Headlines: April 1, 2020
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The White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday evening presented its grim projection of the realistic numbers of American deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. At the press briefing to present the disturbing findings, President Donald Trump stood in front of a graph titled “Goals of Community Mitigation,” a flattened curve from social distancing and quarantine measures showed a peak of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. That is the best-case scenario. Without measures, the virus is projected to take 1.5 to 2.2 million lives. Dr. Deborah Birx, who coordinates the task force explained the statistics. President Trump momentarily struck a very different note from what he had been using when discussing the virus.
Meanwhile Vice President Mike Pence spoke to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and flatly denied that President Trump had belittled the threat of the virus in early March saying that Trump was simply being optimistic. Meanwhile Associated Press on Wednesday offered its latest fact check on Trump’s various dishonest claims about the virus over the last several days and concluded that the President lied about the US mortality rate, the rate of testing, the federal government’s aid to states, the availability of medical supplies, and more.
Two new polls offer a glimpse into the American mindset during this crisis. A poll by Morning Consult has found that support among Americans for a Medicare-for-All system has risen to 55% nationwide – that’s a 9-month high and a jump of more than 10 percentage points from February to March. And, a Hill-HarrisX poll concludes that “57% of voters say US political system works only for insiders with money and power.” Felicia Wong, President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, told The Hill, “The American public is very concerned that the money [from the recently passed stimulus bill] be used to support workers, to keep employees on payroll and that it not be used for things like stock buybacks or excessive CEO pay.”
The US death toll from the virus so far has topped 4,000 nationwide with more than 200,000 confirmed infections. New data from the CDC has found that those living with diabetes, heart, or lung disease and other chronic conditions, are particularly susceptible to virus-related fatalities. New York remains the current epicenter of the virus in the US with more than 43,000 infections. The New York Police Department has now found that 1,400 members of the force have tested positive. A new hotspot of the virus was identified in Southern California at a nursing home facility in Yucaipa, San Bernardino. According to AP, “As of Tuesday, 51 residents and six staff members had tested positive. Two patients have died, including an 82-year-old woman who had existing health problems.” Youth advocates are demanding that the tens of thousands of children locked up in juvenile detention facilities across the US ought to be immediately released as they remain vulnerable. In Louisiana at least 3 children have been found to be infected while in state custody. On the bright side, a Maine-based company named Abbott Laboratories has produced a new coronavirus test that it says gives results in just minutes. According to the Portland Press Herald, “National public health experts are calling the made-in-Maine tests a potential ‘game changer.’” The lab will begin producing 50,000 tests a day this week.
Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a fellow in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, has published an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday pleading with Americans to, “stop shooting. We need the beds.” The surgeon wrote, “Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.” She pointed out that, “Gun violence has killed as many people this year as coronavirus.” The White House, caving to pressure from the gun lobby, decided to classify gun stores as “essential businesses” as states issued “safer-at-home” orders. Gun sales are at a record high.
Although the safer-at-home policies are critical to keeping the numbers of Covid-19-related deaths low, many Americans are struggling financially. Rent checks are usually due on the first of the month and Associated Press published the stories of some Americans facing a dire future. This is 21-year old Jade Brooks. Stories also abound of those stuck at home without internet access at a time when broadband service is necessary for survival. Rural America is particularly hard-hit and people of color are disproportionately impacted including African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. And, as growing numbers of states announce that schools will remain closed until the end of the academic year the children of low-income parents who might be considered “essential workers” are stuck without supervision. The LA Times reports that, “About 15,000 Los Angeles high school students are absent online and have failed to do any schoolwork while more than 40,000 have not been in daily contact with their teachers since March 16.”
The state of Wisconsin plans to go ahead with next week’s primary elections in spite of the huge risk to voters and anger from civil rights activists worried about the impact on turnout. There are reports of not enough poll workers, mail-in ballot requests going unfulfilled, and the impact of a voter suppression law that requires a witness to sign the mail-in ballot envelope. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called on Wisconsin to postpone the election saying, “People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote.”
In international news, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that the Covid-19 virus is the greatest global challenge since World War II. He explained, “The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods.” The UN General Assembly is being asked to choose between two rival proposals to adopt. One which calls for, “intensified international cooperation,” and the other which demands protectionist measures and an end to sanctions.