Brazil logged 3,800 COVID deaths Wednesday, nearly topping a record high of over 4,000 deaths set a day earlier. Hospitals are running out of basic supplies, including sedatives and oxygen, and Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, said it would open 600 new graves per day. This is Paula Galvão, a doctor at a field hospital in São Paulo.
Dr. Paula Galvão: “The difficulty I’ve seen most recently is not only elderly patients arriving, but also many younger patients — 30, 21, 26, 29 years old. These were the worst patients I had yesterday. This is really bad.”
On Wednesday, Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro once again refused to order nationwide public health measures and scoffed at opposition politicians who accused him of “genocide” over his administration’s disastrous handling of the pandemic.
President Jair Bolsonaro: “Let us not accept the policy of staying at home, of closing everything, lockdown. The virus will not go away. The virus, like others, is here to stay and will remain for a lifetime. It is practically impossible to eradicate it. And until then, what are we going to do?”
On Tuesday, Brazil’s lower house of Congress passed a bill — backed by President Bolsonaro — that would allow corporations to directly purchase vaccines on the international market and give them to employees — ahead of priority groups, including medical workers and the elderly.
The British government on Wednesday recommended that people under the age of 30 should not receive shots of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, after a European drug regulator described a “possible link” between the vaccine and rare cases of blood clots. Other countries have scaled back use of the vaccine in people under 60. About one in 100,000 recipients of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have reported clotting — 18 cases of which have been fatal. European regulators noted that blood clots are often a symptom of COVID-19, and said the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine continue to far outweigh the risks.
This comes as a new study found more than one out of three survivors of severe COVID-19 developed psychiatric or neurological conditions within six months of their infection.
The United States logged another 75,000 coronavirus infections Wednesday, with hospitalizations at their highest levels in over a month — even as the number of people vaccinated with at least one dose hit 110 million, or a third of the U.S. population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the majority of U.S. infections are now caused by the B.1.1.7 variant — first identified in the U.K. — which has been found to be more deadly than earlier variants and more transmissible. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the latest surge is being driven by younger people.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky: “Across the country, we are hearing reports of clusters of cases associated with daycare centers and youth sports. Hospitals are seeing more and more younger adults, those in their thirties and forties, admitted with severe disease.”
Hamas has ordered the Gaza Strip into lockdown after the besieged Palestinian territory confirmed a record number of coronavirus infections. Over a third of the 5,000 coronavirus tests administered in Gaza Wednesday came back positive. Palestinian authorities have received 40,000 vaccine doses from the United Arab Emirates and 100,000 from China, enough for just a fraction of the 5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.
Meanwhile, Israel’s top coronavirus official says an outdoor mask mandate will likely be dropped next week, after the number of severe COVID-19 cases dropped to a four-month low. Israel implemented the world’s fastest mass vaccination program, with over 10 million doses administered to date. Over half of Israelis are now fully vaccinated.
Israel has vaccinated tens of thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel, but says it’s up to Palestinian authorities in the Occupied Territories to secure their own vaccines. Palestinians say that’s a violation of Israel’s duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
President Biden is announcing a series of executive actions on gun control today. They include regulations on so-called ghost guns — home-assembled firearms that don’t have serial numbers. He will also name David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Gun control groups say the measures don’t go far enough, but the White House says it’s up to Congress to pass certain laws, including universal background checks and banning assault weapons. The executive actions come after deadly mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; and elsewhere.
West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin wrote in an op-ed Wednesday, “There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” Manchin also suggested he would oppose using budget reconciliation again to pass more of President Biden’s agenda with just a simple majority. Many Democrats are calling for an end to the filibuster, which they see as the only way to pass major bills in an evenly divided Senate.
In Minneapolis, a police use-of-force expert testified Wednesday that former officer Derek Chauvin employed unreasonable and excessive force against George Floyd last May when he used the full weight of his body to press one knee against Floyd’s neck and the other against his back for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Los Angeles Police Sergeant Jody Stiger was called as an expert witness for the prosecution at Chauvin’s murder trial.
Sgt. Jody Stiger: “Mr. Floyd was not resisting. He was in the prone position. He was handcuffed. He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist. And the pressure that was being caused by the bodyweight could cause positional asphyxia, which could cause death.”
President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee issued more than half a million refunds to online donors worth over $64 million in the final months of the 2020 campaign, after charging recurring payments to people who had made one-time donations. The New York Times reports one 63-year-old Trump supporter battling cancer had $500 deducted from his bank account every week until his bank account had been depleted and frozen, after he failed to opt out of a fine-print disclaimer. Donors who tried to cancel recurring payments encountered a message reading, “We need to know we haven’t lost you to the radical left. If you UNCHECK this box, we’ll have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems.”
In Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney will not prosecute state Representative Park Cannon, who was arrested last month for knocking on Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s door as he signed a sweeping voter suppression bill. She said the public deserved to witness what was happening. Representative Cannon spoke to CNN last week about her arrest.
Rep. Park Cannon: “It makes me wonder why. Why were they arresting me? Why were they doing this? Why did the world have to experience another traumatizing arrest?”
In related news, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order Tuesday designed to “mitigate the impact” of Georgia’s new voting restrictions. The actions will center on educating voters, helping them obtain identification and training city staff on how to assist voters.
Virginia has become the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the first in the South. Adults 21 and over will be allowed to possess an ounce or less starting July 1. The bill also includes pro-labor measures and efforts to benefit communities of color who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. This is Virginia Democratic Delegate Charniele Herring of Alexandria.
Del. Charniele Herring: “Other states, such as Colorado, Vermont, New Jersey and, in the past few days, New York, made the same choice. This is because there’s a straightforward injustice to punishing people for something we’ve already agreed should be legal, especially when we know that the punishments are given out inequitably.”
In Chicago, Amazon overnight workers walked off the job Wednesday to protest what’s known as the “megacycle.” The 10-and-a-half-hour workshift, which rolled out across the U.S. in the past year, has been devastating for Amazon workers with health issues and those with daytime commitments such as child care.
In related news, the National Labor Relations Board found Amazon illegally fired two employees after they publicly called for the company to address concerns about working conditions at its warehouses and to enact better policies on climate change.
The 2021 Izzy Award “for outstanding achievement in independent media” has been awarded to three recipients: online news outlet Truthout and journalists Liliana Segura and Tim Schwab. Over the past year, Truthout reported on the political, economic, environmental and racial inequities around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporting for The Intercept, Liliana Segura exposed in detail the cruel injustice of capital punishment and the horrific conditions in prisons and the criminal justice system, which all disproportionately affect communities of color and other marginalized people. In a three-part investigation for The Nation, Tim Schwab looked at the secretive operations of the Gates Foundation, revealing how it uses its fortune to influence wide-ranging policy, in particular in the field of public health. The Izzy Award is presented by the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and is named for legendary dissident journalist I.F. Stone.