Headlines: May 4, 2020
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The New York Times has obtained an internal document produced just days ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that they expect a rise in the US’s daily death toll from the coronavirus to roughly double than the current average. Specifically Donald Trump’s CDC expects an average of 3,000 deaths a day by June 1st compared to the current daily average of 1,750 a day. The Times explained, “The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation right back where it was in mid-March.” In an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Trump former Food and Drug Administration commission Scott Gottlieb, said frankly, “While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected…We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that.” In an interview with Fox News on Sunday President Trump said both, that it is safe for states to continue to reopen in the midst of the dangerous pandemic, and that the overall US death toll could be as high as 100,000 – a revision from his earlier estimate of 65,000.
The World Health Organization just reported that the US death toll from Covid-19 on a single day over this past weekend hit a high of 2,909 people – which is already close to the projected CDC daily death toll. But the deadly impact of the virus does not seem to motivate President Trump to direct the nation to continue its lockdown. Instead Trump appears to be attempting to square the grim projections of his own government with the discontent of his base over economic collapse. Last week he claimed that the rightwing protesters who entered the Michigan State capitol fully armed with rifles were “very good people.” But when Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force was asked about the protesters ignoring social distancing guidelines on Fox News, she said this: “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a comorbid condition and they have a serious or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives. So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.” That’s Dr. Deborah Birx on Fox News on Sunday.
President Trump’s Justice Department seems to be pursuing a political agenda to target states led by Democratic governors. The DOJ has just sided with a Virginia church that argued Gov. Ralph Northam’s Covid restrictions violated their religious freedoms. Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has remained firm on continuing his state’s lockdown saying that while he sympathized with protesters it was too soon to reopen. California continued its state-wide lockdown and extended it to beaches after thousands were congregating near the ocean. But Yuba and Sutter counties in Northern California have decided to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order and reopen on Monday. They followed Modoc County’s reopening on Friday. The three counties are sparsely populated with a total resident count of 171,000 and with 50 infections and 3 deaths between them. Several California businesses also reopened on their own in various parts of the state including some gyms and restaurants – most of them echoing the politics of Trump’s rightwing supporters. Already more Americans appear to be violating stay-at-home orders or easing off on restrictions, as per new cell phone data that tracks movements.
Globally, cases of coronavirus infections have surpassed 3.5 million. But there are fears that even such a high number may be a gross underestimate given that the only cases counted are those with confirmed positive tests and testing is still not nearly widespread enough. Rather than engage with global efforts that are underway to combat the virus, the Trump administration has focused on pushing a far-fetched and unproven conspiracy theory that the coronavirus is a creation of a genetics lab in Wuhan, China. After President Trump last week claimed he had evidence that he could not share publicly, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview on ABC also claimed he had “enormous evidence” to back up the theory but that could not share it. Intelligence agencies have gone on the record to say there is no evidence.
There has been some technological progress on countering the virus. The Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche announced that it had produced an antibody blood test that could show with 100% accuracy if someone had been infected and with 99.8% accuracy if someone had not been infected. The FDA has given emergency approval to the test.
The nation’s economic collapse related to the virus continues as the health care industry is reportedly hit by layoffs and closures. Doctors clinics, dental offices, and even hospitals are furloughing workers as healthcare spending fell 18% in the first quarter. Hospitals serving poor Americans have been the hardest hit so far as the Trump administration has focused most of its taxpayer funded bailout on the largest and wealthiest hospitals. The results could be devastating especially in the long run for low-income regions in the nation. Meanwhile during his Fox News interview Trump said he would not sign another coronavirus relief bill unless it included a payroll tax cut. That, according to critics, is code for cutting contributions to Social Security and Medicare in order to gut those programs. And, payroll tax cuts put more money into the pockets of only those who are still getting paychecks – not the unemployed. Trump has repeatedly claimed he would never cut Social Security and Medicare – programs that his base heavily relies on – and then repeatedly contradicted himself.
The New York Times reported that President Trump’s senior immigration adviser Stephen Miller has been waiting to use the idea of public health to curtail immigration for years. According to the paper, “the ideas about invoking public health and other emergency powers had been on a ‘wish list’ of about 50 ideas to curtail immigration that Mr. Miller crafted within the first six months of the administration.” Trump has suspended green card applications for several broad categories including family members of US citizens.
As if Americans didn’t have enough to contend with the pandemic, a new threat has reportedly arrived on US shores and its name is enough to evoke horror: murder hornets. The Washington Post explained that, “The world’s largest hornet — the size of a matchbox — is known for invading honeybee hives, decapitating all the bees in a matter of hours and carrying the mangled thoraxes back to feed their young.” The hornets can also kill humans if they are stung multiple times. It has been found in the state of Washington as scientists race to thwart the species.
And finally May 4th is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State University shootings in Ohio when four students were killed by armed National Guardsmen while protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War. The deaths of the students, Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, shocked the nation and marked what many viewed as a political turning point in America. Later this week on our program we’ll interview Deborah Wiles about her book simply titled Kent State.