In Brazil’s Amazon region, the mayor of the hard-hit city of Manaus accused the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of intentionally allowing Indigenous communities to die of the disease.
Mayor Arthur Virgílio Neto: “I fear genocide, and I want to denounce this to the whole world. We have here a government that does not care about the lives of Indigenous people. … It is a crime against humanity that is being practiced here in my state, here in my region.”
In the United States, Columbia University disease modelers reported Wednesday that if states had begun social distancing measures just one week earlier in March, 36,000 fewer people would have died of the coronavirus.
The Columbia report came as ProPublica revealed how different responses to the growing outbreak in San Francisco and New York City led to a stark difference in death tolls between the two cities. San Francisco started to take action as early as January and was the first major city to issue a shelter-in-place order beginning March 17. Mayor London Breed shared the text of the order with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo dismissed de Blasio’s initial idea of closing down the city and waited until March 22 to shut down the city and state. By then the virus was rapidly spreading across New York. The estimated death toll in New York City now stands at nearly 21,000. In San Francisco, just 36 people have died from the coronavirus.
Republican political operatives have begun recruiting pro-Trump doctors to make TV and radio appearances to promote the case for reopening states’ economies, even where they’ve failed to meet safety benchmarks set by the CDC. This is Republican Party strategist Nancy Schulze, speaking in leaked audio of a conference call obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy.
Nancy Schulze: “There is a coalition of doctors’ coalitions who are extremely pro-Trump, that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on healthcare. And these doctors could be activated for this conversation now.”
Protesters left mock body bags outside the White House Wednesday as part of a National Day of Mourning to condemn the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Some protesters held signs reading “Trump lies, people die.”
Cyclone Amphan has battered East India and Bangladesh, killing at least 22 people, destroying thousands of homes and leaving millions without power. It’s the strongest cyclone to hit the region in over two decades. The storm unleashed heavy winds and rain on Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp that is home to 1 million Rohingya refugees living in crowded and often unsanitary conditions.
Michigan is facing a potential environmental disaster as floodwaters from two breached dams threaten the headquarters of Dow Chemical and nearby Superfund toxic cleanup sites. Dow has used the Midland, Michigan, complex for decades to produce Saran Wrap, Styrofoam, Agent Orange, mustard gas and other products. On Wednesday, Dow acknowledged there were floodwaters commingling with on-site toxic containment ponds at its facility. Dow’s complex also houses a small nuclear reactor used for research. The New York Times reports Dow filed an “unusual event” report with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission overnight citing the heavy flooding. The crisis in Michigan began on Tuesday when a pair of dams breached after two days of heavy rain.
President Trump is intensifying his attack on mail-in voting by threatening to cut funding to the swing states of Michigan and Nevada, where officials are attempting to make it easier for residents to vote by absentee ballot due to the pandemic. In a series of tweets, Trump accused the states of acting illegally and promoting voter fraud.
Trump’s tweets came a day after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeted, “No voter should have to choose between their health & their vote. And every Michigan citizen has a right under our state constitution to vote by mail. With funding from the federal CARES act, I am ensuring every registered voter has the tools to conveniently exercise that right.”
Public support of mail-in voting is high across the U.S. One recent poll showed three-quarters of Americans support universal access to mail voting.
The Labor Department reports another 2.4 million U.S. workers filed unemployment claims over the last week. The total number of newly unemployed people is rapidly approaching 40 million, a level not seen since the height of the Great Depression.
Hundreds of McDonald’s workers went on strike around the United States Wednesday demanding the fast-food giant take full responsibility for the safety of workers and customers during the pandemic. This is Ieshia Townsend, a Chicago McDonald’s employee on strike for personal protective equipment, paid sick leave, health insurance benefits and hazard pay.
Ieshia Townsend: “I’m doing what I feel is best for me and my family due to the COVID-19 situation. I want to be able to protect my family, but I also want to be able to protect my co-workers around me when I have to go to work. … So I just want McDonald’s to make sure that workers like me — you say that we are essential workers. Protect me and my beautiful boys, and even my friends and family that are around me.”
In New Orleans, sanitation workers are in the third week of a strike demanding $150 in weekly hazard pay, PPE, repairs to trucks and a wage increase. The company contracting with New Orleans to pick up garbage, Metro Service Group, has brought in work-release prisoners as temporary replacements. The prisoners are being paid less than the minimum wage. This is one of the striking workers speaking at picket on Tuesday.
Striking worker: “I have seven kids. I be scared to play with my kids some days I go home. I’ve got to stop my daughter at the front door, tell her, 'You can't jump in Daddy’s arms right now. Daddy can’t give you no kiss.’ I’m scared I’m going to get sick.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers reports at least 68 grocery store workers across the U.S. have died from COVID-19 and more than 10,000 have fallen ill from the disease.
The Ford Motor Company temporarily shut down assembly plants in Dearborn, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois, after workers tested positive for the coronavirus. The shutdowns came just days after General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler began a phased reopening of their U.S. factories.
President Trump is traveling to Ypsilanti, Michigan, today to tour a Ford auto plant that’s been converted to produce ventilators during the pandemic. Ahead of the trip, Michigan’s attorney general said the president has a “legal responsibility” under state law to wear a mask during the visit, after Trump refused to commit to wearing one.
Immigrant rights activists are condemning the deportation of Hector García Mendoza, a 30-year-old Mexican immigrant who sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement just last week. García Mendoza was part of a class-action lawsuit demanding the immediate release of all immigrants held at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in New Jersey, where prisoners and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus. He was transferred to Texas on Tuesday and then deported to an undisclosed location in Mexico; his attorneys say they have not been able to find him. García Mendoza’s removal came despite a federal judge’s order blocking the deportation. Advocates believe his expedited deportation is retaliation for the lawsuit against ICE.
The United Nations Middle East envoy has called on Israel to abandon its plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Nickolay Mladenov: “The continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace and a broader effort to maintain international peace and security.”
On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to security cooperation with Israel and the United States, and said all agreements between Palestine and the two countries are now null and void.