The worldwide death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, with over 280,000 known deaths and over 4.1 million confirmed cases — though the true numbers are thought to be much higher. The United States leads by far in the number of cases, which has topped 1.3 million, and the number of deaths, which is nearing 80,000. Despite the dire numbers, states across the country continue to open up their economies.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington again upped its death toll forecast and is now projecting over 137,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by early August. Director Christopher Murray said some states that have moved to open up are seeing double-digit spikes in their caseloads. This is Murray speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Dr. Christopher Murray: “What’s driving the change is, simply put, the rise in mobility. And that’s the key driver. We’re seeing in some states a 20 percentage point increase in just 10 days in mobility. And that will translate into more human contact, more transmission.”
After record unemployment numbers were reported Friday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin acknowledged the true U.S. unemployment rate could be as high as 25% — a rate not seen since the peak of the Great Depression. Despite this, Mnuchin said Sunday the White House may wait “a few weeks” before taking up a new round of coronavirus relief funding.
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive Friday for the coronavirus. Katie Miller is married to top Trump adviser Stephen Miller. She is the second person to have a publicly confirmed case of COVID-19 in the White House, after news broke Thursday that one of President Trump’s personal valets had contracted the infection. Ivanka Trump’s personal assistant has reportedly also tested positive.
Mike Pence is not going to to self-quarantine. However, three top health officials said they would go into quarantine: Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn; and top coronavirus task force scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci. All three are scheduled to testify by video link tomorrow to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Committee Chair Lamar Alexander will also appear remotely, after a member of his staff tested positive for the virus.
This all comes as reports have been emerging that Trump is privately questioning the coronavirus death toll and forecasts. Axios reported last week Trump may start to question official numbers publicly.
On Friday, former President Barack Obama blasted the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis. Obama was speaking in a conference call with 3,000 former members of his administration.
Barack Obama: “It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster.”
In California, over a dozen immigrant women have been released from the for-profit Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield after they held a hunger strike demanding they be freed from the squalid facility during the pandemic. Mesa Verde is owned by the private prison company GEO Group. Meanwhile, jailed immigrants at Northwest Detention Center in Washington state have initiated a collective work stoppage protesting their worsening conditions inside the facility amid the pandemic.
The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is pushing to expand its latest immigration bans, under the guise of curbing the spread of the coronavirus. President Trump’s immigration advisers are reportedly drafting a new executive order that would ban issuing new temporary, work-based visas for migrant workers, as well as foreign students.
Three more prisoners at a Chino, California, facility have died of COVID-19. An earlier death was reported in April. Over 330 cases have now been confirmed at the California Institution for Men in Chino, and at least 44 people have died in federal prisons across the country, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Across Europe, countries continue to relax restrictions as more people return to work and children return to school in some localities. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to transition from a “stay at home” to a “stay alert” policy starting this week, saying those who cannot work from home should be “encouraged” to go back. He also said people should have unlimited time outside, as long as they respect social distancing rules. In addition, elementary schools could open as soon as next month, he said.
Johnson’s message was met with disapproval and confusion over its lack of clarity. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have decided to extend their lockdowns. This is Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon: “I have asked the U.K. government not to deploy their 'stay alert' advertising campaign in Scotland, because the message in Scotland at this stage is not 'Stay at home if you can,' the message is 'Except for the essential reasons you know about, stay at home, full stop.'”
Britain has the second-highest death toll after the United States, with around 32,000 confirmed deaths. Boris Johnson also announced Sunday all air travelers will soon be subject to a 14-day quarantine period when entering the country. People traveling from France will be exempt, after the two nations agreed on a reciprocal arrangement.
France is lifting some of its restrictions as of today and is imposing new measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks on public transportation and in high schools. Some Muslims have called out the government’s hypocrisy since headscarves are banned in public schools and burqas are banned in any public space.
In Spain, around half the country is moving to the next phase of a national plan to ease its lockdown. Restaurants and shops can operate at reduced capacity. Museums, gyms and hotels will also be able to reopen for business nearly two months after shutting their doors. However, Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s two largest cities, still do not meet the criteria to open up nonessential businesses.
In Afghanistan, rights groups are calling for an investigation after at least six people were killed in a police shootout at a food distribution event in central Ghor province, where protesters were demanding economic assistance amid the coronavirus crisis. Around 4,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Afghanistan, where testing remains extremely limited.
In Iran, a southwestern county has been placed under lockdown after authorities say people failed to observe social distancing rules.
The U.S. has blocked a vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting a global ceasefire, over objections to a minor, indirect reference to the World Health Organization. The U.S. said it would only approve mention of the WHO if the resolution included language critical of the agency and of China in their response to the pandemic. Last month, Trump halted U.S. funding for the WHO, a move widely condemned around the world.
In Iraq, hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered in central Baghdad Sunday, setting up barricades and clashing with police, who responded by throwing stun grenades and rocks at the demonstrators. The protests came just days after Iraq inaugurated a new prime minister, former spy chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi, ending months of political deadlock. Over the weekend, Kadhimi promised compensation for the families of hundreds of anti-government protesters who were shot and killed after large-scale protests erupted last year.
Libya’s capital city Tripoli was rocked by a barrage of missile fire over the weekend, as forces aligned with renegade former Libyan General Khalifa Haftar fired on U.N.-backed government forces, setting fire to airplanes and fuel tanks at Tripoli’s main airport and threatening the city’s main water supply. The surge in fighting prompted Turkey’s government to threaten new attacks on General Haftar’s forces in eastern Libya.
Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr requested Sunday the U.S. Department of Justice conduct an investigation into the handling of Ahmaud Arbery’s case. Arbery, a Black man, was shot and killed in February by two white men while he was out jogging. The killers, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with murder Thursday, two days after video of the shooting was released. They said they hunted Arbery down because he looked like a burglary suspect.
Rights groups and some Georgia lawmakers are calling for the urgent passage of a hate crime bill. Georgia is one of four states that do not have hate crime laws. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called the killing a lynching. This is Mayor Bottoms speaking on CNN Sunday.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: “With the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the White House in so many ways, I think that many who are prone to being racist are given permission to do it in an overt way that we otherwise would not see in 2020.”
Protests took place in Glynn County, Georgia, and around the country Friday, on what would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.
In Missouri, a Black transgender woman was found stabbed to death in her home last week in what is believed to be a hate crime. Twenty-eight-year-old Nina Pop is at least the 10th victim of an anti-trans murder this year. Transgender rights groups are renewing calls for Missouri lawmakers to pass legal protections for LGBTQ residents, including the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups in the Missouri Human Rights Act but has failed to pass the state Legislature for over 20 years.