There are now over 3.5 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, with nearly one-quarter of a million reported deaths. The United States makes up close to one-third of confirmed cases and a quarter of known deaths, even though it represents less than 5% of the world’s population. President Trump has projected the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 may top 100,000, revising statements he made in recent weeks putting the projected number as low as 50,000. The official U.S. death toll is around 68,000, but many researchers believe the actual number is significantly higher. On Friday, over 2,900 people died — a new daily high in the United States.
In Washington, D.C., President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are continuing to criticize China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, claiming the virus originated in a Chinese lab. On Sunday, Pompeo appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began. We’ve said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outside, but I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”
The World Health Organization and the U.S. intelligence community have refuted this theory, saying the coronavirus was not man-made and originated from animal-to-human transmission. A recent Department of Homeland Security report also blames the Chinese government for intentionally concealing the severity of the coronavirus while stockpiling imported supplies and reducing its exports.
The White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before a House committee this week. Trump is also moving to oust the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, Christi Grimm. She recently detailed how hospitals were facing severe shortages of medical supplies and tests.
In immigration news, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports two guards at the privately owned Otay Mesa Detention Center have filed two lawsuits against CoreCivic, alleging the private prison corporation didn’t take the necessary measures to protect their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic and created an environment that was too dangerous for them to do their jobs. Otay Mesa has one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks of any Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail in the U.S. As of last week, over 160 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19.
Over half of U.S. states have relaxed, or are preparing to loosen, social distancing and other restrictions. But some businesses are pushing back. In Georgia, more than 120 Atlanta restaurants have refused to open, saying it is not safe to do so despite Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s lifting of the state’s shelter-in-place order.
In Pakistan, medical workers have ended a hunger strike, after the government agreed to ensure that each worker has access to personal protective equipment. The government also promised to investigate the death of a nurse who developed COVID-19 symptoms after treating coronavirus patients.
Dozens of starving Rohingya refugees landed on the southern coast of Bangladesh Sunday, as fears grow for hundreds more left stranded at sea for weeks, after Bangladeshi authorities cut off port access during the coronavirus pandemic. In April, more than 60 Rohingya died aboard a boat with hundreds of refugees on board, after authorities in Malaysia and Thailand denied them entry, citing coronavirus fears. The United Nations is calling on governments to allow Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma to dock, as weather forecasters warn a tropical cyclone may form over the Bay of Bengal this week.
In South Africa, police clashed with healthcare workers in Johannesburg Friday as they held a protest demanding better working conditions, including adequate personal protective equipment while treating COVID-19 patients. This is a nurse from the Soweto township.
Nurse: “President, you haven’t come to the nursing profession. Are you waiting until there’s death of nurses or death of our communities to start to respond actively to the nurses’ plight and the nurses’ control?”
Protests took place across the U.S. and around the world Friday for May Day despite the pandemic. Essential workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target and FedEx held a mass strike to demand better health and safety conditions, and hazard pay. In Washington, D.C., the People’s Bailout motorcade rolled through the city. Around the country, nurses at well over 100 hospitals held “socially distanced” protests demanding personal protective equipment and to draw attention to healthcare workers who have died while fighting the coronavirus.
In Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, over 30 cars circled the Bell & Evans poultry processing plant to demand they shut down the facility until worker protections can be guaranteed. At least two COVID-19 deaths and dozens of infections have been linked to the plant.
Here in New York City, protesters took part in a car caravan to call for worker protections and economic protections. The caravan passed in front of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office and the penthouse apartment of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. In Times Square, demonstrators laid out body bags to represent victims of COVID-19. This is Perla Liberato, an activist with Make the Road New York.
Perla Liberato: “A lot of people are struggling with rent right now. People are not able to pay rent. A lot of people are not working. Especially undocumented folks are not receiving any kind of money to be able to survive in this pandemic. So we want to make sure that rent is canceled, until we know what’s going to happen next.”
In San Francisco, two unhoused activists briefly took over a vacant house before being forced to leave Friday after police threatened to remove them by force. Activists with Reclaim SF protested the heavy police presence in front of the house, which is said to be an “investment property” that has been sitting empty for years. At least one person at the protest was arrested. This is Couper Orona, speaking from inside the house before being forced to leave.
Couper Orona: “We’re San Francisco. Right? We’re the [bleep]. We’re supposed to take care of each other. We’re supposed to be taking care of each other. And you’re not doing that. London Breed is so far away from anything that is reality to us. It’s like, it makes me feel lost, and I feel alone. I feel scared and alone in my own city, and that sounds bitter. And now I got all these guys right here on overtime, and here I am, like, still without a house.”
Click here to see an extended interview with Couper Orona before the pandemic. The occupation was one of several actions that took place across San Francisco Friday for May Day, including a “cancel rent” car caravan.
North and South Korean troops briefly exchanged gunfire Sunday across the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. It was the first skirmish at the DMZ since North Korean troops fired on a defector in 2017. This came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appeared publicly Friday for the first time in almost three weeks, touring a newly completed fertilizer factory near Pyongyang. Kim’s appearance followed weeks of speculation about his health and put an end to rumors he was gravely ill after surgery.
Canada is banning military-style assault firearms, including the AR-15, two weeks after a gunman in Nova Scotia killed 22 people during a 12-hour rampage — the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “We are closing the market for military-grade assault weapons in Canada. We are banning 1,500 models and variants of these firearms by way of regulations. These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.”
“Families [of the victims] deserve more than thoughts and prayers,” said Justin Trudeau as he announced the new measures.
The Venezuelan government is claiming it has foiled a coup attempt after 10 armed men landed in a boat in a port city near Caracas. Venezuelan authorities killed eight of the men, whom they described as “mercenary terrorists.” Two men were captured. A former U.S. Green Beret claimed the attack was part of a wider attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government.
In other news from Venezuela, at least 46 prisoners have died in a riot that began after prisoners reportedly attempted to escape an overcrowded prison. Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the deaths and prison authorities’ “lethal response” to the unrest.
In Kenya, over 1,800 families have lost their homes in recent days as heavy rains trigger massive flooding in western Kenya. Rains have been pounding the region for weeks, killing over 100 people in floods and landslides. This is a displaced resident.
Vincent Ochieng: “It has been flooding for three days now. I think the government is not even aware, but now we are telling them. We are asking if there are any plans to assist us. Only two boats are here for evacuating people.”
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students at an antiwar rally at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students and wounding nine others. Kent State is holding a virtual commemoration today on their website.