Headlines: April 13, 2020
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President Donald Trump has urged an end to quarantines around the country in a bid to re-charge the economy pushing against state and city leaders who are urging caution. On Sunday he tweeted, “Governors, get your states testing programs & apparatus perfected. Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses! The Federal Government is there to help.” He also said, “We are testing more than any country in the World,” which is a blatant lie given that per capita the US has tested far less than most nations struggling with the coronavirus. In interviews on Sunday talk shows governors and mayors retorted that it was far too early to return to business-as-usual. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said, “But you can’t just pick a date and flip a switch. I don’t think it’s going to be that simple.” Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said, “We’ve got to see a lot more progress on the health care front …before we can start talking about reopening the economy.” On Monday Trump claimed he and the federal government had the authority to reopen the economy, tweeting, “For the purpose of creating conflict and confusion, some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.” But legal experts pointed out that it was state governors who retained such authority.
Even members of Trump’s own administration have pointed out that ending quarantines by May was too early. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in an interview on ABC, ”it’s just too early to be able to tell that we see light at the end of the tunnel.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on CNN, “It is not going to be a light switch…It is going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak you’ve already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced.” Many of Trump’s supporters have attacked Dr. Fauci for what they perceive as his undermining of the President. Dr. Fauci in the same CNN interview admitted that more lives could have been saved had the federal government acted sooner, prompting Trump to retweet a call by one of his supporters to fire the popular scientist. Meanwhile on Saturday Trump touted the fact that all 50 states in the US had a disaster declaration in place – the first time in history such a thing has happened. But the President attempted to spin the historic mark positively saying proudly, “For the first time in history there is a fully signed Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 50 States. We are winning, and will win, the war on the Invisible Enemy!”
The President and his team still have no actual plan in place to tackle the coronavirus although there are several task forces that make regular media appearances. The Washington Post explained that the federal government, “still has no consensus plan for when or how to reopen parts of the economy, even as the president and many advisers push to do so as soon as May 1. There is still no concerted plan for getting vital medical supplies to states, which are left to fight among themselves or seek favors from Trump. There is also no developed plan for what happens if cases or deaths spike as people begin to return to work, or how to respond if the coronavirus surges again in the fall, as many public health experts and administration officials fear.” States have been left to fend for themselves in acquiring life-saving supplies such as personal protective equipment for medical workers and ventilators for Covid patients. To make matters worse, the Trump Administration has been reportedly swooping in and seizing supplies for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Some local authorities are considering deploying local law enforcement to greet planeloads of supplies from abroad to ensure the federal government does not intercept them.
Meanwhile in New York, the coronavirus epicenter of the US and world, hospitals are running out of tests and are having to restrict who gets a Covid test. South Korea, which is being seen as a model for the rest of the world is reportedly sending 600,000 tests to the US. There is now also a growing need for antibody tests to determine who has developed immunity from the virus and one hospital in Michigan has announced that it is launching what may be the US’s largest antibody testing study to inform decisions about whether to reopen the economy. And in Florida, amid a shortage of protective masks, the Florida Department of Corrections is using prison labor to make masks. However the masks will first be given to corrections officers, and then probation officers, before vulnerable inmates receive them.
As the virus continues its spread across the US, grocery workers are succumbing to the disease with more than 40 having already died. Many are forced to provide their own masks, gloves, and sanitizers, and fear going into work or liken it to entering a “war zone.” Meat packers are also getting infected and dying from Covid-19. The world’s largest pork processing company, Smithfield foods this weekend shut down one of its pork plants indefinitely after hundreds of workers fell sick. Smithfield’s CEO warned that the nation was “perilously close” to a meat shortage due to the pandemic. Nursing homes are also serious hot spots of the disease as 3,600 of all the coronavirus deaths in the US have happened at elder-care facilities. The Washington Post reported that multiple senior executives with a pharmaceutical corporation called Biogen unwittingly spread the disease in early March after a national meeting, carrying the virus to at least six states. A US Navy ship called USS Theodore Roosevelt is reporting hundreds of cases of the virus with at least one death. And ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos has tested positive for Covid-19.
In international coronavirus related news, China is reporting numerous new cases of the virus, largely as a result of travel from outside nations in particular Russia. China has now tightened its border control and stepped up testing of incoming travelers. And, a lengthy investigation by the New York Times has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin, “has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.” He has, “spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade,” and, “repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists.”
In non-Covid related news, major storms and tornadoes across the southern and southeastern part of the US caused havoc and death over the weekend and are now pounding the East Coast. At least 21 people have died and 1.3 million have lost power.
And finally, weeks after the allegations of sexual assault against Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden came to light, corporate news outlets began covering allegations made by Biden’s former Senate staffer Tara Reade. The New York Times published a lengthy piece concluding that there was, “no pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Biden.” The Washington Post also covered it on Sunday saying that Reade did not raise the account of Biden’s sexual assault of her last year when the paper interviewed her. And Associated Press also published a piece saying it was unable to corroborate Reade’s account.