Headlines for March 17, 2020

Here in the United States, there have been more than 4,500 confirmed cases and 87 deaths, but more accurate numbers are still not known as testing remains extremely limited. President Trump released national guidelines Monday designed to help control the spread of COVID-19, including avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, stopping discretionary travel, and avoiding restaurants, bars, gyms and other public places for the next two weeks. Trump appeared to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic for the first time, saying, “This is a bad one. … It’s just so contagious.” Trump responded to a reporter asking him to rate his administration’s response to the pandemic.

President Donald Trump: “I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job. And it started with the fact that we kept a very highly infected country, despite all of the — even the professionals saying, ‘No, it’s too early to do that,’ we were very, very early with respect to China. And we would have a whole different situation in this country if we didn’t do that. I would rate it at a very, very — I would rate ourselves and the professionals — I think the professionals have done a fantastic job.”

Medical and public health experts say Trump’s early dismissal and delayed response to the outbreak contributed to coronavirus spreading undetected for weeks. Trump again attacked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday, tweeting, “Just had a very good tele-conference with Nations’s Governors. Went very well. Cuomo of New York has to ‘do more’.” Governor Cuomo responded “I have to do more? No — YOU have to do something! You’re supposed to be the President.” He later added, “Happy to do your job, too. Just give me control of the Army Corps of Engineers and I’ll take it from there.” New York recently closed all its schools, restaurants and entertainment venues in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Residents across six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have been ordered to “shelter in place” until April 7. The directive affects around 7 million people.
As of Monday, 37 states and the District of Columbia have moved to close public schools in some way. Over 37 million students and their families are being affected. Many districts are implementing alternative plans so that students who need it can still receive free meals.

The Supreme Court is delaying oral arguments. It’s the first time the court has taken such measures since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. The court was scheduled to hear arguments later this month around Trump’s attempts to shield his tax returns and financial documents from lawmakers and a New York prosecutor.

The U.S. airline industry is seeking a $50 billion bailout package to cope with the fallout of the outbreak. Trump tweeted Monday, “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!” The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have explicitly warned that referring to COVID-19 as a “Chinese” virus is not accurate and further fuels racism against Chinese people and other people of Asian descent. Trump did not offer similar assistance to homeless people, uninsured or unemployed people, and workers affected by the pandemic.

In election news, Kentucky became the latest state to postpone its primary over the outbreak. Meanwhile, in Ohio, which was set to vote today, Governor Mike DeWine ordered officials to not open polling places, despite a judge denying a last-minute bid to delay the election. Election officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois said their primaries would proceed as scheduled today.

In Ohio, the ACLU welcomed the release of vulnerable prisoners in Cuyahoga County during the pandemic. The prisoners either had their cases settled or were released on house arrest. The ACLU and other rights groups are calling on prisons around the country to release high-risk and elderly prisoners.

Meanwhile, in New York, an investigator with the Department of Correction died after contracting COVID-19. The investigator had limited contact with prisoners, according to officials, but his death further fueled concerns over how to protect prisons during the outbreak. The New York City Department of Correction said Monday it was suspending in-person visits starting this week.

In New York City and other locations across the country, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been canceled or postponed. It’s the first time the event has been called off in New York City in over 250 years. Other major annual events, including the Kentucky Derby, have also been called off. Major League Baseball became the latest sporting organization to suspend its season.

Amazon said Monday it would hire an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers to handle a surge in online shopping.

A government official said Monday the first clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine had begun. It could take from one year up to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine.

The White House said more coronavirus drive-through and walk-through test locations will open this week.

This comes as German biotech firm CureVac has denied reports Trump attempted to get exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine it is developing. Reports emerged over the weekend Trump offered the CureVac CEO around $1 billion for the rights — which would make the vaccine available only in the United States. CureVac’s majority owner, co-founder of German software giant SAP, reportedly confirmed the conversation took place, despite the recent denial. German officials also confirmed the story and rejected the idea, saying, “if a vaccine is developed in Germany, then it is for Germany and the world.” The White House has also denied the reports.

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