As confirmed U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 90,000, with over 1.5 million reported cases, President Trump shocked reporters and the medical community Monday when he claimed he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine for at least a week and a half — despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.
President Donald Trump: “Good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. And you’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers, before you catch it. The frontline workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.”
Reporter 1: “Hydroxychloroquine?”
President Donald Trump: “I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine.”
Reporter 2: “Right now?”
Reporter 3: “When?”
President Donald Trump: “Right now, yeah.”
Reporter 3: “Yeah, when?”
President Donald Trump: “Couple of weeks ago, started taking it.”
Reporter 4: “Why, sir?”
President Donald Trump: “Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right: I’m not going to get hurt by it.”
Multiple studies have concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19 and can in fact have dangerous side effects, including a high risk of cardiac arrest. The FDA issued a warning about self-medicating with the antimalarial drug last month following Trump’s repeated remarks touting its effectiveness. On Monday, Fox News host Neil Cavuto warned viewers about the dangers posed by the drug just moments after the president’s remarks were broadcast.
Neil Cavuto: “If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus, or, in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you.”
An eighth worker from the JBS Greeley meatpacking plant in Colorado has died of COVID-19. Sixty-year-old Tin Aye was a Burmese refugee who arrived in the U.S. 13 years ago via Thailand. She had been hospitalized since March. Over 300 workers at the JBS Greeley plant have tested positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, in Washington state, employees at a Tyson meat plant protested working conditions after three coronavirus deaths, and over 270 infections, were reported.
In California, a 74-year-old immigrant died of suicide Sunday at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. Choung Won Ahn had been imprisoned at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail since February and for months had been pleading to be released as he suffered from diabetes, hypertension and several heart-related issues, which made him vulnerable to COVID-19. ICE repeatedly denied his pleas for freedom as he feared contracting the virus inside the squalid, crowded facility. Mesa Verde is run by the private prison company the GEO Group.
President Trump is ramping up his attacks on the World Health Organization, threatening Monday to pull out of the international organization and permanently freeze U.S. funding. This came as the WHO’s annual global meeting took place. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $2 billion to help international efforts to combat the virus, which the U.S. slammed as an attempt to stave off criticism of China’s handling of the pandemic. Beijing, meanwhile, is accusing the U.S. of shifting blame for its own mishandling of the crisis. In a video message, President Xi backed calls for an independent review into the WHO’s response to the coronavirus and defended his own government’s actions, saying it acted with “transparency” and “openness.” The director-general of the WHO confirmed a review of the agency’s response would take place as soon as possible. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar took aim at both the WHO and China.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world. We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres defended the importance of the global health agency, calling it “irreplaceable,” particularly for developing nations. “The Global North cannot defeat COVID-19 unless the Global South defeats it at the same time,” said Guterres at the meeting.
Biotech company Moderna said early trials of their coronavirus vaccine show promising results as volunteers developed antibodies against the virus. Eight people took part in the study. The company, which is developing the vaccine with the National Institutes of Health, says it will move on to larger-scale trials and that a vaccine could be made available as soon as January. On Monday, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said that Moncef Slaoui, who was tapped to lead Trump’s coronavirus vaccine effort, would divest his $10 million of Moderna stock options.
In more medical news, researchers recently reported over a third of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in one New York hospital system developed acute kidney injury, with nearly 15% requiring dialysis.
Meanwhile, questions remain over whether infection bestows immunity to COVID-19. At least 13 sailors from the USS Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19 — again. All of the sailors recovered from the disease and returned to the ship after a period of isolation. The USS Roosevelt was the subject of national attention last month when its captain, Brett Crozier, was removed after pleading for help for infected sailors. At least one sailor from the ship has died from the coronavirus.
In Germany, at least 70 refugees at a shelter near the city of Bonn have tested positive for COVID-19. News of the outbreak at the facility — which houses nearly 500 people — has triggered demands for better protection and more testing for asylum seekers and refugees. Germany has seen a recent spike in coronavirus cases as the country gradually comes out of lockdown. There are now over 177,000 confirmed cases and a death toll of over 8,000.
In Brazil, the mayor of São Paulo, the country’s most populous city, warns hospitals are “near collapse” and could be completely overwhelmed in the coming weeks. Mayor Bruno Covas said the surge in cases is due to people not adhering to social distancing rules. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly dismissed the virus and opposed regional prevention and lockdown efforts. Mayor Covas told the BBC, “It is hard to believe that some prefer the population to be subjected to Russian roulette. Indifference in the face of death is unseemly.” This is São Paulo Governor João Doria.
Gov. João Doria: “The enemy of the economy is not quarantine, it is the pandemic. We have to beat the pandemic so as to rescue the economy, the national economy and also here in São Paulo. That is why we have to provide all the necessary support, for science, for medicine, for health.”
Brazil recorded nearly 700 new coronavirus deaths Monday. It surpassed Britain to become the third most infected country in the world, reporting over 255,000 cases. Only Russia and the U.S. have more reported cases. Of the nearly 17,000 fatalities in Brazil, at least 116 were nurses who died battling the coronavirus.
Over 150 human rights and press freedom groups are calling on the United Nations to help save four Yemeni journalists who were sentenced to death last month on charges of “spying” and “spreading false news.” Amnesty International has called the charges against the journalists, who have been in prison for the last five years, “trumped-up.” The sentence was handed down by the criminal court in the Houthi-controlled capital Sana’a, but the Committee to Protect Journalists says journalists in Yemen face threats from all factions: Houthis, the Saudi-led coalition and various militia.
Reuters reports the Trump administration is considering adding Cuba back to its list of state sponsors of terrorism. President Obama removed Cuba from the list in 2015 as the two countries restored diplomatic relations. Last week, the State Department included Cuba on a list of countries not cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Meanwhile, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez has accused the Trump administration of promoting terrorist acts against Cuba. In April, a man armed with an AK-47 opened fire on the Cuban Embassy in Washington. Last week, Rodríguez criticized the Trump’s administration’s “complicit and suspicious silence” after the attack.
Bruno Rodríguez: “We hope that the United States government at least attempts to match its rhetoric against terrorism and its policy of fighting international terrorism with its responsibilities in the face of a terrorist attack that has taken place against a diplomatic mission in the center of Washington, D.C.”
In Colombia, environmental activist Jorge Enrique Oramas was killed Saturday in the region of Cali. The 70-year-old Oramas was a proponent of organic agriculture. According to Indepaz, a local organization tracking crimes against environmental and Indigenous leaders, Oramas is at least the 100th activist killed in Colombia so far this year.
In Britain, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion staged a protest in London’s Trafalgar Square Monday, lining up over 2,000 pairs of children’s shoes to draw attention to the ongoing threat of climate catastrophe. Activists are demanding the government tackle the climate crisis and refuse to bail out extractive industries as part of the coronavirus recovery effort. A banner reading ”COVID Today, Climate Tomorrow, Act Now” was unfurled at the protest. “One crisis doesn’t stop because another starts,” said Extinction Rebellion.
In the United States, new information has emerged around the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Georgia man who was chased down and shot to death by two white men in February while on a jog. Lee Merritt, the Arbery family attorney, said video shows Ahmaud Arbery was chased by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael in their car for over four minutes before they killed him. On Monday, body camera video emerged of Glynn County police attempting to taser Arbery in 2017. The officer in the video acknowledged Arbery has done nothing wrong, but asks to inspect his car. A second officer deploys his Taser on him even though he was not provoked in any way.
Meanwhile, texts that were uncovered over the weekend show a Glynn County police officer instructed the owner of the property Arbery entered prior to his killing to notify Gregory McMichael if he noticed any trespassers on his property. Surveillance video from the property shows that multiple people entered the construction site — but only Arbery was killed for the alleged trespassing.
In Missouri, a death row prisoner is scheduled to be executed today, despite questions over the evidence used to convict him of a 1991 murder. On Sunday, an appeals court vacated a stay in Walter Barton’s execution. The American Bar Association argued the pandemic has placed severe limitations on Barton’s representation and ongoing investigations, and called on Republican Governor Mike Parson to issue a reprieve. There have been no executions in the U.S. since March 5, as most states have postponed them amid the pandemic.
California has taken a major step toward eliminating juvenile prisons. Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled last week a state budget to address economic deficits triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, that proposes eliminating California’s last three state-run juvenile prisons. The proposal also seeks to close two state prisons in the coming years and reduce the number of prisoner firefighter camps. The proposal must now be approved by the California state Legislature.