Headlines: April 28, 2020
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President Donald Trump on Monday evening reappeared at his White House press briefings on the coronavirus after a brief hiatus related to his widely ridiculed disinfectant treatment suggestion. He unveiled a plan to reopen the US economy that included doubling the number of tests that US had been processing. According to the Washington Post, “An administration official said the federal government aimed to give states the ability to test at least 2 percent of their populations per month, though the president did not use that figure and it was not in his written plan.” A reporter asked Vice President Mike Pence why he had said more than a month ago that there would be ramped up widespread testing but Mr. Pence claimed the reporter and public misunderstood his claim. This was the reporter’s follow up question and Pence’s answer. In fact the Trump administration has not had a federal plan to combat the disease and has been relying on states to deal with the crisis on their own. The plan to test only 2% of the population is seen as wholly inadequate by most experts. The New York Times spoke with Paul Romer, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from New York University who has recommended that 50 percent of the population be tested each week. According to Romer, testing 2 percent “is not enough to test everyone in health care even once, let alone to keep retesting them every day, which is what it would take to keep those who do get infected from going on shift and infecting their colleagues.”
During Monday’s press briefing Trump also told state governors to “seriously consider and maybe get going” on reopening schools. He said, “Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through.” His statement appeared to imply that children are less likely to develop symptoms if they get infected from Covid-19 but he also displayed ignorance over the fact that children could spread the infection. In his opening remarks Trump lamented the avoidable deaths from the virus. Trump did not take any responsibility for these Covid-19 deaths even though US intelligence agencies warned him more than a dozen times during the “President’s Daily Brief” in January and February as per a new report published in the Washington Post.
The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has warned against easing quarantines and lockdowns saying that there was still evidence that the virus was not under control and is likely being underestimated given the limited number of tests being conducted. Meanwhile the US House Foreign Affairs Committee has launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s decision to block WHO’s funding. Committee chair Eliot Engel said, “cutting the WHO’s funding while the world confronts the COVID-19 tragedy is not the answer.” Meanwhile the University of Washington just released the results of a model that predicts a significantly higher death toll in the US as a consequence of reopening states too quickly.
US Attorney General William Barr appears once more to be searching for political cover for President Trump with the news that he has ordered prosecutors to identify whether Covid-19 related lockdowns could be considered “unconstitutional.” In a memo to prosecutors Barr wrote, “If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court.” Trump has been egging on rightwing protesters to oppose lockdowns that he sees as ruining his chances of election due to the related economic collapse. Meanwhile the leader of an anti-lockdown group in North Carolina announced that she has tested positive for the virus. She complained about having, “been forced to quarantine in my home for 2 weeks.” Meanwhile two rightwing activists in Sacramento, California have sued their governor, Gavin Newsom over the lockdown.
In fact governors continue to be trusted by large majorities over the federal government. In New York, the hardest hit state, even conservatives trust Gov. Andrew Cuomo on his response to the coronavirus more than they trust Trump, according to a new poll. Of the Republicans who responded to the poll, “56 percent favor Cuomo, and 36 percent favor Trump” to make the decision to reopen the state. Ohio’s Republican governor Mike DeWine has broken with Trump over the virus response and actually enjoyed more popularity as a result. DeWine closed his state’s schools earlier than any other state and also postponed the primary election in March. The governors of Michigan, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, have all been laying out detailed multi-phase plans to ease restrictions in their states.
While Americans trust their governors and most back continued lockdowns, a new poll shows that nearly 90% are worried about the economy collapsing. Ipsos, the firm that conducted the poll with Axios, said, “When you force one question over the other, health is still more important, over the economy.” Meanwhile the Economic Policy Institute conducted a poll of newly unemployed Americans and found that a whopping 8.9 million to 13.9 million people have been unable to register for unemployment benefits. This means the official unemployment toll of 26.5 million from the virus is far short of the actual extent of joblessness. Reuters explained that, “Idled workers say they have encountered downed websites and clogged phone lines, as the state governments that administer the program have been overwhelmed by applicants.”
In other news, Business Insider has corroborated the claims of a woman accusing Presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault. The media outlet spoke to Tara Reade’s neighbor who remembers Reade sharing details of her experience in the mid-90s. Another person, a former colleague of Reade’s also corroborated the story. The report came after it was recently confirmed that Reade’s recently deceased mother had called in to the Larry King Live show in 1993 to talk about her daughter’s problems “with a prominent senator.” Meanwhile the state of New York on Monday canceled its Democratic primary race scheduled for June 23rd. State officials removed all candidates from the ballot except for Mr. Biden, which effectively rendered the election moot. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who had wanted to remain on the ballot even though he has withdrawn from the race, slammed the move as a, “blow to American democracy.”
And finally the US has admitted to killing 2 civilians and injuring 3 in Somalia as part of its on-going drone war. The drone killings took place early last year and the US military predictably denied its culpability initially. On Monday, as part of a brief mention in a written report, the Pentagon said, “Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 air strike. We are deeply sorry this occurred.”