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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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 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.”