweden’s ambassador to the United States has said that Stockholm could reach “herd immunity” sometime in May. In contrast to many of its European neighbors, Sweden has imposed much more relaxed restrictions, keeping most businesses open. Over 2,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Sweden — a significantly higher death toll in relation to its population than neighboring Denmark and Norway, which both imposed strict lockdowns. The World Health Organization has warned there is no evidence that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are immune to reinfection.
The World Health Organization is warning that as health systems become overwhelmed with combating the coronavirus, people are at heightened risk of succumbing to other diseases and health conditions, particularly children. Many poorer countries have reported shortages in vaccines and essential medicines amid the pandemic. The WHO’s director-general said African nations are increasingly vulnerable as cases across the continent mount.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “And a new modeling analysis published last week estimates the potential disruption to malaria services from COVID-19 in 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In the worst-case scenario, the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa could double.”
In Guatemala, nearly 100 immigrants recently deported from the United States have tested positive for COVID-19, making up some 20% of Guatemala’s coronavirus cases. The Guatemalan government indefinitely suspended most deportation flights from the U.S., saying it will only allow them to resume if the U.S. improves its screening protocols.
In Chile, dozens of protesters were arrested Monday in the capital Santiago as anti-government demonstrations continue in defiance of lockdown orders. Demonstrators are calling for a constitutional reform and the release of political prisoners, among other things. A referendum on a new Chilean constitution was meant to take place Sunday but was postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown. Police fired tear gas and sprayed protesters with water cannons. This is a 74-year old protester in Santiago.
Juan Manuel Lanata: “It’s the anniversary, I believe, of the most repudiated, the most hated organization by a great majority of Chileans, which is Chile’s Carabineros — in a few words: rapists, murderers, torturers, mutilators. And I hope someday they will disappear and a police corps will be created that will be absolutely different, with unrestricted support for people’s human rights.”
In Pakistan, dozens of doctors and nurses are on hunger strike to demand adequate personal protective equipment while treating coronavirus patients. More than 150 medical workers have become infected by the coronavirus, and several have died, including a 26-year-old doctor who had just begun his medical career. Last month, police arrested more than 50 protesting doctors. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Pakistan, with 14,000 confirmed cases and around 300 known deaths, though the true numbers are believed to be much higher.
In the U.S., activists in Washington, D.C., formed car and bike caravans Monday in a show of support for essential workers and to call out the disproportionate toll of the pandemic on black and brown communities. The actions, which were organized by several local groups, including Black Lives Matters DC and Shut Down DC, also called for decarceration and environmental justice. More actions are set to take place throughout the week in the lead-up to May 1.
New developments in the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden broke Monday as two more people who knew Tara Reade in the 1990s have come forward to corroborate details of her account. Rich McHugh reports in Business Insider that a former neighbor of Tara Reade said the pair discussed the assault in detail, in which then-Senator Biden allegedly pushed Reade up against a wall and digitally penetrated her. The alleged assault happened in 1993, when Reade was working as a staffer in his office. A former colleague who also knew Reade in the mid-’90s said she had spoken of being sexually harassed by her former boss in Washington, D.C.
The latest news broke as Joe Biden gained two significant endorsements Monday — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Washington Congressmember Pramila Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A top ER doctor who had treated coronavirus patients in New York died by suicide Sunday. Dr. Lorna Breen was the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital but had been staying with her family in Virginia at the time of her death. She herself had contracted the coronavirus and had to leave her position to recover from the illness. Her family blames her job for her death. Her father said in an interview she had described harrowing scenes from the hospital. “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was,” her father, Dr. Philip Breen, said in an interview, adding, “She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”
In Virginia, Jerry Givens, a prominent anti-death penalty activist who was once also the state’s chief executioner, has died from complications related to COVID-19. Givens served as Virginia’s chief executioner for over 25 years, but after serving his own prison sentence, he became an outspoken abolitionist, speaking out against capital punishment and contacting politicians in an attempt to halt executions. He was 67 years old.