We keep an eye on the president’s tweets every day, of course, but don’t report on all of them. This one, however, needs to be disseminated.
Fact check: there are no accurate facts in this tweet of Donald Trump’s.
It’s been a busy morning and there is more to come. The White House coronavirus task force briefing is due to take place at 5pm ET this evening.
Here are the main events so far today:
- Protests against stay-at-home orders continue, with demonstrators gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, today and also expected in Austin, Texas.
- New York state, the center of the US outbreak of the coronavirus, has announced that it appears to be past its peak for the disease, although more than 500 people died just yesterday and the state is not out of the woods, and has no timeline for reopening businesses or relaxing social distancing.
- Queen Elizabeth II has announced low key birthday celebrations this year, because of quarantining during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Former presidential candidate and sitting Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, whose husband caught coronavirus, accused the Trump administration of losing time by not having a national strategy to combat the coronavirus.
- Worries continue nationwide in the US over a lack of resources or strategies for mass testing and contact tracing as a way out of lockdown, and at rising protests about restrictions in place to limit the spread of the illness.
People in a small Indianapolis suburb have had some welcome financial relief during the pandemic – from anonymous donors.
Fortville’s nearly 4,000 residents had their water and sewer bills paid for by anonymous businesses.
Residents were informed Friday through a Facebook post, generating a string of grateful comments.
“The town has received a gracious donation with the stipulation that it be used to pay for April water/sewer bills. If you have already paid your April bill, you will see a credit on the May billing,” the post read, according to the AP.
Fortville town manager Joe Renner says the total donation was more than $210,000. Renner told The Indianapolis Star newspaper it was pretty great the town had such caring people.
Protesters demand to ‘reopen Maryland’
Following a rally in Michigan that drew thousands of people, protesters asking the governor to “Reopen Maryland” converged on the state’s capital at noon on Saturday.
The protesters, who argue that the public health shutdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus are doing more harm than good, have been encouraged to rally by President Donald Trump.
The organizers of the “Reopen Maryland” event wrote on Facebook that they were asking participants not to leave their cars except in an emergency, but that they aimed to fill Annapolis with as many vehicles as possible, and to make some noise. Early footage from local news outlets in Annapolis showed some streets filled with cars, and though the number of people showing up to attend the protest was not immediately clear.
Early images shared on Twitter by people who said they were participating in the “Reopen Maryland” protest today showed cars assembling in a mall parking lot. Some of the cars were flying American flags, others Maryland flags, and they were covered in written slogans: “Bring Back Small Business!” and “We the People!”
Other people who said they were joining the protest shared photographs of what they had written on their own vehicles.
The “Reopen Maryland” group is asking Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, “to immediately reopen our state’s business, educational and religious institutions”.
“The economic, social and educational disruption caused by shutdowns is guaranteed to cause significant, even greater, harm, leading to increased deaths, economic disruption, loss of livelihood, and educational challenges for Marylanders and their families,” they argued in an online petition.
And photojournalist Jim Giordano captured the soundtrack at the protest (beyond the car honking).
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said the United States and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to non-essential travel for another 30 days in his daily update on the nation’s coronavirus response.
“Canada and the United States have agreed to extend by another 30 days the border measures that are currently in place,” Trudeau said. “This is an important decision and one that will keep people on both sides of the border safe.”
Trudeau’s remarks came three days after Trump said the US-Canada border, which is normally crossed by nearly 200,000 people daily, would be among the first to open. The agreement had been set to expire on Tuesday.
The prime minister also announced the designation of $306m to support Indigenous businesses across Canada.
“These businesses employ people right across the country, in small communities and big cities alike,” he said.
“We are today signing an executive order allowing people to get their marriage licenses remotely and also allowing clerks to perform ceremonies over video,” the secretary to the New York governor says. “So if that’s an avenue people want to go down, it will be available to them.”
“Video marriage ceremonies,” Cuomo says with a smile. “There is now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse. You can do it by Zoom. Yes or no.”
“The emotion in this country is as high as I can recall,” Cuomo says, “People are frustrated. We’re anxious, we’re scared, we’re angry. We’ve never been through this before. And on every level, this is a terrible experience. It’s disorienting, it threatens you to your core. It makes you reflect on your whole life and it really has … it’s mentally very difficult, it’s emotionally difficult, economically it’s disastrous. The market goes down, your retirement funds go down, you’re not getting a paycheck. It is as tumultuous a time as we have ever seen. But in the midst of this, there is no time for politics. How does the situation get worse and get worse quickly? If you politicize all that emotion. We cannot go there.”
Cuomo invokes Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1858 remark – “A house divided against itself cannot stand” – noting that it itself was borrowed from Mark 3:25.
“This is accepted wisdom,” he says. “A house cannot rise up from the greatest challenge it has seen since World War II. This is no time and no place for division. We have our hands full as it is. Let’s just stay together and let’s work it through. And that’s why we’re called the United States, right? And the unity was key, going back to Abraham Lincoln. It was always about the unity. Going back to the framers of the Constitution, it was always balance of power to ensure unity. And we need that unity now more than every before.”
“Testing is the single most important topic,” Cuomo says. “Testing is how you monitor the rate of infection and you control for it.”
Cuomo cites New Rochelle as an example of how an outbreak can be controlled with concentrated testing, citing this New York Times story.
“The challenge is now bringing this up to scale,” he says. “We did 500,000 tests in a month. That’s great news. The bad news is it’s only a fraction of what you need. The more you test, the more information, the more you can reopen society.”
NY is past peak, but more than 500 people died yesterday
New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the net change in total hospitalizations are down over the last three days. ICU admissions are down, as are intubations across the state.
More worryingly, there were 2,000 new hospitalizations yesterday.
“That is still an overwhelming number every day,” Cuomo says at the top of his daily briefing from Albany. “We’re not at the peak but this is where we were in late March.”
He adds there were 540 deaths in the past 24-hour period, down from 630 the day before: “It’s not as high as it was, but still: 540 people died yesterday.”
The United States is struggling to test enough people to track and control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This is a crucial first step to reopening parts of the economy, which Donald Trump is pushing to do by May 1, the AP writes.
Trump on Thursday released a plan to ease business restrictions that hinges on a downward trajectory of positive tests.
But more than a month after he declared, “Anybody who wants a test, can get a test,” the reality has been much different.
People report being unable to get tested. Labs and public officials say critical supply shortages are making it impossible to increase testing to the levels experts say is necessary to keep the virus in check.
“There are places that have enough test swabs, but not enough workers to administer them. There are places that are limiting tests because of the CDC criteria on who should get tested,” said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and associate professor at Brown University.
“There’s just so many inefficiencies and problems with the way that testing currently happens across this country.”
Trump’s plan envisions setting up “sentinel surveillance sites” that would screen people without symptoms in locations that serve older people or minority populations
Experts say testing would have to increase as much as threefold to be effective.
Fired aircraft carrier’s captain could learn fate soon
The Navy’s top admiral will soon decide the fate of the ship captain who was fired after pleading for commanders to move faster to safeguard his coronavirus-infected crew on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
In the glare of a public spotlight, Admiral Mike Gilday will decide whether Navy Captain Brett Crozier stepped out of line when he went around his chain of command and sent an email pushing for action to stem the outbreak, The AP writes.
As of Friday, 660 sailors on the aircraft carrier, now docked at the US Pacific territory of Guam, had tested positive for the virus and seven were hospitalized.
One sailor has died, and more than 4,000 of the ship’s 5,000 crew members have been moved onto the island for quarantine.
Gilday’s review won’t be limited to Crozier. It will also look at the command climate on the ship and higher up within the Pacific-based fleet, to determine if there are broader leadership problems in a region critical to America’s national security interests.
Gilday has many options as he reviews what was an extraordinarily rapid investigation by Admiral Robert Burke, the vice chief of naval operations.
Burke and his staff finished the review in about a week, conducting interviews almost entirely online and by phone between Washington and Guam.
Racial toll of coronavirus grows even starker as more data emerges
As a clearer picture emerges of Covid-19’s decidedly deadly toll on black Americans, leaders are demanding a reckoning of the systemic policies they say have made many African Americans far more vulnerable to the virus, including inequity in access to health care and economic opportunity, The Associated Press writes.
A growing chorus of medical professionals, activists and political figures are pressuring the federal government to not just release comprehensive racial demographic data of the country’s coronavirus victims, but also to outline clear strategies to blunt the devastation on African Americans and other communities of color.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its first breakdown of Covid-19 case data by race, showing that 30% of patients whose race was known were black. The federal data was missing racial information for 75% of all cases, however, and did not include any demographic breakdown of deaths.
The latest AP analysis of available state and local data shows that nearly one-third of those who have died are African American, with black people representing about 14% of the population in the areas covered in the analysis.
Roughly half the states, representing less than a fifth of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths, have yet to release demographic data on fatalities. In states that have, about a quarter of the death records are missing racial details.
“Better to be six feet apart than six feet under”
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer is under assault by right-wing driven protests for her tough restrictions on Michiganders during the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters, some heavily armed, swarmed the state capitol earlier in the week, briefly chanting: “Lock her up” – a strong echo of one of Donald Trump’s most regular prompts about Hillary Clinton at rallies during and since the 2016 election.
Last night Trump called such demonstrators “responsible people” in an ominous echo of the language he used when he said there were “fine people on both sides” after the deadly clashes between white nationalist and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
Yesterday Whitmer, a Democrat, declared, unequivocally, in an interview on ABC: ““You know, I can take it [the protests]. If it makes people feel better to take their frustrations out on me, that’s fine. All I ask is let’s not get overly political here. Let’s focus on the public health.”
The governor said she recognized that her stay-at-home order comes with a price as people get laid off and children are prevented from going to school, but also that the order was necessary to protect Michiganders from the Covid-19 outbreak.
“It’s better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under,” she said.
On CNN this morning, former Michigan Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm said of right restrictions: “She doesn’t want to do them but she wants to protect the people of the state – Democrat and Republican. She is not going to [relax] while people’s lives are at stake.”
Granholm criticized protesters for not keeping physical distance, handing out candy to children, without wearing face masks or gloves, and by clogging traffic “blocking amblances from getting to the hospital,” she said.
British monarch cancels high-profile birthday celebrations
Queen Elizabeth II, monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth (ie she’s literally on the money in Canada, Australia and some other members of the Commonwealth) has announced she is canceling the traditional royal gun salute for her birthday on Tuesday, when she turns 94.
She will spend the day privately at Windsor Castle, on the outskirts of London, with Prince Philip, 98. Family members are expected to video call her on the day, the Guardian reports.
You can follow British developments relating to the coronavirus on our UK live blog.
And you can follow global developments on the coronavirus pandemic via our global live blog.
Interestingly, the global live blog has a headline relating to the anger US Senator Angus King, of Maine, displayed yesterday, after a call between vice president Mike Pence and some Democratic leaders in the US Senate did not go well.
The Dems were frustrated that the federal government is not responding sufficiently to complaints from state officials for more resources for testing and tracking their residents, so they can get a handle on shutting the virus down and opening up their economies.
Angus referred to “a dereliction of duty” by the federal government.
The number of confirmed US coronavirus cases hit 706,779 this morning — and nationwide deaths now total 37,079, the latest data indicate. As of the most recent count, 3,574,392 US residents have been tested.
To give some perspective: Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the outbreak, noted that there are a total of 2,261,631 confirmed cases and 154,789 deaths worldwide.
Johns Hopkins also noted that New York City presently has 131,661 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 13,202 fatalities.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins also provided updated numbers for New York City, which leads the country with 131,661 confirmed cases and 13,202 deaths.
The statistics are sure to change throughout the day. We’ll keep you posted with updates.
Here’s Robin McKie, the science and environment editor of the Observer, the Guardian’s sister newspaper (and the oldest surviving Sunday newspaper in the world, FYI).
“There was never a national strategy”
Klobuchar’s husband, John Bessler, was desperately sickened by coronavirus, but eventually pulled through after being hospitalized.
“You cannot hold their hand. You cannot hug the healthcare workers” who are caring for your loved one. “It’s a horrific disease,” Klobuchar said.
With governors and the federal government at battle stations, Klobuchar pointed to remarks by New York governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday about those disliking the quarantine orders: “If you’re mad, call me.”
Klobuchar said moments ago: “Does the president of the United States say that? No. At the Republican convention [in 2016 when he snagged the party nomination for the White House] he said ‘I alone can fix it’, then it was back to the governors [to take responsibility for fighting coronavirus], then he was in charge, then it’s [again] up to the governors.
“There was never a national strategy for testing and a national strategy to prepare our country. If we had not lost those precious months and could have been in better shape right now.”
Worries over testing and partisan protests
Good morning, US live blog readers, the coronavirus doesn’t rest on weekends and neither do we. Stay tuned for up-to-the-minute news on US politics and the pandemic.
There are widespread concerns about the growing occurrence of sporadic protests around the nation. These flared up earlier in the week in several states, most notably Michigan and Minnesota, against the continuance of stay-at-home orders by governors (which follow federal guidelines) as they try to contain the disease. Most US public helath experts believe the number of coronavirus cases has not yet peaked in the US, though the may peak soon.
The protests appear to have had a partisan bent, with a preponderance of “Trump 2020” flags, Trump baseball hats and signs criticizing Democratic party state governors, and some demonstrators toting assault rifles.
Now Texas, with a Republican governor, Greg Abbott, is expecting protesters to gather today at the state capitol in Austin to call for the reopening of the state’s economy – and the country’s – and an end to social distancing orders and business closures.
The rally is being called “You Can’t Close America”.
Last night at the White House coronavirus task force briefing, Donald Trump and his vice-president, Mike Pence, both delivered messages saying that there are enough tests available across the nation to track and control the spread of coronavirus and move to “phase one” reopening of the economy, which non-essential businesses starting up again.
This goes against what many governors are saying, some Republicans as well as Democrats, that they do not have enough resources yet to begin safely opening up towards normal life again.
And the Guardian is reporting today on some of the right-wing forces, both political and financial, that appear to be driving protesters, whom Trump on Friday called “responsible people”.
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