The United States has recorded nearly 1,200 deaths from COVID-19 in just 24 hours — the worst daily death toll for any country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Nationwide, over 6,000 people have died, with more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths in New York City alone. Medical workers who’ve been forced to work shifts of up to 16 hours report chaotic scenes of patients overflowing out of hospitals that have run out of beds, with bodies quickly filling refrigerated trucks serving as makeshift morgues.
At the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, doctors and nurses wearing surgical masks and scarves held a demonstration Thursday to protest a critical lack of PPE — personal protective equipment.
Montefiore nurse: “We have a lot of angry nurses. Everybody is frustrated. Of course, people come off at the end of the shift, they’re crying because they don’t know what they’re taking home potentially to their families. They don’t know what they’re coming into the next day. We’re seeing a massive amount of sick patients, a massive amount of patients that are just dying because of this illness. And like I said, at the end of the day, we’re not protected.”
One 28-year-old doctor at Thursday’s protest said she heads to work each day feeling like a “sheep going to slaughter.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the city has just six days until its hospitals will run out of ventilators crucial to keeping critically ill COVID-19 patients breathing. His warning came as the House Oversight Committee reported just 9,500 ventilators remain in the national stockpile, with another 3,200 set to arrive by April 13 — far short of what will be needed to treat COVID-19 patients in emerging hot spots like New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana.
President Trump has promised to deliver 100,000 new ventilators, but most will not be available until late June at the earliest. On Thursday, Trump tweeted, “Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government. Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied.”
Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who’s been tapped to lead much of the administration’s coronavirus response, made a rare TV appearance at a White House press briefing Thursday.
Jared Kushner: “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
With the national stockpile of medical equipment nearly exhausted, Tennessee’s Department of Health has advised hospital workers to prepare to use swim goggles as eye protection; plastic bags as gloves; and tissues, gauze and diapers as masks.
The Labor Department reports a staggering 6.65 million Americans filed for unemployment over the last week, bringing the total number of U.S. jobless claims to more than 10 million since the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States. Millions more are expected to file claims in the coming weeks, with state unemployment agencies reporting jammed phone lines and crashing web servers due to record levels of traffic. Economist Ben Zipperer of the Economic Policy Institute estimates in just two weeks, mass layoffs left 3.5 million people with no health benefits. He tweeted, “The COVID-19 pandemic lays bare the cruelty of tying health insurance coverage to employment.”
New York City has joined Los Angeles in recommending that all residents wear masks or otherwise cover their faces while in public. This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to reverse its long-standing advice that members of the general public should not wear nonmedical masks when leaving the home. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has lifted a ban on imports of Chinese-made KN95 respirator masks amid a severe shortage of medical-grade N95 masks.
The Democratic National Committee said Thursday it will delay its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee by a month, to August 17. The DNC’s announcement came as Democratic front-runner Joe Biden urged Wisconsin to proceed with in-person voting at polling sites across the state during a scheduled primary election next Tuesday.
Joe Biden: “A convention having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing to six to 10 feet apart, one at a time going in, and having machines scrubbed down.”
On Thursday, a federal judge declined to postpone the election but said Wisconsin was ignoring public health data and “endangering its population.” Wisconsin’s poll workers are overwhelmingly elderly, and many have health conditions that put them at high risk of death if they’re infected. Democratic Governor Tony Evers has called up the National Guard to fill in for an estimated 7,000 poll workers who’ve refused to participate.
Biden’s opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders, has called for a delay to allow Wisconsinites to vote entirely by mail. Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and the mayors of Milwaukee, Green Bay and Racine are also calling for a delay.
Wisconsin has reported at least 38 deaths from COVID-19, and residents who wish to brave in-person voting will be exempted from a shelter-in-place order.
Europe continues to bear the brunt of global COVID-19 deaths, with Spain’s death toll passing the 10,000 mark, France passing 5,300 deaths and the United Kingdom approaching 3,000 dead. Italy reported another 760 COVID-19 deaths Thursday, bringing the total number to almost 14,000. But Italian officials cited a glimmer of hope that, after weeks of increasingly strict social distancing measures, the rate of new infections appears to be leveling off.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden called Thursday for sanctions against Iran to be eased to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has ravaged a healthcare system already devastated by U.S. sanctions before the pandemic arrived. Biden’s opponent Senator Bernie Sanders has long called for an end to sanctions on Iran, and earlier this week Sanders joined 33 other lawmakers in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding he allow for shipments of humanitarian assistance to Iran. At the White House, President Trump was questioned Thursday by Al Jazeera correspondent Kimberly Halkett about the Iran sanctions.
Kimberly Halkett: “Would you consider easing sanctions to allow medical supplies to get in?”
President Donald Trump: “Well, they haven’t even asked us to do that.”
Kimberly Halkett: “But we know that sanctions hit the people, not the government.”
President Donald Trump: “You know what? They haven’t even asked us to do that.”
In fact, Iranian officials have repeatedly demanded the U.S. lift sanctions, with foreign minister Javad Zarif condemning them as a “campaign of economic terrorism.” On Wednesday, President Trump again threatened to attack Iran, claiming in a tweet that he’d learned of Iranian plans for a “sneak attack” on U.S. forces in Iraq.
In Brazil, Amazon land defender and indigenous leader Zezico Guajajara has been assassinated. His body was found this week near his village with gunshot wounds, marking the fifth assassination of Amazon forest protectors in the past six months. Meanwhile, a 20-year-old indigenous woman living in a village deep in the Brazilian Amazon has tested positive for COVID-19 — the first case in the region — raising fears that the pandemic could spread to remote indigenous villages with lethal effects. Colombia also reported the first two coronavirus cases among the Yukpa indigenous community in the city of Cúcuta.
President Trump is set to welcome top oil company executives to the White House today to discuss relief measures for the fossil fuel industry. Demand for oil has plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oil prices surged 25% Thursday after Trump tweeted that his “friend” — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — had agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to cut oil production.
In New York City, a beloved Brooklyn elementary school teacher has died from complications of COVID-19. Sandra Santos-Vizcaino was described by the community as a generous, talented teacher and an amazing hugger who pushed and supported her students unconditionally. Santos-Vizcaino was a third-grade teacher at Prospect Heights’ P.S. 9 who had been working as an educator for over two decades. She was a member of the Association of Dominican American Supervisors and Administrators and was awarded the outstanding education leader award in the Dominican Republic for her education work on the island. Before her death, Santos-Vizcaino had been building her dream home with her husband in the Dominican Republic, looking forward to retiring there one day. She’s also survived by her two children. She was 54 years old.