Headlines: March 31, 2020
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday gave a press briefing as cases of Covid-19 infections in his state continued to spike. Cuomo said, “We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.” He also announced that his brother Chris Cuomo, a CNN journalist, has tested positive for the virus. Gov. Cuomo announced that there were more than 10,000 hospitalizations over this virus so far with nearly 3,000 patients in intensive care. He also warned that the disease is likely to not peak for another 2 to 3 weeks. New York has ordered 17,000 new ventilators from China at a cost of $25,000 each. But because states like California and Illinois as well as the US federal government and nations like Italy had ordered ventilators, New York is likely to get as few as 2,500.
The death rate from the virus in the US has climbed so high that it has already surpassed that of China where Covid-19 is thought to have originated. However, media outlets are expressing doubt over China’s estimate of 3,309. The official US death toll from the virus is now 3,415 with 500 people dying in a 24-hour period on Monday. The US now has 160,000 confirmed cases of infections worldwide – the largest figure of any nation in the world. A company that sells internet-connected thermometers found a strong correlation between social distancing measures and the reduction of fevers. The company, Kinsa, traditionally uses its data to track the spread of the seasonal flu. According to the New York Times, “To identify clusters of coronavirus infections, Kinsa recently adapted its software to detect spikes of ‘atypical fever’ that do not correlate with historical flu patterns and are likely attributable to the coronavirus.” Those fevers were trending down after stay-at-home orders were issued. Meanwhile, a new study by the University of Washington has found that states with Republican governors or majority Republican legislatures are significantly slower than their Democratic counterparts to enact social distancing measures. The study is called “Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19” and points to states like Florida where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took far too long to announce a “stay-at-home” order, and that too applied only to South Florida. Also in Florida, Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne, a Pentecostal pastor, was arrested this week for endangering his parishioners by holding mass.
President Trump’s daily press briefings continue to be the focus of controversy. CNN’s Jim Acosta, who has been a favorite target of Trump for years, asked Trump why he spent days downplaying the virus spread, and quoted the President’s words back to him. The exchange was predictably disturbing. Trump faces accusations of using the press briefings as a spot for corporate advertising as he has paraded one corporate CEO after another in front of press. On Monday the Chief Executive of a company called MyPillow took to the microphone to urge people to read their bibles while in quarantine. The CEO has been a Trump cheerleader at his rallies. A new petition, signed by more than 120,000 people is calling on networks to stop airing Trump’s press briefings live and uncritically. The Moveon.org petition reads, “President Trump is blatantly using the news organizations’ extensive, live coverage to freely campaign for a second term…It is wrong and dangerous to provide so much unfettered airtime to someone who is happily, shamelessly spreading terrible, damaging misinformation that is already costing fellow Americans their lives.”
During his Monday briefing Trump once more implied that healthcare workers were stealing the much-needed masks that are in short supply. When asked about his Sunday statement that he thought the masks were “going out the back door,” Trump doubled down and challenged the reporter asking the question to investigate potential theft of masks. Meanwhile CBS News obtained a recording of a call between Trump and state governors during which Trump is heard saying to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s concerns about a lack of virus tests that he hadn’t heard anything about testing still being a problem.
Reuters reports that the virus has been found to be spreading in US prisons and jails – just as activists advocating for prisoner release warned it would. According to the outlet, “Since March 22, jails have reported 226 inmates and 131 staff with confirmed cases of COVID-19.” And NBC is reporting that long-term care facilities that largely house elderly populations, have documented at least 400 cases of infection.
Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse went on strike on Monday to protest the retail giant’s lack of worker protections and hazard pay. The company has reportedly fired Chris Smalls, the warehouse worker who was a lead organizer of the strike, saying that he “received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines.” There are documented coronavirus infections at 19 of Amazon’s warehouses. Instacart workers also went on a one-day strike and the New York Times reports that, “Though the size of the Instacart walkout was unclear, organizers said they believed that thousands of the company’s 200,000 workers were refusing to report to the job.” Whole Foods workers are expected to engage in a mass “sickout on Tuesday.”
In California, renters are planning a wave of rent strikes through the month of April. The Guardian explained that, “Activists are now coordinating rent strikes, a practice that has gained traction in LA in recent years and involves tenants organizing as a group, withholding rents and making collective demands.” Although California Gov. Gavin Newsom has placed a moratorium on evictions, it is temporary and still allows landlords to initiate the process of evictions. In Southern California, renters celebrated a rent freeze announced by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. The Mayor announced on Monday, “Rent will stay the same…This is a common sense action on top of the eviction moratorium that will help folks stay in their homes and make ends meet.”
And finally, long time labor organizer and social justice warrior Sabina Virgo has died. Her partner Kwazi Nkrumah announced her passing on Sunday after a battle with cancer of the pancreas and liver. Virgo was active in the new National Poor People’s Campaign and served as a permanent member of the board of the Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles.