By Robert A. Vella
Today’s focus is on the firestorm of politics and bizarre human behaviors swirling around the coronavirus pandemic. Are we are own worst enemy?
A back-flip from US President Donald Trump on quarantining New York highlighted the panic and confusion across many parts of the world in trying to contain the pandemic, which has seen more than a third of humanity placed under unprecedented lockdowns.
More than 30,800 deaths had been reported worldwide by Sunday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, as the virus continued to leave a devastating imprint on nearly every aspect of society: wiping out millions of jobs, overwhelming healthcare services and draining national treasuries.
Europe alone accounted for more than 20,000 fatalities, where hardest-hit Italy and Spain each reported more than 800 dead in one day.
Trump’s reversal came on the same day the US death toll topped 2,100, more than doubling in just three days. Of the fatalities, more than a quarter were in New York City.
Health officials say they fear New York may follow the deadly path charted by Italy, with health professionals exhausted and hospitals desperately short of protective equipment and ventilators.
The Trump administration issued a guidance that said the firearm industry should be allowed to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.
A memo released Saturday by the Homeland Security Department said workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges are part of its “essential critical infrastructure workforce” advisory list during the COVID-19 response effort.
Besides the section for law enforcement, public, safety and other first responders under which the firearm industry fell, the long advisory list also included sections for healthcare/public health, food and agriculture, energy, water and wastewater, transportation and logistics, and many others. DHS developed the list in collaboration with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector.
Several states including California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have deemed gun stores to be “non-essential” businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, forcing the shops to shutter. The National Rifle Association and several other gun rights groups filed a lawsuit against the state of California, alleging such closures violate the Second Amendment rights of the state’s citizens.
WASHINGTON — Early on, the dozen federal officials charged with defending America against the coronavirus gathered day after day in the White House Situation Room, consumed by crises. They grappled with how to evacuate the United States consulate in Wuhan, China, ban Chinese travelers and extract Americans from the Diamond Princess and other cruise ships.
The members of the coronavirus task force typically devoted only five or 10 minutes, often at the end of contentious meetings, to talk about testing, several participants recalled. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its leaders assured the others, had developed a diagnostic model that would be rolled out quickly as a first step.
But as the deadly virus from China spread with ferocity across the United States between late January and early March, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen — because of technical flaws, regulatory hurdles, business-as-usual bureaucracies and lack of leadership at multiple levels, according to interviews with more than 50 current and former public health officials, administration officials, senior scientists and company executives.
Woodrow Wilson did not address the nation on the subject of the pandemic of 1918-19 a single time. He did not call for Congress to act, and he did not summon the nation to unite. He had another battle to fight in trying to bring World War I to a close, even though the flu killed far more people.
While his posture on the flu seems passive, even reckless, in a modern light, Wilson’s approach to war demonstrated an entirely different view of federal power than President Donald Trump’s approach to the current pandemic. Wilson fully exploited the authority of the federal government, compelling rationing, propaganda and nationalizing the railroads, all directed at defeating Germany, not the virus.
Trump has framed his fight against the pandemic as a war, and himself as a wartime president. But rather than fully lever the power of the federal government, he has increasingly put responsibility on the states, reigniting the kind of tension the nation’s founders wrestled with more than two centuries ago.
The feud with states boiled over Thursday when Trump got into a contentious exchange with several governors. States are demanding more sweeping help from the federal government to battle an insidious challenge the founders never knew existed — a global public health crisis. It calls into question how well a system of federalism — where power is legally shared between a national government and the states — can work when the needs are so urgent and the politics so polarized.
President Donald Trump signed into law a record $2.2 trillion stimulus bill on Friday to help boost the economy and help push resources to health care providers amid the coronavirus crisis. The bill is the largest package to bring relief to business and individuals that has ever been approved in the country’s history and Trump seemed to be in awe of the final price tag when he was signing the bill. “I never signed anything with a T on it,” he said.
Even though the president thanked “Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” it seems he wants Americans to thank him for any checks they receive. Trump has told people he wants his signature to appear on the direct payment checks, an administration official told the Wall Street Journal. A civil servant would normally sign the checks.
Over the last two weeks, Trump has embarked on a striking chapter of his optics-obsessed presidency, turning the all-but-abandoned briefing room into the set of a largely unscripted television series that has gripped, worried and (depending on one’s political affiliation) infuriated viewers.
Stripped of the weapon of his rallies, of “chopper talk,” of the sorts of set pieces to which the populace had grown accustomed over the three-plus years he’s been commander-in-chief, Trump as a president in crisis has engineered something different. While governors from New York to California have staged almost daily briefings, offering a traditional mixture of stern warnings and words of comfort, Trump has created something more like a show built on narrative surprises and populated with familiar characters—the good doctors, the bad reporters, the loyal lieutenants. And in the middle of it all, playing the role of the ringmaster, the marketer and the brander and the professed expert, is Trump.
His mood and his message have ebbed and flowed, alternately boasting and bashing, soothing and striking, intermittently solemn, flippant and peeved, flouting facts and shifting blame, underplaying dire projections and overselling potential vaccines.
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders joined state lawmakers in New York and California in calls to freeze and forgive rent payments, as millions of Americans struggle to make ends meet under coronavirus lockdown.
Sanders and Biden followed several state-level Democrats in demanding a 90-day or three-month moratorium in tenants paying rent to landlords. After nationwide U.S. confirmed cases of coronavirus surpassed 100,000 Friday, Biden concurred with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order protecting renters from eviction as a direct result of medical or employment issues tied to COVID-19. Sanders offered his support on Saturday to New York State Senator Mike Gianaris, who is leading “#CancelRent” calls, and who proposed Senate Bill 8125A Friday to suspend rent payments for small businesses and tenants who’ve either had their paychecks eliminated or reduced by the coronavirus quarantine.
New York on Saturday became the latest state to postpone its primary races amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference the intent to move the contest to June 23.
In response, the Democratic National Convention said their Rules and Bylaws Committee would meet to discuss “next steps” for states planning to hold their primaries after the June 9 deadline, including Kentucky; Louisiana and now New York.
NAIROBI —Kenya’s dusk-to-dawn curfew was intended to encourage social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Instead, security forces unleashed beatings and tear gas, injuring dozens of people, potentially exposing many more to the virus and damaging public trust in the government’s strategy to contain the outbreak.
In cities across Kenya, policemen and other uniformed officers used their boots and batons in a brutal crackdown — with some incidents caught on video — seemingly carried out to drive home the seriousness of the curfew measure that took effect Friday.
But witnesses and others caught in the clashes describe indiscriminate attacks by security forces and detention tactics that crowded people together in violation of social distancing protocols.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Even as coronavirus cases mount in Latin America’s largest nation, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has staked out the most deliberately dismissive position of any major world leader, calling the pandemic a momentary, minor problem and saying strong measures to contain it are unnecessary.
Bolsonaro says his response to the disease matches that of President Donald Trump in the U.S., but the Brazilian leader has gone further, labeling the virus as “a little flu” and saying state governors’ aggressive measures to halt the disease were crimes.
On Thursday, Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, that he feels Brazilians’ natural immunity will protect the nation.