Headlines: July 14, 2020
The coronavirus continues to spread in the US at a rapid rate with 61,492 new cases of infection documented on Monday – the second highest single-day total on record. The city of New York which has finally seen a drop in cases is now concerned about a second wave of imported infections by people traveling from deeply impacted states like Florida and Texas. The state of Hawaii, which had required travelers to remain in quarantine for 2 weeks has delayed lifting that requirement. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back the reopening of indoor activities across the state including all bars and restaurants as well as indoor activities like fitness centers in those cities and counties seeing high rates of infection such as Los Angeles. Gov. Newsom has given no end date for the new shutdown. But in conservative Orange County the Education Board has chosen to trust President Donald Trump’s administration in ordering all schools to be reopened in August – without masks or social distancing. In a white paper that scientists are expressing horror at, Board members wrote that requiring masks, “is not only difficult — if not impossible to implement — but [is] not based on science” and “may even be very harmful.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has continued to be vocal against Trump’s wishes explained that the virus is resurging across the US because, “We did not shut down entirely.”
In contrast with Orange County, schools in Los Angeles and San Diego counties in California will remain closed and return to online-only instruction in the fall. A new Axios-Ipsos poll has found that 71% of parents worry about sending their kids to school in the fall. The poll also found that Americans are less likely to adhere to social distancing, visiting family and friends. However, they are embracing the use of masks. Specifically, “As of July, three in five Americans (62%) report wearing a mask at all times when leaving the home with an additional 23% reporting sometimes wearing a mask.” This is the highest number since the poll began tracking mask wearing. New research suggests mask wearing could be the most important factor in remaining safe against the virus – not just in ensuring infected mask wearers protect others, but in ensuring non-infected mask wearers are protected from the worst symptoms. Studies of super spreading events find that a larger percentage of people have asymptomatic infections (and therefore are less likely to be hospitalized and die) if they are wearing masks.
Four former Directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention together wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday about their former agency saying, “No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.” They point out that Trump’s actions have deeply undermined public health and that, “Trying to fight this pandemic while subverting scientific expertise is like fighting blindfolded.” The Wall Street Journal reports that hospitals around the country are stocking up on drugs to treat Covid-19 infections, resigning themselves to being overwhelmed by patients.
Cash-strapped cities around the US are desperate for funds to continue operating basic public services and are now directly demanding funding from the federal government. While the CARES Act made available federal funding for large cities, thousands of smaller cities around the nation were left out of the bill. Millions of individuals are also waiting on Congress with bated breath to see if their $600 a week in unemployment benefits will be extended. The White House has already signaled that it would approve of a narrow extension of the lifeline that millions of unemployed Americans have relied on. The current program expires in 2 weeks. Meanwhile new research shows that 5.5 million Americans have lost access to health insurance since the pandemic began. The White House has come under fire for launching a new campaign funded by corporations that advise jobless Americans to “find something new.” A new ad features individuals who attained success after changing careers and suggests that all jobless Americans could miraculously be so lucky. The campaign’s slick website offers links to educational resources and training without addressing how jobless Americans would actually pay for such things.
The Government Accountability Office has found that the Trump administration is significantly undervaluing the cost of mitigating the impacts of climate change in order to promote its deregulatory agenda. According to the New York Times, “Critics described the Trump administration’s move as turning a deliberate blind eye to the dangers of climate change. Some critics likened it to President Trump downplaying the risks of the coronavirus, hoping it would ‘go away’ but instead leaving the country unprepared for the pandemic.” Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee announced his vision for the climate on Tuesday to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy economy in 15 years. It is Biden’s most ambitious plan on the climate so far. The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that student-led activism in pushing universities to divest from fossil fuels has had an outsized impact on the industry. The paper explained that, “fossil fuels seem to be joining a very short list of investments deemed off-limits by the ivory tower, such as apartheid-era South Africa and tobacco products.”
The Supreme Court on Monday in a 5-4 decision affirmed the Justice Department’s desire to resume federal executions after a nearly 20-year moratorium. Hours later, the state killed 47-year old Daniel Lewis Lee by lethal injection. Lee was a reformed white supremacist who lay strapped to a gurney for 4 hours before being killed. He said before dying, “You’re killing an innocent man.”
In the week after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, new reports show the extent of shocking police violence aimed at those Americans protesting police violence. According to one report, “Eight people suffered severe eye injuries at protests across the country on May 30.” In all 8 incidents police accounts of what happened contradict video evidence and in all 8, the 6 protesters, 1 passerby, and 1 journalist, lost one eye. Meanwhile the Massachusetts State Senate just passed a major police reform bill that, among other things, restricts the “qualified immunity” that police officers enjoy in the legal system. And the city of Berkeley, California, is considering removing police from the job of traffic enforcement. According to Associated Press, “Numerous studies have shown African American motorists are much more likely to be stopped by police than whites for minor traffic infractions — and end up as tragic headlines.”
Several states are holding primary elections on Tuesday including Alabama where former Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces off against a Trump-backed Republican for his old Senate seat. Trump has campaigned hard for Sessions’ rival Tommy Tuberville as punishment for Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe when he was AG – this even though Sessions backs Trump’s political agenda more strongly than Tuberville. In Maine, several Democrats are facing off against each other for a chance to challenge Republican Senator Susan Collins who they see as bowing down too often to Trump’s agenda while trying to appear less extremist. And Texans vote on Tuesday after their March elections were postponed. Critics are pointing out the irony of the state postponing elections at a time when Covid-19 cases were far lower than they are now. Texas has one of the worst outbreaks of the virus in the world.