The total confirmed number of coronavirus cases around the world is nearing 4.2 million, with over 286,000 known deaths. In the U.S., the number of confirmed infections is over 1.3 million, with over 80,000 reported deaths. Dr. Anthony Fauci is testifying today before a Senate panel and is expected to tell lawmakers that opening up the country prematurely will lead to “needless suffering and death.” Fauci is appearing remotely after White House staffers recently tested positive for COVID-19. Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Senator Lamar Alexander will also be remote, after one of his staffers contracted the virus.
As countries around the world move to reopen their economies, more surges in COVID-19 cases are being reported. In Germany, infections are on the rise as the country gradually comes out of lockdown. Meanwhile, France reported almost four times as many deaths Monday than the day before, as it began reopening its economy this week. The World Health Organization’s director-general warned countries against a hasty winding down of lockdowns Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “To protect lives and livelihoods, a slow, steady lifting of lockdowns is key to both stimulating economies while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified.”
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin announced Monday a phased relaxing of restrictions, even as the country is experiencing a surge in infections. Russia has over 232,000 cases, becoming the country with the second-highest number of confirmed cases behind the U.S. In other news from Russia, at least five coronavirus patients died at a St. Petersburg hospital today after a ventilator caught fire. This comes just days after a fire at a Moscow hospital killed one COVID patient.
The Washington Post reports a planned visit to a Pennsylvania factory producing personal protective equipment was scuttled last week after officials at the Braskem factory expressed concerns for the health of its workers. Trump has refused to wear a face mask when out in public. Last week, he toured a Honeywell plant in Arizona without a mask, ignoring a sign ordering everyone inside to wear a facial covering. On Monday, the White House ordered all West Wing employees to wear masks unless at their desks, though the requirement does not extend to Trump or to Vice President Mike Pence.
The largest study to date on the use of hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus has confirmed earlier research that the anti-malarial drug could cause serious heart problems and is not an effective treatment for COVID-19. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug. The latest study — published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association — looked at nearly 1,500 patients in New York and found that those on hydroxychloroquine had a similar death rate to those who did not take it, but were more than twice as likely to suffer cardiac arrest. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “The nail has virtually been put in the coffin of hydroxychloroquine.”
On Monday, China warned it would take “countermeasures” in response to new visa rules imposed by the Department of Homeland Security, which will restrict entry for Chinese journalists to 90-day work visas. Previously, Chinese journalists were regularly granted open-ended visas to the U.S.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union — the country’s largest meatpacking workers’ union — is condemning the reopening of 14 meatpacking plants under a recent executive order by President Trump. The union is calling for CDC coronavirus safety guidelines to be made mandatory, as at least 30 meatpacking workers have died of COVID-19 and over 10,000 have been exposed to or infected by the coronavirus. Many of the meatpacking workers are immigrants.
India is moving to ease its nationwide lockdown despite still registering thousands of daily cases. Long-distance railway services are being restored today, which means many of the migrant workers who became stranded after India imposed its strict lockdown in March can finally go home. India has over 71,000 confirmed cases and over 2,300 reported deaths. In related news, a train killed at least 16 migrant workers in the western state of Maharashtra last week after it ran over a group of people sleeping on the tracks. The laborers were reportedly making their way home on foot.
The World Health Organization warns half a million more people could succumb to AIDS-related illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa due to shortages in vaccines and essential medicines caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The disruption to local health services could see AIDS-related deaths reaching 2008 levels, when it claimed nearly 1 million lives.
Coronavirus lockdowns have been easing in some African nations, including Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country. South Africa, which imposed strict measures and has recorded the highest number of cases, has permitted daily outdoor exercise and for restaurants to deliver food, though most of its other restrictions remain in place.
A group of over 50 organizations sent a letter to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden Monday, urging him to adopt a foreign policy that prioritizes diplomacy and multilateralism over militarism. The letter was also sent to President Trump. The effort was organized by Demand Progress, and backers include Greenpeace USA, Our Revolution, Muslim Public Affairs Council and the National Iranian American Council Action. The group is demanding Biden commit to a number of progressive foreign policy positions, including reducing the military budget; diplomatic engagement with Iran and North Korea; opposing undemocratic regime change; supporting Palestinian rights; and protecting the War Powers Act, which requires lawmakers to authorize military action.
Joe Biden said last month that as president he would engage with Cuba, but that U.S. sanctions over its support for the government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela could remain in place. Joe Biden also recently expressed support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his “efforts to restore democracy.” Guaidó has been trying to gain support for the ouster of Maduro since last year’s unsuccessful coup attempt.
In related news, Venezuela says it arrested three more mercenaries suspected of being involved in a failed coup against President Nicolás Maduro, and seized three abandoned Colombian combat vessels, reportedly equipped with machine guns and ammunition.
In Bolivia, anti-hunger protests broke out Monday in the city of Cochabamba. Injuries were reported among the protesters as police and military clamped down on the demonstrations. Protesters are calling out the lack of food assistance and other support from the government as people continue to lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic. Protests are also taking place against the unelected right-wing government of interim President Jeanine Áñez, who took power after the ouster last year of President Evo Morales. This comes after Áñez issued a decree imposing criminal charges on people who “spread doubt among the population” or “disseminate false information” online, in the latest move to restrict freedom of expression and silence media that are critical of the government.
In the U.S., outrage is mounting in Indianapolis following a string of killings by police that took place last week in a span of less than 24 hours. On Wednesday night, 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, a Black man, was fatally shot by an officer following a car chase that was live-streamed on Facebook. The following day, 19-year-old African American McHale Rose was shot and killed after what police described as a planned ambush against the officers. And in a third, unrelated incident that same day, a police officer killed 23-year-old Ashlynn Lisby, who was pregnant, by hitting her with his car as he drove to work. At a protest Saturday over Sean Reed’s killing, police attempted to disperse crowds by deploying pepper balls and arrested at least one person.
In legal news, Supreme Court justices will hear arguments today in three highly anticipated cases involving President Trump’s attempts to shield his tax returns and financial documents from lawmakers and a New York prosecutor. The public will also be able to listen to the live-streamed arguments as the Supreme Court continues to hear cases remotely amid the coronavirus outbreak.