Headlines: May 5, 2020
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Rates of coronavirus infection continue to grow throughout the United States — the world’s hardest hit nation – with no sign of a peak as some leaders have claimed or hoped for. Cases in New York City – the epicenter of the pandemic – have started to decline although the official count recently went up by 1,600 to include previously uncounted nursing home deaths. Across the rest of the nation however, numbers of infection continue to rise. According to the New York Times, “any notion that the threat is fading away appears to be magical thinking, at odds with what the latest numbers show.” The federal government’s own data projection, as per a leaked internal document published Monday, shows an expectation of hundreds of thousands of new infections and 3,000 deaths per day by June. Meanwhile President Donald Trump appears to have given up on any attempt to tackle a public health crisis of historic proportions and focus instead on the economy and his reelection. He said on Tuesday morning, “There is no great win, one way or the other, but I will tell you where there is a win, we are going to build a country, I did it once, two months ago we had the best economy in the history of the world, but we are going to do it again and that’s what we’re starting … it’s going to happen pretty fast.”
Another troubling report on Tuesday emerged of 15 children aged 2-15 years of age in New York City having to be hospitalized with a type of “toxic shock” linked to a rare illness called “Kawasaki disease.” Many of the children had been infected with coronavirus and their symptoms are similar to reports from Europe. Doctors worry that it may be a, “multisystem inflammatory syndrome potentially associated with Covid-19.”
In spite of plenty of evidence that the Covid-19 virus continues to spread rapidly and dangerously, a number of states have proceeded to greenlight businesses reopening. The White House’s own guidelines require seeing a decline in cases over a 2-week period and a plan in place to test all essential workers before a phased reopening. But states like Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Florida have abandoned those guidelines and raced to reopen – with open encouragement from President Trump. Most of the American public is still wary however as a new poll by the Washington Post and University of Maryland shows. Although 56% now say they feel comfortable going to a grocery store, 67% say they are not ready to shop at retail establishments and 78% worry about eating at a restaurant. A majority – 56% – disapprove of Trump’s handling of the crisis. This is at odds with the President’s own assessment of himself. He has decided to resume daily White House press briefings after openly boasting about how high his ratings were. He said on Monday, “We set every record with those press conferences. Six million people all the time. You know we had tremendous numbers… It was the highest-rated hour in cable television history. That’s what I heard.” The President has made it clear that the press briefings are a substitute for his political rallies that are now not viable.
After many months of highly critical ads aimed at the President, a Republican organization called The Lincoln Project appears to have finally gotten under the President’s skin with its latest anti-Trump ad. Trump unleashed a massive Twitter tirade late on Monday night angrily attacking George Conway, the project’s founder and the husband of his own adviser Kellyanne Conway. Here is part of the video ad called Mourning in America.
The US Senate will be in session this week – for the first time gathering under social distancing rules keeping 6 feet apart and wearing masks. Among the tasks before the body is whether or not to confirm President Trump’s pick for an Inspector General to oversee $500 billion in financial aid funds dispersed through the CARES Act. Trump has nominated White House lawyer Brian Miller for the post – a man who defended the President during the recent impeachment hearings. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown explained his reluctance at Miller’s nomination saying he, “will have to prove he works for the American people, not the White House,” and that, “He will have to show that he can hold the Trump administration accountable and ensure that the money allocated by Congress goes to workers, small businesses, and communities impacted by the crisis.” Already the CARES Act funds are shown to be disproportionately going to large wealthy firms over small businesses. The US Senate this week will also consider Trump’s nomination of Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe as the new Director of National Intelligence. Trump had nominated Ratcliffe for the position in the past but had withdrawn his name after he faced accusations of partisanship.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could be facing an ethics probe into whether he improperly created a judicial vacancy. McConnell has made it clear that stacking the American judiciary with conservative judges is his number one priority. The group Demand Justice filed a complaint over the recent retirement in March of Judge Thomas B. Griffiths from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. According to the New York Times, Senator McConnell has apparently been, “contacting appeals court judges nominated by Republican presidents to encourage them to retire,” so that Trump can replace them with conservative and far younger judges and ensure those seats remain favorable to Republicans for decades.
Anti-vaccination leaders such as the disgraced Dr. Andrew Wakefield have been holding online meetings to stoke fear against a potential coronavirus vaccine. The anti-vaccination activists have been appearing at far-right protests against lockdowns. But they are also meeting in private to encourage one another and strategize against life-saving vaccines. One vaccination advocate, Erica DeWald, told the Washington Post, “I’ve watched the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement scare parents for years. And in this moment, when parents are more scared than ever, they’re profiting off of it.” Meanwhile global leaders held a virtual meeting on Monday to coordinate efforts at a vaccine and anti-viral drugs. The United States was conspicuously absent. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was once hailed as the UK’s Trump, said, “The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed.” Johnson, who had been stricken by the virus last month said he nearly died of it.
And finally a new study on climate change is highlighting another looming disaster on the horizon. On Monday scientists published findings on data showing that in the next 50 years up to one third of the global population could find itself living in areas that are unsuitably hot for human life. The study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that 3.5 billion people could inhabit those too-hot areas. One of the study’s authors said, “We didn’t really believe our results at first…But we looked at them from many different angles.” He concluded, “if climate change remains on the current track, then a lot more will change in the coming 50 years than have changed in the past 6,000.”