Headlines: April 8, 2020
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the Presidential race, making an announcement on Wednesday morning. It was Sanders’ second bid for the Presidency and his withdrawal from the race now clears the path for former Vice President Joe Biden to claim the Democratic nomination. Sanders said the movement that his campaign helped to coalesce would continue and that he would remain on the ballot and gather delegates in order to influence the Democratic Party platform. Writing an op-ed in The Guardian newspaper on the same day, Sanders laid out a plan for how the nation ought to tackle the coronavirus pandemic that has now impacted almost the entire globe. He wrote that Congress must lead the way because, “President Trump is incapable of providing leadership, and instead continues to mislead the public and act out of political self-interest.” He endorsed a $2,000 monthly payment to every American, guaranteed paid medical and sick leave, and eviction moratoriums. Sanders’ policy ideas have become mainstream during the pandemic even as his candidacy comes to an end.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biden described in an interview on CNN the details of a conversation he had with Trump about the coronavirus, describing the President as “gracious.” Biden is expected to emerge the victor in Tuesday’s primary elections in Wisconsin which were held over great controversy. After Gov. Tony Evers postponed the election by executive order, the U.S. supreme court overturned it by a partisan vote of 5-4 forcing the election to commence on Tuesday in spite of the coronavirus lockdown. The resulting election was marred by low turnout as Wisconsinites were forced to choose between risking their health and exercising their right to vote. In densely populated cities like Milwaukee only a handful of polling places were even open, forcing many to wait for hours in line wearing masks and other protective gear to cast ballots. The decision to move ahead with voting disproportionately impacted black voters. Republicans saw a political advantage to preserving the election schedule, to retain a crucial conservative seat on the state supreme court.
The Republican dominated state legislature in Wisconsin refused Democratic demands to send mail-in ballots to all voters and this week President Trump jumped into the fray exhorting his fellow Republicans to fight against vote-by-mail elections. During a critical election year that is marred by a pandemic, Trump said out loud the words that most have attributed as an ulterior motive for the GOP’s reluctance to make voting easier. He said, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” During the coronavirus task force press briefing on Tuesday evening Trump said, “Mail-in voting is horrible. It’s corrupt.” When he was asked by a reporter why he mailed his own ballot in, he did not see the irony.
As the coronavirus continues its grim toll across the world, the hardest-hit US state of New York lost nearly 800 people in a single day and nationwide the number of deaths neared 2,000 over 24 hours. Surpassing all other nations, the US now has 400,000 confirmed infections. Demographics of those most impacted reveal that black Americans are disproportionately impacted by the virus. In several counties and states black Americans comprise 70% of deaths. According to a Washington Post analysis, “counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams acknowledged the statistics saying this in an interview on CBS. Meanwhile, the virus continues it spread with Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois – the largest jail in the nation – emerging as a new epicenter of the disease. More than 350 cases of virus infections are linked to the jail as protesters gather outside demanding that people be released to avoid a full-scale public health catastrophe. And the New York Times is reporting that rural America, where the virus was slow to spread, has now joined the rest of the country in seeing rising numbers of infections.
More evidence is emerging of how much the Trump administration knew about the danger of coronavirus months earlier. ABC News reported that as far back as last November, US intelligence officials warned about the potential of the virus emerging in China as, “a cataclysmic event.” And memos from Trump’s top trade adviser Peter Navarro became public this week showing the President was briefed on the virus in stark terms in late January. Mr. Navarro’s memo said, “The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil…This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, who is on the White House’s coronavirus task force has said that she is seeing some positive indicators that quarantine measures are working but warned Americans against resuming normal business and triggering a second wave of infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meanwhile is apparently considering a proposal allowing those who have been exposed to someone with the virus but are not showing symptoms to potentially return to work. Meanwhile Democrats are considering a new wave of economic relief for Americans including greater funding for food stamps and hospitals. The news comes as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has requested an additional $250 billion for small business loans after the initial fund was inundated with applications. And, President Trump has removed the safeguards that Congress had put in place to oversee the dispensing of an emergency fund for big businesses.
Finally, the lockdown of the Chinese city of Wuhan where the coronavirus was first discovered has officially ended. The ending of the 76-day mandatory quarantine was met with celebrations by the city’s residents as air travel and public transportation resumed. There were no new cases of the virus in Wuhan this week.