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The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 83,000, with the United States now the most impacted country in the world — with more than 1,900 U.S. fatalities reported in just the last 24 hours.
Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 731 people died of COVID-19 since Monday — New York’s highest one-day toll so far. But the true toll is likely far higher, with New York City’s Fire Department reporting about 130 people per day are dying in their homes — most of them of suspected COVID-19. Those deaths remain uncounted in official statistics. This is New York paramedic Anthony Almojera.
Anthony Almojera: “Yesterday I worked 16 hours, and I had 13 cardiac arrests. That’s a lot of deaths. Most of us are pretty good about handling death — you know, it’s the nature of the job, we kind of roll with it — but nothing like this for anyone.”
About 500 New York City Fire Department workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and about 20% of New York police officers are currently out sick.
At the White House on Tuesday, President Trump continued to promote the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a curative for COVID-19, even though no clinical trials have shown the drug is safe or effective in treating coronavirus infections. The New York Times reports Trump could personally profit if drug sales increase, because he owns a small financial interest in a French company that makes hydroxychloroquine. Trump also lashed out at the World Health Organization, calling the WHO “very China-centric” and threatening to cut off U.S. support for the U.N. public health agency.
President Donald Trump: “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it. And we’re going to see.”
Minutes later, during the same press conference, President Trump denied he had announced a freeze on U.S. funding to the WHO.
Reporter 1: “Is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic of this magnitude?”
President Donald Trump: “No, maybe not. I mean, I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we’re going to look at it.”
Reporter 2: “You did say that you’re going to do it.”
President Donald Trump: “We give a tremendous — no, I didn’t. I said we’re going to look at it. We’re going to investigate it. We’re going to look at it.”
President Trump has ousted acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been tapped to oversee the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. This comes just days after Trump announced he would ignore a key oversight provision in the bill that would have increased congressional oversight of how the bailout money is spent.
In related news, the Treasury Department is seeking an additional $250 billion for small business loans. The original fund approved by Congress is already running out of money.
In Libya, six medical workers were injured Monday as anti-government forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar fired missiles into a hospital in Tripoli, one of the only facilities able to treat coronavirus patients in Libya’s capital region.
In Senegal, former U.S.-backed Chadian dictator Hissène Habré has been granted two months’ leave from prison to prevent him from contracting COVID-19. Habré is serving a life term for crimes against humanity, after he ordered the deaths of an estimated 40,000 people during his eight years in power in the 1980s.
Two nurses at the Hudson County jail in New Jersey have died of the virus, with more than 60 others at the jail testing positive.
In San Francisco, protesters encircled the headquarters of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in their cars, demanding that officials expedite the release of people held in immigration jails. Valeria Suárez of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance read a letter from prisoners at the Mesa Verde ICE processing center.
Valeria Suárez: “'Detention is a death sentence, because this pandemic requires social distancing, and that is impossible in this environment. … All it takes is one person to have the virus, and we will all be infected in this Petri dish. We request and demand that you give us parole, bond or bargain, so that we may return to our families, especially during this pandemic and the strain we could have on an already stressed medical system.'”
Meanwhile, Reuters reports the Trump administration has rapidly deported nearly 400 migrant children captured at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past two weeks. The children are among some 7,000 asylum seekers who’ve been expelled to Mexico since March 21, when President Trump suspended standard immigration proceedings in order to speed up deportations.
In Wisconsin, thousands of voters braved a statewide remain-at-home order Tuesday and queued in long lines to cast ballots, after the state Supreme Court blocked Democratic Governor Tony Evers’s ruling to delay the election until June. In Milwaukee, home to Wisconsin’s largest African-American community, just five of the city’s usual 180 sites were open Tuesday. Videos on social media showed lines of people, most of them six feet apart and wearing masks, lined up for up to two-and-a-half hours to cast ballots.
Wisconsin’s Republican state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos defended his support for in-person voting during a deadly pandemic. Vos spoke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at a polling place in Burlington, Wisconsin, where he wore a surgical mask, gloves and hospital gown — more personal protective equipment than many healthcare workers have access to.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos: “Everybody is here safe. They have very minimal exposure. Actually, there’s less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store or you went to Walmart or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin.”
Results from Tuesday’s chaotic Wisconsin primary election aren’t expected until next Monday, April 13. Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden told CNN Tuesday that in-person voting never should have happened.
Joe Biden: “Well, my gut is that we shouldn’t have had the election in the first place, the in-person election. It should have been all mail ballots in. It should have been moved in the way that five other states have done it.”
Biden’s comment came just five days after he said Wisconsin officials should proceed with in-person voting. This is Joe Biden speaking last Thursday.
Joe Biden: “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.”
Biden previously supported in-person voting during March 17 primaries in Illinois, Florida and Arizona. After headlines, we’ll go to Wisconsin for more on what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called “the most undemocratic” election “in the state’s history.”
In Florida, hundreds of people queued in long lines Tuesday to receive paper applications for unemployment benefits, after an online portal crashed and customer service representatives were mostly unreachable by phone. At one site in a Miami suburb, TV channel WPLG captured chaotic scenes of people packed tightly together, jostling to push to the front of the line to receive an application. More than a half-million Floridians have filed for unemployment benefits since March 15. Florida confirmed nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and reported 13 new deaths from the disease, bringing the state’s official death toll to nearly 300.
More evidence is coming to light showing African Americans have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. In Chicago, African Americans are dying at a rate six times greater than white residents. On Tuesday, Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first female African-American mayor, spoke out against the racial disparity.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: “We must understand the magnitude of the impact of this virus on all of our communities. And it is up to the healthcare providers who are on the frontlines not to skip over the boxes that provide us with the demographic information that’s essential for us to understand the impact on black and brown communities. You must do this, and we will order it to happen.”
The Los Angeles Times reports the Trump administration is quietly seizing hospitals’ orders of masks, thermometers and other medical equipment crucial to treating COVID-19 patients. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is not publicly disclosing what supplies it’s seizing or where it’s planning to reroute them. One medical official asked the L.A. Times, “Are they stockpiling this stuff? Are they distributing it? We don’t know. And are we going to ever get any of it back if we need supplies? It would be nice to know these things.”
In the United States, one of America’s greatest songwriters, John Prine, died Tuesday at a Nashville hospital of COVID-19. For five decades, the Grammy-winning folk singer centered the lives and struggles of ordinary people in his music as he chronicled the stories of working-class people, from Vietnam vets to residents of his parents’ hometown of Paradise, Kentucky, a town devastated by strip mining. John Prine was 73 years old.
The celebrated music producer Hal Willner has died at the age of 64 after experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. He was the longtime music supervisor at “Saturday Night Live.”
And Jersey City Councilmember Michael Yun has also died of COVID-19. In 2013, Yun became the first Korean-born person elected to the Jersey City Council.
Texas will continue to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic, following a ruling Tuesday by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas Republicans say the ban on all abortions — except those for patients whose pregnancies threaten their lives or health — is essential to preserving hospital resources. Reproductive rights advocates are suing to overturn the ban, calling it unconstitutional and political opportunism as most abortions do not take place in hospitals.
In climate news, Tropical Cyclone Harold tore through Fiji Wednesday, tearing off roofs, destroying houses and flooding streets across the South Pacific archipelago. Before the Category 5 cyclone’s arrival in Fiji, dozens of people were killed when the storm lashed the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.