Coronavirus Cases Surge in U.S., Surgeon General Warns of “Pearl Harbor Moment”
The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 70,000 with over 1.3 million confirmed cases. The U.S. has by far the highest number of known cases, with over 336,000 reported, as the country’s official death toll approaches 10,000. But public health and medical experts say the true number of COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. is much higher than reported due to inconsistent protocols on reporting, early failures to identify COVID-19, and unreported deaths in victims’ homes. The Pentagon said it is procuring 100,000 body bags as demand increases from morgues around the country. As hospitals around the country continue to report dire equipment and staffing shortages, Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Sunday the weeks ahead would be the toughest in the fight against the pandemic.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.”
Over 90% of U.S. residents are now under some type of stay-at-home order. North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa are the remaining states that have no such measures either on a local or state-wide level. The White House’s top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday somewhere between 25 and 50% of people with COVID-19 could be asymptomatic.
Gov. Cuomo Slashes Medicaid as New York Struggles to Get Handle on COVID-19 Cases
New York remains the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S., representing nearly half of the country’s fatalities. Over the weekend, more than 1,200 New Yorkers died within a 48-hour window, bringing the state’s official death toll to over 4,000. There are over 123,000 confirmed cases. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has enough medical supplies to last until Tuesday or Wednesday, as he repeated a plea for any available healthcare workers to join the fight against the pandemic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Please, we need your help. We need supplies. We need medical personnel to come forward to volunteer. We will compensate them, but we need them to come forward and give us their time and energy where it’s needed most.”
At his briefing, Mayor de Blasio also blamed the surge in New York cases on the lack of early testing and mobilization from the federal government.
As New York races to keep up with the explosion of coronavirus cases, progressive critics say the state budget agreed to by Governor Cuomo and the New York Legislature last week will harm New Yorkers already suffering the most from the coronavirus crisis. The $177 billion budget will slash the state’s Medicaid program by $2.5 billion a year, including a $400 million cut in money for hospitals. The budget also rolls back bail reform.
Meanwhile, a prisoner at Rikers Island in New York has died of complications from COVID-19. Hundreds of prisoners and prison workers at facilities across the city have tested positive as calls mount to release more detainees in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Black Communities Hit Disproportionately Hard by Coronavirus
Data is emerging showing major racial disparities in coronavirus death rates across the country. In Chicago, 70% of COVID-19 fatalities have been black residents, despite making up less than 30% of the population. In New York City, coronavirus patients from the Bronx, which has large black and Latinx populations, are twice as likely to die from the infection as elsewhere in the city. City and public health officials say the disproportionately higher rate is due to a greater number of underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, lack of access to testing and healthcare, and poor conditions in public housing that promote the spread of the disease. New Orleans, a majority-black city, now has the highest coronavirus death rate in the entire country.
Coronavirus Cases Appear to Level Off in Parts of Europe, But Death Tolls Remain High
In Europe, Spain has surpassed Italy in COVID-19 cases with over 135,000 people infected. Italy has already lost nearly 16,000 people and Spain over 13,000. In France, the death toll has topped 8,000. But the death rate in all three countries, as well as in Germany, has begun to slow down. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged the EU to provide more robust financial support in the fight “against an invisible enemy that is putting the future of the European project to the test.”
Boris Johnson Hospitalized for Acute Coronavirus Symptoms
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday, 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19. Johnson has reportedly been given oxygen treatment. Johnson was widely criticized for his government’s initial approach to handling the outbreak, which has already killed nearly 5,000 in Britain.
In a rare televised address Sunday, Queen Elizabeth called for Britons to unite and lauded the response of Britain’s healthcare and other essential workers. There are over 47,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Britain, including the prime minister and the queen’s son, Prince Charles.
Greek authorities have quarantined a second refugee camp after at least one person there tested positive for COVID-19. Human rights groups and health experts have urged the Greek government to evacuate the over 100,000 people living in overcrowded, neglected camps around the country.
Japan’s Shinzo Abe to Declare Emergency; Filipino Police Kills Man Who Flouted Coronavirus Rules
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reportedly planning to declare a state of emergency as Tokyo reported over 140 new coronavirus cases Sunday, its largest daily number. Japan has confirmed nearly 4,000 cases, though testing remains very limited. Japan has thus far resisted imposing a lockdown or other strict measures to contain the virus, over fears it will harm the economy.
In the Philippines, a police officer fatally shot a man who refused to adhere to government restrictions on preventing the spread of COVID-19. The man was reprimanded for not wearing a face mask, after which he reportedly became angry and attacked a health worker. Authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte said last week that police and military should shoot and kill any troublemakers.
Low-Paid Garment Workers in Bangladesh Face Mass Unemployment
In Bangladesh, an estimated 1 million garment workers have lost their jobs as the apparel industry has taken a huge hit from the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. The low-paid, mostly female workers make on average less than $100 per month, and many say their families will not survive without that income.
Ambia Begum: “We have not gotten our salaries and don’t know how many more days they will keep the factories closed. We are facing lots of problems, as we have to give rent and buy food to maintain our households. How can we run our families? The government should look after us.”
Former Prime Ministers of Somalia and Libya Die from COVID-19
Former Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril has died from the coronavirus. Jibril was Libya’s interim leader after the ouster and death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. He held the post until the country held its first free elections in 2012.
Meanwhile, former Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein has died of the coronavirus in London at the age of 82. He was credited for overseeing peace talks in 2008 as tens of thousands of Somalis were forced to flee amid fighting between Islamist insurgents based in Eritrea and Western-backed Somali and Ethiopian forces.
Complaint Filed at ICC over Jair Bolsonaro’s Handling of Coronavirus Outbreak; Death Toll Mounts in Honduras
In Brazil, a criminal complaint has been filed before the International Criminal Court against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro for ignoring measures recommended by the World Health Organization to control the spread of the coronavirus.
In Central America, Honduran authorities have ordered mayors across the country to find land that may be suitable for mass graves, as fears mount over a possibly overwhelming death toll from the coronavirus, which is rapidly spreading in the region. Honduras has reported nearly 300 cases and 22 deaths.
Trump Ignores His Govt’s Recommendations, Says He Won’t Wear Face Mask and Touts Anti-Malarial Drug
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday advised all Americans to wear nonmedical face masks when out in public. President Trump, however, said he would forego the recommendation, saying, “Somehow I don’t see it for myself.” Trump also once again urged Americans to take the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 symptoms, despite medical experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning there is still insufficient evidence for its effectiveness in treating the virus.
President Donald Trump: “That’s hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. And again, you have to go through your medical people, get the approval. But I’ve seen things that I sort of like. So, what do I know? I’m not a doctor. I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense.”
Later in Sunday’s press briefing, CNN correspondent Jeremy Diamond tried to question Dr. Anthony Fauci about the drug.
Jeremy Diamond: “Would you also weigh in on this issue of hydroxychloroquine? What do you think about this? And what is the — what is the medical evidence?”
President Donald Trump: “Do you know how many times he’s answered that question?”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Yeah.”
Jeremy Diamond: “But I’m [inaudible] to the doctor.”
President Donald Trump: “Probably 15 — 15 times. You don’t have to ask the question.”
Jeremy Diamond: “He’s your medical expert, correct?”
President Donald Trump: “He’s answered that question 15 times.”
The L.A. Times is reporting the Trump administration ended a pandemic early-warning program in China just two months before COVID-19 started spreading in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the pandemic. The program trained and supported researchers in labs around the world, including the Wuhan lab that identified the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. After funding was cut in September of last year, dozens of scientists and analysts were fired.
Immigrant Women Launch Hunger Strike in Tacoma, WA as COVID-19 Cases Rise in Immigration Jails
In immigration news, a prisoner being held at the privately owned Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego has tested positive for COVID-19; two facility employees also recently tested positive. There have been at least eight reported cases of COVID-19 among immigrant prisoners across the country.
Meanwhile, over 60 immigrant women imprisoned at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, have gone on hunger strike demanding the immediate release of vulnerable people, humanitarian visas to detainees, and a moratorium on deportations and transfers. On Friday, dozens of allies protested outside the facility in their cars, honking their horns in support of immigrant prisoners. This is Maru Mora-Villalpando, an activist with the immigrant rights group La Resistencia.
Maru Mora-Villalpando: “As we are told that we should keep social distance, that we should clean our hands, that we should not go out, elected officials should be doing something to release people from detention, because people in detention have said, 'This is not only about us.' When guards come in or out, they’re also bringing the virus either in or they’re taking it out. As governments have asked us, 'Stay home, save lives,' we ask them, 'Get people out of cages, save lives.'”
In related news, ProPublica reports hospitals across New York City are leaving some non-English-speaking patients unattended and without proper care.
Employees at Chicago Amazon, Food Processing Plants Among Rising Worker Actions Amid Pandemic
In labor news, workers across a wide range of sectors are continuing to demand better safety measures to protect against infections. In Chicago, Amazon workers staged their fourth strike in under a week Saturday, days after Amazon fired a Staten Island employee who organized a similar walkout here in New York.
Workers at food processing factories — which are often staffed by a majority-immigrant workforce — have been walking off the job to protest unsafe conditions. Recent strikes include workers at a chicken processing facility in Virginia, a flan and gelatin production factory in Illinois and a meatpacking plant in Colorado.
Meanwhile, a union representing some 13,000 carpenters in Massachusetts has called for a strike starting today to protest Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s refusal to shut down all construction across the state.
And nurses around the country continue to shine light on the ongoing lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, and understaffing around the country. The University of Illinois Hospital and the Illinois Nurses Association recently announced an agreement to provide nurses with hazard pay for the duration of the state’s stay-at-home order. After headlines, we’ll head to Harlem Hospital, where nurses are staging a protest this morning, and speak to organizer, registered nurse Sarah Dowd.
Tiger at Bronx Zoo Tests Positive for COVID-19
In other news about the pandemic, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19. At least four other tigers and lions at the zoo also exhibited symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. The infection is believed to be the result of “human-to-cat transmission.”
Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline to Resume Despite Coronavirus and Environmental Threats
In environmental news, construction on the Keystone XL pipeline is set to resume. Officials in Alberta, Canada, said they would hand over more than $1 billion to TC Energy — formerly known as TransCanada — so that construction can continue, even though it risks putting construction workers and residents on the pipeline’s path — many of them from indigenous communities — at heightened risk for contracting the coronavirus. South Dakota and several other states recently passed new laws criminalizing protests against pipelines.
Fired U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier Tests Positive for COVID-19
Navy Captain Brett Crozier, who last week called for the evacuation of thousands of sailors stuck on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam, has tested positive for COVID-19. Captain Crozier was removed from his post just days earlier, after his defiant letter, in which he pleaded not to let sailors die, leaked to the press. At least 150 sailors on the nuclear-powered military ship had also contracted the virus. On Friday, videos emerged showing hundreds of sailors cheering and applauding Captain Crozier as he disembarked from the aircraft carrier at a U.S. naval base in Guam.
Trump Fires Intelligence Community Watchdog Michael Atkinson
Amid the escalating coronavirus crisis, President Trump has fired Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general. Atkinson alerted lawmakers to the whistleblower complaint that triggered Trump’s impeachment proceedings. Axios is reporting sources close to President Trump expect him to fire more inspectors general across the government.
Longtime AP Writer, Deputy Tech Editor Anick Jesdanun Dies of COVID-19
Longtime Associated Press writer and deputy technology editor Anick Jesdanun died from complications due to COVID-19. His family says that although he was diagnosed, his case wasn’t severe enough to require hospitalization initially, and he even appeared to be on the mend before his symptoms took a turn for the worse. Jesdanun was an avid marathoner and participated in races on every continent.
In other media news, CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin announced Friday she has tested positive for COVID-19. CNN host Chris Cuomo also tested positive earlier in the week.
Journalist & Economist Martin Khor, Who Fought for Ecological Rights in the Global South, Dies at 68
Malaysian economist and journalist Martin Khor has died at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer. Khor served until 2018 as the executive director of the South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing countries, and was previously head of the Third World Network. Khor advocated for collective solidarity among nations in the Global South to fight against ecological damage wrought by the world’s wealthiest nations. This is Martin Khor speaking to Democracy Now! in 2012 at the U.N. climate change summit in Doha.
Martin Khor: “So, the catastrophe of climate change is already on us. We are not waiting for, you know, the next century or for our children. We are the children we are talking about who are suffering from climate change. And unfortunately, the talks that we are seeing in Doha are not reflecting the urgency that is required by what is happening out in the world.”
That was Martin Khor, who passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Click here to see our other interviews with Khor.
Legendary Soul Singer Bill Withers, Known for “Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Dies at 81
Legendary singer-songwriter Bill Withers has died at the age of 81 from heart complications. Withers was a three-time Grammy Award winner whose most beloved songs include “Lean on Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lovely Day” and “Just the Two of Us.” “Lean on Me” has found renewed popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as videos of neighbors, schoolchildren and others singing the classic hit in a show of solidarity and friendship have been appearing on social media. A message posted by Bill Withers’s family reads: “A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.”