Here’s a recap of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic for Monday, April 20, 2020.
Over 2.4 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 170,000 people have died. In the United States, 780,000 coronavirus cases and more than 42,000 deaths have been confirmed.
Donald Trump announced he will sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States, while the U.S., Mexico and Canada are extending restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days. And as some areas of the U.S. begin relaxing social distancing restrictions, a new poll showed a majority of Americans fear easing those guidelines could result in more deaths.
The latest on the pandemic
• Over 2.5 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 174,000 people have died.
• The United States has more than 800,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 43,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
• President Trump announced on Twitter that “in light of the Invisible Enemy” he will sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.
• The U.S., Mexico and Canada are extending restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days.
• As some areas of the U.S. begin relaxing social distancing restrictions, a new poll showed a majority of Americans fear easing those guidelines could result in more deaths.
• Worried you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms? Here’s what the CDC says to do.
Congress, Trump in tentative deal on $500B virus relief bill
From the AP:
Congress reached a tentative agreement Tuesday with President Donald Trump on a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill that would replenish a small business rescue program, provide hospitals with another $75 billion, and implement a nationwide virus testing program to facilitate reopening the economy.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced the agreement Tuesday morning and Trump tweeted his support hours later, saying he’ll sign the bill if passes both chambers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., swung behind it as well.
“I welcome this bipartisan agreement and hope the Senate will quickly pass it,” McConnell said, blasting Schumer and Pelosi for delays in replenishing the “paycheck protection” program aimed at keeping small businesses afloat and paying their employees.
Hancock speaks during a coronavirus briefing Tuesday. (Yahoo News)
U.K.: 852 deaths in last day
Officials in the United Kingdom said Tuesday that 852 people died from COVID-19 complications in the past 24 hours, bringing the government’s official death toll to more 17,000.
“This number is another salutary lesson and it tells us of the deadly nature of this virus,” Matt Hancock, U.K.’s health secretary, said at a daily coronavirus briefing at 10 Downing Street.
Data released by the country’s Office of National Statistics, however, suggests the actual death toll from the coronavirus is much higher.
Nonetheless, Hancock said the country’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus are working.
“We owe it to [the dead] and to ourselves not to throw away the progress we’ve made so far,” he said.
A food delivery worker rides his bike in Brooklyn. (Photo by Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)
Is it ethical to order food delivery amid the coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic has forced large parts of the country to spend substantially more time at home as people practice social distancing to limit the spread of the virus. Unsurprisingly, this has caused a surge in demand for delivery services as people try to acquire the food they need without leaving the house.
Across the country, restaurants have become takeout-only businesses to stay afloat with their dining rooms shuttered. Food delivery services like GrubHub and DoorDash are scrambling to hire enough people to keep up with the spike in orders. Grocery orders were up 150 percent in March compared with the same period last year.
The system relies on an army of delivery workers to bring food from the store or restaurant to people’s front doors. These couriers face one of the highest risks of exposure to disease of any job, eclipsed mostly by medical professionals. But a large number of them are independent contractors who lack health coverage and other benefits. In March, workers for the grocery delivery service Instacart held a nationwide strike, demanding sick leave and protective gear like masks.
The situation poses a challenging ethical question: Is it fair to ask someone else to take on the health risks that come from spending time out in public when you’re not willing to do it yourself?
Stephanopoulos ‘cleared’ of COVID-19
George Stephanopoulos, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” announced on Twitter that he has fully recovered from the virus and plans to donate his plasma to help “in the coming weeks.”
Good news for me and my family. Last week I tested positive for Covid antibodies, confirming I cleared the virus after weeks without symptoms. I’ve also signed up for a clinical trial to donate my blood plasma and expect to make the donation in the coming weeks
This booking photo shows Tony Spell after he was taken into custody Tuesday. (East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Defiant Louisiana pastor arrested
Authorities in Louisiana booked a pastor on an assault charge on Tuesday after he admitted that he drove his church bus toward a man who has been protesting his decision to hold mass gatherings in defiance of public health orders during the coronavirus pandemic.
The police department in Central, a suburb of Baton Rouge, said on a posting on their Facebook page that Tony Spell, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church, turned himself into the department and was arrested on charges of aggravated assault and improper backing. Officials said Spell also had outstanding traffic tickets.
Spell was taken to the East Baton Rouge Parish prison, where about 70 of his parishioners, dressed in their Sunday best, arrived in church buses to show support. Men in jackets and ties, women in dresses and children, some in matching outfits, gathered in a parking lot across the street. They stood close to each other, praying and singing hymns while guards, some wearing protective masks watched.
Spell eventually walked out of the jail to applause from his supporters, after his wife entered the jail with a handful of cash that had been delivered by someone in a car. Online booking records indicate bail was set at $175.
“My rights to have church and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police and not my governor, John Bel Edwards,” Spell said. “Not my president and not my Department of Justice.”
The arrest happened on the same day the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner reported that deaths in the parish, which encompasses the state capital of Baton Rouge and Central, had surpassed 100.
Attorney General William Barr speaks during a coronavirus briefing at the White House last month. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Attorney general suggests DOJ may take legal action against governors
Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department will consider taking legal action against governors if they continue to impose coronavirus restrictions that infringe on constitutional rights.
In an interview Tuesday on “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” Barr said such stay-at-home orders and lockdowns are justified — for now — but eventually states should move to more “targeted” measures.
“We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe,” Barr said. “To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce — our common market that we have here — then we’ll have to address that.”
“These are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty, and we adopted them, we have to remember, for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread, that is bending the curve,” Barr continued. “We didn’t adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease.”
“You can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say well, we’re killing the cancer, because we were getting to the point where we’re killing the patient,” he added. “And now is the time that we have to start looking ahead and adjusting to more targeted therapies.”
Trump speaks during his daily coronavirus press briefing on Monday. (Alex Brandon/AP)
More deaths, no benefit from hydroxychloroquine in new study
A malaria drug widely touted by President Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals, the Associated Press reports. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers said.
The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.
Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11. About 28 percent who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11 percent of those getting routine care alone. About 22 percent of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival. Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.
Researchers did not track side effects, but noted hints that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death. Earlier this month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a hydroxychloroquine study after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.
Protesters demonstrate in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Who’s behind the social-distancing protests?
Over the last week, protests against social-distancing orders have sprung up across the country. The crowds have generally numbered a few hundred, been predominantly white and had some carrying firearms. Although they give the appearance of spontaneous demonstrations by angry citizens, in fact they have largely been organized by conservative activists.
The rallies are pushing back against social distancing guidelines put in place by governors in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has led to at least 42,000 deaths in the United States. Medical experts universally say that stopping the chain of transmission to avoid overwhelming medical systems is the only way to buy time while treatments and vaccines are developed.
Some of the rallies are being pushed by Republican-allied groups in battleground states with Democratic governors. According to the Associated Press, last week’s Michigan protest was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a group co-founded by a GOP state representative and his wife, who is on the advisory board for an official Trump campaign group called “Women for Trump” and is also the co-founder of Michigan Trump Republicans. Another of the event’s promoters, Greg McNeilly, is a long-time political adviser to the wealthy DeVos family, which includes current Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Protests across the Midwest were driven by Facebook groups created by the Dorr family of conservative activists. Ben Dorr is the leader of the Minnesota Gun Rights organization, and along with his brothers, Chris and Aaron, has promoted Facebook groups protesting the guidelines. According to the Washington Post, roughly 200,000 people are members of groups targeting stay-at-home orders in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Dorr was a primary organizer for Monday’s rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital.
A protest in Texas was broadcast by InfoWars, the conspiracy theory boosting site owned by Alex Jones. Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration told Jones to stop promoting scam coronavirus therapies.
InfoWars has already announced their plans for a second rally this Saturday, writing on their website, “Show the globalists, including eugenicist Bill Gates, the World Health Organization and the CDC, that they can’t suspend freedom in America at a mere whim, and that they can’t force us to wear face masks like the people in Communist China, from whence the Wuhan coronavirus originated.”
While photos and videos from the protests have proliferated across cable news and social media platforms, the attendees represent a minority of Americans. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Monday found that 60 percent of Americans oppose the protests, while just 22 percent support them.
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