Headlines: April 21, 2020
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President Donald Trump announced on Twitter late on Monday evening that he would be moving to suspend all immigration to the US. Specifically he wrote, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” According to the Washington Post, “Two White House officials said an executive order is being drafted and that Trump could sign it as soon as Tuesday. The order, which was discussed among senior staff members Monday, would suspend nearly all immigration under the rationale of preventing the spread of infection by foreigners arriving from abroad.” While it is not yet clear which aspects of immigration policy would be impacted, those who apply for green cards to the US are primarily family members of US citizens. The move is ironic given that in March the US State Department moved to process visa applications for seasonal guest workers who are primarily in the agricultural industry. Additionally, Trump has been pushing to reopen the economy domestically claiming that the virus is waning but did not apply that same standard to the nation’s borders.
Meanwhile Trump’s approval rating continues to drop. A new poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland found that a majority of Americans disapprove of his handling of the Covid-19 crisis. In contrast 72% approved of how their state’s governor has dealt with it. The poll also found that most Americans did not expect the economy to return to normal until the end of June or later. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee in an interview this week said, “America, in some respects, has been abused by this president. He doesn’t give a damn about how you feel.”
Congress and the White House have said they are close to a deal on a new economic stimulus bill that would renew a loan fund for small businesses and increase funding for testing and hospitals. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said on Tuesday in an interview on CNN, “We have a deal and I believe we’ll pass it today.” But one Senate aide to a Republican Senator cautioned that GOP leaders have yet to sign off. News continues to emerge about how corporations that should not qualify as “small businesses” have been sucking up funds from the Paycheck Protection Program in the CARES Act that passed some weeks ago. A construction company called Continental Materials, which made $100 million in sales in 2019 received a $5.5 million loan. The company has ties to the Trump Administration. Associated Press found that, “at least 75 companies that received the aid were publicly traded, the AP found, and some had market values well over $100 million.” Those companies were, “recipients of a combined $300 million in low-interest, taxpayer-backed loans.” Now, a number of small businesses are suing banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America and J P Morgan Chase for prioritizing big companies over smaller ones for loan approvals. The banks reshuffled the applications, pushing big companies to the front of the line because the larger loan amounts generated more processing fee revenues for the banks. As a result, smaller businesses were left out. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley who chairs the Senate Finance Company said that big corporate chains should not have received taxpayer backed loans.
Meanwhile the White House, instead of remedying the situation for small businesses is instead focusing on deregulating big businesses. Claiming that the coronavirus pandemic has caused federal regulations on businesses to be a hurdle, the Trump Administration wants sweeping changes to the rules governing corporations that include labor laws, workplace health and safety, environmental standards, and more. The move comes in response to aggressive business lobbying that sees the pandemic as an opportunity to reduce corporate liability. Specifically corporations want the right to force essential workers to keep working while removing their right to sue if they get infected in the workplace.
The state of Georgia is the first of quarantined states to push to reopen its economy. Republican Governor Brian Kemp wants businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, and barber shops to reopen by this Friday. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pushed back saying, “I’m perplexed that we have opened up in this way… as I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don’t see that it’s based on anything that is logical.” In addition to Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are also moving to reopen within weeks. In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has already opened up his state’s beaches, is pushing for a state-wide task force to come up with a plan in just five days to reopen the economy. Members of the task force include executives of Disney and Universal theme parks.
Prison inmates across the nation continue to remain at risk as state authorities refuse to release them. Now, a state prison in Ohio has confirmed that a whopping 73% of all inmates have tested positive for Covid-19 although no one has yet died from it. The confirmed infections at the Marion Correctional Institution were only detected because everyone was tested. A hundred and nine staff members have also been infected. A new study employing antibody testing in Los Angeles County, California, has found that the virus has been more prevalent than previously thought. About 4.1% of the population of the area has been infected at some point. That means well over 90% remain uninfected and vulnerable to the disease.
The World Health Organization has concluded in a new report that worldwide about 2-3% of the global population has developed antibodies to the disease. Experts warned that even if tests showed some people had antibodies it did not mean they were immune to future infection from Covid-19. And, the New York Times has published a detailed analysis of what it says is the true extent of mortality from Covid-19 worldwide. By comparing mortality rates in a number of countries and cities such as England, France, New York City and Jakarta this year compared to a year ago, the paper found an excess of 28,000 excess deaths that can only be explained as related to Covid-19.
The National Nurses Union has announced that it will protest in front of the White House this week denouncing the Trump administration’s failure to adequately provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers. In a statement NNU said it is, “calling on Congress to mandate the [Defense Production Act]’s use to produce the equipment and supplies health care workers need to care for COVID-19 patients as well as to conduct mass testing that is required to control the spread of the virus.”
And finally, communities in the Bay Area of California are angry and distraught over the police killing on Saturday of a black man named Stephen Taylor at a Walmart. The 33-year old man was apparently having a mental health breakdown and wielding only a baseball bat. He was tased and shot multiple times even after having dropped the bat. A lawyer for Mr. Taylor’s family is calling for the officers in question to be charged with homicide.