The Trump administration said Wednesday it will pay General Motors nearly half a billion dollars to manufacture 30,000 ventilators amid a critical shortage of the life-saving devices. The White House says GM will deliver about 6,000 ventilators by the end of May, with the rest delivered through the summer to the end of August. Many models for COVID-19 in the United States predict the need for ventilators will peak this month before tapering off through the month of May.
In Kansas, Republican lawmakers have reversed an order limiting the size of church services, raising fears of community spread at congregations celebrating Easter services.
In Chicago, the Cook County Jail has emerged as the largest known source of coronavirus infections in the United States, with at least 353 COVID-19 cases linked to the jail.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday ordered all customers and essential workers to wear facial coverings in public.
Mayor Eric Garcetti: “Employers are required to provide these face protections or to reimburse employees for their cost. This applies to workers in grocery stores, drugstores, restaurants, hotels, taxis and ride-share vehicles, and construction sites.”
In California, hundreds of workers at 30 fast-food restaurants are on strike today to demand personal protective equipment and paid sick leave. This is Irving Gaza, a McDonald’s worker in San Jose, who joined a strike earlier this week.
Irving Gaza: “I am the one who’s the most at risk. I am the guy who’s in the drive-thru. I’m in very close contact with people. McDonald’s doesn’t want to pay me hazard pay or any of us hazard pay. We’re getting no masks or anything like that. Nothing.”
Meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers union is calling on the Trump administration to issue mandatory safety policies to protect grocery store workers. The union wants to ensure all shoppers wear masks, with limits on the number of people allowed into a store at any given time, enforced social distancing, disinfecting and sanitizing procedures, and personal protective equipment for all workers.
At the White House Wednesday, President Trump continued to promote hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 curative, even though no clinical trials have shown the drug to be effective at treating the virus. A medical journal which published a French study suggesting a therapeutic use for the drug in treating coronavirus has since said the study does not meet expected medical standards. And cardiologists warn hydroxychloroquine has serious side effects and can cause sudden cardiac arrest in some patients. Meanwhile, President Trump added another chemical to his list of untested treatments.
President Donald Trump: “Zinc, they say. Zinc. You should add zinc. Now, this all has to be recommended by doctors, physicians. But they say zinc.”
There is no medical evidence showing zinc to be an effective treatment for COVID-19. President Trump appears to be promoting an unproven cocktail of drugs administered by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a self-described “simple country doctor” in New York who’s been widely promoted on Fox News.
Meanwhile, White House aides are discussing plans to reopen the U.S. economy as early as May 1, despite warnings from public health officials that an end to social distancing measures could lead to a new surge of infections and deaths.
The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday he’s received death threats and racist insults while leading the international fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was responding to a reporter’s question about whether criticism from world leaders like President Donald Trump made his job more difficult.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Please don’t politicize this virus. It exploits the differences you have at the national level. If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it.”
This week, President Trump tried to shift blame for his administration’s disastrous response to the pandemic onto the WHO, calling the agency too “China-centric.” Trump and senior Republicans, including Senator Lindsey Graham and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have said they may withhold U.S. funding for the WHO.
Senator Bernie Sanders said Wednesday he is suspending his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, making former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive nominee to face Donald Trump in the November election. Sanders addressed his supporters in a live stream from his home in Burlington, Vermont.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “Together, we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”
After headlines, we’ll play extended remarks from Senator Sanders’s concession speech. And we’ll speak with journalist and activist Naomi Klein about his historic presidential campaign.
In immigration news, Italy has closed its ports to boats that provide humanitarian aid to migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Government officials say its ports are no longer safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.
In Greece, fears are mounting over the uncontrollable spread of coronavirus in overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps. The Greek government says it won’t be reviewing new asylum claims until after the crisis is over, leaving thousands of people trapped in camps.
In Bolivia, hundreds of people are stranded in a military quarantine camp after they tried to cross the Chilean border back into Bolivia to avoid Chile’s 14-day mandatory quarantine. The camp was built last week to hold Bolivians who were not in the country when the coronavirus outbreak began.
In Colorado, 13-year-old Charlotte Figi has died of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest stemming from a suspected case of COVID-19. As a small child, Charlotte suffered from relentless epileptic seizures that improved dramatically after her family treated her with oil from a strain of medical marijuana, high in the chemical CBD, that’s since been named “Charlotte’s Web.” The oil is now widely used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Click here to read more about Charlotte’s case.
The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding an investigation into the Border Patrol’s abuse of pregnant migrants in their custody. The complaint filed Wednesday details how a Guatemalan woman gave birth at the Chula Vista Border Patrol station near San Diego, standing up, holding onto a trash can while still wearing her pants. She had pleaded with Border Patrol agents for help, but they reportedly told her to sit down and wait to be processed. She had been detained with her husband and two young daughters in February as they hoped to apply for asylum in the U.S.
In related news, the Trump administration has quietly shut down the country’s asylum system for the first time in decades using an obscure public health law to justify one of the most aggressive U.S.-Mexico border crackdowns amid the pandemic.