The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is nearing 228,000 people, with more than 3.2 million confirmed cases. In the hardest-hit nation, the United States, the official death toll has reached 61,000, although data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest thousands more have died of the disease than have been officially reported. At the White House, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Wednesday called the federal response to the coronavirus crisis “a great success story.”
Jared Kushner: “And again, we’re on the other side of the medical aspect of this, and I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So, the government, federal government, rose to the challenge, and this is a great success story.”
In New York, emergency workers responding to 911 calls about a foul odor outside a Brooklyn funeral home found dozens of decomposing bodies in a pair of unrefrigerated trucks. New York’s daily COVID-19 death toll held steady Wednesday, with 330 deaths reported in 24 hours.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday he’ll reopen state parks beginning on Saturday and may reopen golf courses. New Jersey reported 329 more people died of COVID-19 in just one day. In Massachusetts, nearly 70 residents of a home for aging military veterans have died of COVID-19 — making it the deadliest outbreak in a U.S. nursing home. The superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, a state-run long-term care center, has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. An Associated Press tally found over 13,700 COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities around the U.S.
The Food and Drug Administration will announce emergency use authorization for the antiviral drug remdesivir, after preliminary results from a federal trial showed the drug could speed recovery in patients infected with the coronavirus. The finding, which has not yet been peer reviewed, came after another study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found no benefit for the drug in severely ill patients in China. The new results suggest a moderate improvement in the death rate of patients taking remdesivir, whose hospital stays were shortened, on average, from 15 days to 11. At the White House, top coronavirus task force scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci welcomed news of the first potential treatment for COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is a very important proof of concept, because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that any L.A. resident who wants a coronavirus test can get one, for free, at city-run testing sites. The tests are by appointment only at 35 testing sites across L.A. County.
The Labor Department reports more than 3.8 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment over the past week, bringing the total number of jobless claims since the start of the pandemic to more than 30 million. Joining the surge are an increasing number of state and municipal employees, whose jobs are threatened by an unprecedented drop in tax revenues. Without more federal aid, local governments say they’ll soon be forced to lay off millions of public employees, affecting health, sanitation, education, transit and other public services.
The United Nations labor agency on Wednesday warned that some 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy — nearly half of the world’s workforce — are in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed by the economic catastrophe triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes as the World Bank and other groups say some 100 million people living in densely populated cities around the globe will likely fall into poverty due to the pandemic. In related news, the World Food Programme and UNICEF warn some 370 million children are missing out on school meals amid school closures due to the pandemic. The World Food Programme earlier this week issued an alert about a potential massive rise in global food insecurity, particularly in East African countries.
Elisabeth Byrs: “Twenty million people are now food-insecure in nine countries in the region: Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea.”
In Britain, the death toll from COVID-19 has passed 26,000, surpassing France and Spain and making the U.K. second only to Italy among European countries in the total number of coronavirus deaths.
In Switzerland, health officials say it’s now safe for children under the age of 10 to hug their grandparents, after concluding that young people do not transmit the virus. The recommendation contradicts medical advice of doctors in other countries, who say there’s no data to support the conclusion.
Russia reports it’s confirmed over 106,000 coronavirus cases, with over 1,000 deaths, making Russia the eighth most affected country in the world. This week, President Vladimir Putin admitted Russia has a severe shortage of personal protective equipment for medical workers, and warned the worst is yet to come.
Kenya has banned all entry and exit from a pair of vast refugee camps, fearing an outbreak of COVID-19 could prove catastrophic for thousands of people living in cramped and squalid conditions. The camps house some 400,000 refugees from Somalia, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
Iowa’s Republican governor has warned furloughed workers they will lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to their jobs once remain-at-home orders are lifted — even if the workers fear injury or death from COVID-19. Nebraska Republican Governor Pete Ricketts has issued a similar warning. Iowa is planning to allow some restaurants, bars, shops and gyms to reopen at half-capacity beginning Friday, and Nebraska will begin loosening restrictions next week. Many of the affected workers are employees of giant meatpacking plants that have become the largest coronavirus hot spots in the country. Dozens of workers at a Smithfield plant in Crete, Nebraska, walked off the job Wednesday in an unsanctioned work stoppage after Smithfield reversed a decision to close the facility. In Weld County, Colorado, an enormous JBS pork plant has reopened, even though a fifth employee has died from COVID-19. The plant reopened even though JBS managers have not tested all of its employees for the disease as they had promised.
New York transit officials are teaming up with the NYPD to force unhoused people from the subway system. Under a new policy, people will not be allowed to remain in a subway station for more than an hour, and will be removed from trains that reach the end of a subway line. On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attacked unhoused people for sheltering in subway cars.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “That is disgusting, what is happening on those subway cars. It’s disrespectful to the essential workers who need to ride the subway system.”
Coalition for the Homeless responded, “More policing won’t stop homeless individuals from taking refuge in the subways because it doesn’t address what people actually need: safe, private space so they can take the advice of health officials to maintain social distance. The City could open up thousands of hotel rooms and offer every single person on the subway access to them, if only Mayor de Blasio had the political will.” New York Governor Cuomo has repeatedly rejected the idea of raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for services for the unhoused.
A new survey of Georgia hospitals finds more than 80% of COVID-19 patients are Black, even though African Americans make up just 30% of Georgia’s population. It’s the latest evidence that the coronavirus is disproportionately affecting people of color in the United States. Meanwhile, Native American tribal governments report they haven’t received any of the $8 billion in direct emergency payments promised by Congress in last month’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
Wisconsin state health officials say more than 50 people who either worked at polling places or voted in Wisconsin’s presidential primary earlier this month have tested positive for the coronavirus. Democratic Governor Tony Evers tried to delay voting in the April 7 election, but was overruled by the conservative majority on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — who wore a surgical mask, gloves and hospital gown to a polling place — declared the risk of in-person voting was “minimal.” Wisconsin is planning another round of in-person voting on May 12 in a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat.
In El Paso, Texas, six immigrant women suffering from underlying health conditions have been freed from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail. The women had sued ICE demanding to be released from El Paso Processing Center during the COVID-19 pandemic, as at least seven immigrant prisoners have tested positive for the virus. In Louisiana, Mother Jones reports two guards at the Richwood Correctional Center have recently died of what colleagues say were complications from COVID-19 — although tests are pending. At least 45 people in the custody of ICE at Richwood have tested positive for the virus.
Newly obtained emails have revealed Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials systematically retaliated against immigrant rights activists in recent years. One name that appears repeatedly is Maru Mora-Villalpando, an undocumented activist and leader of the grassroots organization La Resistencia, based in Washington state. The group has recently held several car rallies outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma in support of hunger strikers inside who demand their immediate release amid the pandemic. In the messages, ICE agents signal they hoped initiating deportation proceedings against Mora-Villalpando would “take away some of her clout.” The uncovered emails are part of an ongoing federal litigation led by La Resistencia against ICE’s continuous targeting of immigrant rights advocates across the country.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Tuesday night defended Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as he faces sexual assault allegations from former aide Tara Reade.
Stacey Abrams: “I believe that women deserve to be heard, and I believe that they need to be listened to. But I also believe that those allegations have to be investigated by credible sources. The New York Times did a deep investigation, and they found that the accusation was not credible. I believe Joe Biden.”
New developments of the alleged assault emerged Monday as two more people who knew Tara Reade in the 1990s came forward to corroborate details of her account, including a former colleague who said Reade had spoken of being sexually harassed by her former boss in Washington, D.C. The alleged assault happened in 1993, when Reade was working as a staffer in then-Senator Biden’s office. Click here to see our interview with Tara Reade.