The United States continues to lead the world in COVID-19 infections, with researchers at Johns Hopkins recording 1,894 deaths from the disease in just 24 hours Tuesday — a sharp increase from earlier this week. The official U.S. death toll now stands at over 82,300. On Capitol Hill, the nation’s top infectious disease experts told a Senate committee Tuesday that needless death and suffering would result if states reopen their economies too soon. This is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.”
Dr. Fauci acknowledged the true U.S. death toll is “almost certainly” higher than the official count. He also dismissed the idea that a vaccine would be available in time for children to return to classes in the fall, and questioned whether any vaccine will eventually prove effective against the coronavirus.
Dr. Fauci joined Tuesday’s Senate hearing remotely, as did CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Assistant Health Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir. Several senators also appeared by video link, including Republican committee chair Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is self-quarantining after a member of his staff tested positive for coronavirus. Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky — the first senator known to test positive for the virus — appeared in person and did not wear a mask.
On Tuesday, NBC News published an unreleased White House report showing a surge of coronavirus cases in heartland U.S. communities. Topping the list was Central City, Kentucky. Other hot spots include Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; and Amarillo, Texas. The leaked May 7 coronavirus task force report contradicts this claim made by President Trump on Monday.
President Donald Trump: “All throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.”
In Northern California, billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk has restarted work at Tesla’s huge electric vehicle factory in Fremont, daring government officials to arrest him for violating a coronavirus lockdown. On Tuesday, President Trump tweeted, “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Elon Musk tweeted back, “Thank you!” Musk has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and called government-imposed quarantines “fascist.”
Los Angeles County’s top public health official said Tuesday stay-at-home orders will be extended for the next three months. At least 1,300 deaths in L.A. have been linked to COVID-19.
California State University’s president on Tuesday announced plans to cancel most in-person classes during the fall semester, with instruction moved online. With its 23 campuses, Cal State is the largest four-year college system in the United States.
In the Southwest, Doctors Without Borders has sent a team of medical workers to the Navajo Nation, where over 100 people have died of COVID-19. It’s the first time the humanitarian aid group has deployed inside United States territory.
Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar have joined more than 300 lawmakers around the world calling for the cancellation of poor nations’ debts as they struggle with the COVID-19 crisis. This comes as the United Nations warns as many as a half a billion people could fall into poverty due to the pandemic.
In a letter to the leadership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund Tuesday, Senator Sanders writes, “In the face of a horrific pandemic and a worldwide recession, we cannot allow poor countries to dedicate money that should be going towards protecting the health and safety of their people to pay off unsustainable debts. We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment.”
Brazil saw its deadliest day of the pandemic yet Tuesday, with over 880 new COVID-19 deaths confirmed within 24 hours. Brazil is already the Latin American nation hardest hit by the pandemic and the sixth most affected country in the world, officially recording 178,000 cases and over 12,400 deaths. Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the pandemic. This week he issued a decree classifying gyms, beauty salons and other businesses as “essential” services exempt from local governors’ lockdowns.
In Britain, a railway ticket office worker has died of COVID-19 after reportedly contracting the virus after a man claiming he had the illness spat at her in March. Belly Mujinga was working at the Victoria station in London when she and a female colleague were assaulted by the man, who has yet to be identified. Within days, both women fell ill. An investigation has reportedly launched to trace the man’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, dozens of refugees from Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan, who for months had been living in squalid refugee camps in Greece, have finally been reunited with family members in Britain. The unprecedented reunion comes after months of lobbying from refugee rights groups as refugee family reunification in Europe has mostly been halted by the pandemic.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has been hospitalized. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is also recovering from COVID-19. President Putin announced Monday a phased relaxing of restrictions, even as the country is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases and has the second-highest number of confirmed cases, behind the U.S.
In Spain, health workers at two hospitals in Barcelona held protests Tuesday demanding better working conditions. Many of them held signs that read “#RightsInApplause” and “We aren’t heroes.” This is pediatric nurse Paula Cano.
Paula Cano: “It is only now that we are heroes, because of COVID-19. It isn’t like that. We are heroes every day. Every day of the year, we face every single pathogen, bug, bacteria and virus that exists in the world. But from the outside, that can’t be seen. We continue to carry out the same job, day by day, year after year.”
In Afghanistan, gunmen wearing police uniforms stormed a maternity hospital in the capital Kabul Tuesday, killing 16 people — including mothers and two newborn babies. The hospital was run by Doctors Without Borders and served the minority Hazara community, which has been targeted by ISIS in past attacks. In eastern Afghanistan, a suicide attacker struck the funeral of a pro-government militia commander, killing 24 people and wounding dozens of others. The Taliban denied involvement in the attacks. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, in response, he’s ordering his troops to go on the offensive.
President Ashraf Ghani: “In order to provide security for public places and to thwart attacks and threats from the Taliban and other terrorist groups, I am ordering Afghan security forces to switch from an active defense mode to an offensive one and to start their operations against the enemies.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner, Benny Gantz. Pompeo’s trip comes as the Trump administration has signaled its support for Israel’s plan to annex 30% of the occupied West Bank in violation of international law. Last week, Israel announced plans for about 7,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The Intercept reports a woman imprisoned at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in New Jersey died of COVID-19 after prison officials refused to let her out of a locked shower even as she begged and screamed that she couldn’t breathe — while at least one fellow incarcerated woman witnessed her dying. Tiffany Mofield died on April 29. She had reportedly been quarantined for two weeks after presenting COVID-19 symptoms and was later moved into solitary confinement even though her symptoms persisted. She is one of nearly 40 people to have died of COVID-19 in New Jersey prisons. At least 340 incarcerated people have died of the disease so far nationwide.
In California, the L.A. Times reports a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy has been held in an immigration jail for over a year — the longest held of the roughly 1,800 immigrant children in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities. Such prolonged imprisonment violates the Flores agreement, which limits the time immigrant children should be held in such facilities. The Trump administration is reportedly refusing to release children to sponsors — including some family members — claiming immigrant children are safer from COVID-19 in federal custody.
The Georgia prosecutors who first handled the February shooting death of 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery have been placed under investigation by state authorities for their conduct in the case. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr on Tuesday announced he had asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and federal authorities to look into how local prosecutors possibly held crucial evidence of Arbery’s killing and refused to make arrests, as more than two months passed before the attackers, retired police officer Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were arrested and charged with murder. The Brunswick police reportedly had a copy of the shocking video depicting Arbery jogging as he’s chased and confronted by two white men since February, yet the McMichaels weren’t arrested until this past Thursday, two days after video of the shooting was finally released, sparking massive protests.
In Kentucky, the family of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old aspiring nurse who was shot to death by police inside her own apartment, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Louisville Metro Police Department. The lawsuit details how police shot Taylor at least eight times after they burst into her apartment, unannounced, with a search warrant. The man police were looking for did not live in Taylor’s apartment and was reportedly already detained by police when officers arrived at Taylor’s residence on the night of March 13. At the time of her killing, Taylor had been working as an emergency medical technician treating COVID-19 patients.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments by telephone Tuesday in a pair of cases that will determine whether President Trump can continue to keep his tax returns and private financial records a secret. President Trump is resisting subpoenas from the House Financial Services Committee, which is investigating possible money laundering in Trump-related property deals, and from the House Intelligence Committee, which is looking into whether Trump’s business dealings put him at risk of blackmail by foreign governments. New York prosecutors are also seeking Trump’s financial records. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that Congress has a long history of subpoenaing presidential records; at one point during Tuesday’s arguments she interrupted Chief Justice John Roberts.
Chief Justice John Roberts: “What we’re seeking here is presidential finances. When you look at the” —
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “No, we’re — I’m sorry, pardon, sir. Not presidential finances. We’re asking for his personal tax returns before he became president. Those are very different things.”
Justices seemed to leave open the possibility they would return the cases to lower courts, which would push any turnover of Trump’s tax records past November’s election.
Transgender rights activist Aimee Stephens has died of kidney disease at the age of 59. Stephens was fired from her job at a Michigan funeral home in 2013 after she told her colleagues she would begin living as a woman. She was the lead plaintiff in a landmark transgender rights case pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. Stephens traveled to Washington from Michigan last October for oral arguments.
Aimee Stephens: “I’m glad to have been able to bring this before the courts. And what happened to me was wrong. And hopefully we can fix that and correct it from this point on. Thank you.”
Former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode is calling for Philadelphia to formally apologize for the 1985 bombing of civilians from the radical, Black liberation, anti-police-brutality group MOVE. Today marks the 35th anniversary of the police operation that killed six adults and five children and destroyed over 60 homes. Despite multiple investigations finding top officials were grossly negligent, no one has been criminally charged. Mayor Goode, who was in office at the time of the attack and himself has apologized, said an official apology would allow the community to “begin to build a bridge that spans from the tragic events of the past into our future. Many in the city still feel the pain of that day. I know I will always feel the pain.”