Southern states largely going it alone with decisions to reopen
Governors in 17 states have committed to regional coordination to reopen their economies during the coronavirus outbreak — but none are in the South, where leaders are going it alone, just as they did in imposing restrictions.
As questions about when and how to ease virus-control measures become increasingly politically charged, governors in the Deep South have resisted any appearance of synchronization, instead driving home their message that each state must make its own decision.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to have many of his state’s businesses up and running again as soon as Friday. Fellow Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced that most businesses will begin resuming operations as soon as next week.
Some other Republican leaders were taking smaller steps, like reopening their beaches. In the virus hot spot of Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards was also taking a more cautious approach, announcing he’ll first allow some non-emergency medical procedures to resume next week.
But no one wants to coordinate. Click here to read more.
Poll shows South Koreans widely back eased restrictions as nation reports more progress vs. COVID-19
South Korea has reported fewer than 15 new COVID-19 cases for the fourth day in a row, reaffirming the apparent success of early efforts in the country to test widely for the disease, quarantine those infected and quickly trace their contacts for monitoring.
Amid the success, Seoul relaxed strict control measures this week that had been in place since February – largely because they have taken a significant toll on the nation’s economy, with the unemployment skyrocketing and much of the economy shuttered.
While the government has lifted some orders advising churches, gyms and bars to close, for example, it has warned South Koreans not to let their guard down completely.
Anyone who falls ill now is asked to stay home for 3-4 days, rather than two weeks as they had been, and officials still stress the need for good hand washing and other personal hygiene, along with social distancing where possible.
A new poll released by the Seoul Metropolitan Government shows 97% of respondents agreed the time was right to ease the strict measures implemented in February, with most citing the economic impact.
– Jen Kwon
California health care worker’s car broken into, with N95 masks and gloves stolen
Police often remind people to take out or hide valuables when leaving their cars, but amid the coronavirus pandemic, what’s considered valuable has changed.
“When I got to my car, basically the window was smashed, glass was on the ground,” David Seto, a health care worker, told CBS Los Angeles. “So I looked in there and saw what was taken.”
Seto, who works at the VA hospital in Pasadena, had parked his car overnight in a South Pasadena garage. He said the thieves knew exactly what they wanted.
“It looked like they went right for the N95 masks and some gloves, like medical gloves,” he said.
A frightening thought, especially since Seto works on the frontlines at the hospital. Click here to read more.
India implements new law to protect doctors facing attacks amid COVID-19 crisis
India’s government has implemented a new law to protect medical workers from abuse and attacks by members of the public as they battle the country’s coronavirus epidemic.
The executive order, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind and valid for six months (but indefinitely if approved by parliament), makes attacks on health care workers a non-bailable offense and proscribes a prison sentence from six months to seven years for anyone convicted of the crime.
The new law comes after a string of attacks and discriminatory attacks against doctors and nurses fighting the coronavirus.
“No incident of violence or harassment against them [doctors] will be tolerated,” Prakash Javadekar, a government minister, said Wednesday.
Thousands of doctors had been scheduled to hold candlelight vigils, protesting the attacks and demanding protection, outside hospitals Wednesday night, but the events were called off after the government promised their demands for legal protection would be met.
On Sunday night in the southern Indian city of Chennai, a doctor had to secretly bury his colleague, Dr Simon Hercules, who died of COVID-19, at a cemetery with the help of just two hospital staff after a mob attacked their ambulance, apparently fearing the burial would spread the virus.
In two other incidents, people refused to allow two other doctors who died from COVID-19 to be given their last rites. Earlier this month, two female doctors at a Delhi hospital were assaulted by a local resident “for spreading coronavirus” when they were out buying groceries.
In Madhya Pradesh state, a group of health workers was attacked by a mob when they visited a neighborhood to conduct coronavirus screening.
Minority-owned small businesses could see relief in new $484 billion aid package
On top of the disproportionate health impact the coronavirus has had on communities of color, the economic toll has also been particularly severe for minority business owners. Many of these entrepreneurs already faced structural challenges in establishing and maintaining their companies.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington took a step toward ramping up relief to those businesses, with the Senate reaching a deal to expand funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the main vehicle to provide loans to small businesses to cover payroll and certain other expenses.
The program ran out of its initial $349 billion in funding last week. The new bill allocates an additional $310 billion to the program and, crucially, $60 billion of that money is set aside for small and medium-sized financial institutions, with the goal of funneling more money to small, rural and minority-owned businesses.
As COVID-19 cases near 20,000 in India, expert warns real “test” will be this summer after lockdown
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India jumped Wednesday to 19,984. With 50 new fatalities from the coronavirus disease — the highest number recorded in a single day in India since the pandemic struck — the death total now stands at 640.
The government also said the rate of recoveries from the disease was increasing, with 3,870 people having successfully fought it off so far.
India has been under nationwide lockdown orders since March 25, which is currently scheduled to end on May 3 but could be extended.
As the lockdown takes a devastating toll on the country’s economy, however, the government this week began relaxing the restrictions in select areas less affected by the virus. On Wednesday, the government added school bookshops, electric fan stores, select public utilities, bread factories, and milk processing units to the list of businesses that can now open in less affected areas.
Dr V K Paul, a senior doctor with the government’s policy think tank Niti Aayog, warned in an interview with The Indian Express newspaper that the period after the lockdown ends would be crucial to “test the resolve” of India’s people.
“We cannot afford to fritter away the lockdown gains made at a phenomenal economic cost and hardship. We have to keep the virus transmission under check and ensure that no new peaks appear. June and July months will test our resolve,” Paul said.
Japan is dealing with another COVID-19 outbreak on a cruise ship
Japan has another cruise ship coronavirus epidemic on its hands — this time among the crew of an Italian vessel docked in Nagasaki.
The Costa Atlantica wasn’t even supposed to be in Japan. The ship had originally contracted to have repairs done in China, but with the COVID-19 pandemic raging, the ship instead sailed in to dock at Mitsubishi Shipbuilding’s Koyagi plant in southwest Japan in late January.
Japanese media said the regional government had asked the ship’s 623 crew to stay on board.
The first infection turned up on April 20, and of the 57 crew members who had close contact with the first patient, 33 have now tested positive. All have mild symptoms, and none are Japanese nationals.
The cluster of infections comes two months after 700 people contracted the virus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was docked in Yokohama.
California officials say 1st U.S. COVID-19 death was weeks earlier than previously thought
Health officials say two people died with the coronavirus in California weeks before the first reported death in the United States from the disease. Santa Clara County officials said Tuesday the people died at home Feb. 6 and Feb. 17. The first reported death in the nation from the virus was on Feb. 26 in Kirkland, Washington.
The Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation Tuesday that tissue samples sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested positive for the virus, officials said.
The announcement came after California Governor Gavin Newsom promised a “deep dive” update Wednesday of the state’s ability to test for the coronavirus and to track and isolate people who have it. That is one of the six indicators he says is key to lifting a “stay-at-home” order that has slowed the spread of the disease while forcing millions of people to file for unemployment benefits.
“This will go to the obvious questions and queries that all of us are asking: When? … When do you see a little bit of a release in the valve so that we can let out a little of this pressure,” Newsom said Tuesday. Click here to read more.
Many with criminal records need not apply for Paycheck Protection Program
Criminal records are shutting some small-business owners out of the Paycheck Protection Program.
It’s supposed to be a lifeline for small businesses, helping them stay afloat and keep employees on the payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.
But government guidelines say businesses are ineligible if anyone who owns at least 20% of the company is incarcerated, under indictment, on probation or parole, or had been convicted of a felony within the last five years.
Would-be applicants and their advocates say the restrictions are a slap in the face for those who have served their time, especially from an administration that has trumpeted second chances. Click here to read more.
New research shows L.A. County’s rate of infection could be 40 times higher than confirmed
In Los Angeles County, more than 15,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, but health officials announced this week that antibody tests show the rate of infection could be 40 times that number.
Serology tests were used in a study conducted earlier in April by the University of Southern California and the LA County Public Health Department. The tests, which detect antibodies in an individual’s blood to determine if that person had the coronavirus, showed roughly 320,000 people, or about 4% of Los Angeles’ population, have been infected with COVID-19, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Read more here.
Cuomo says New York plans to double testing capacity
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that the state aims to double coronavirus testing capacity from 20,000 tests per day to 40,000 tests per day.
Cuomo said it will take “several weeks, at best” to make the jump.
“It’s just, in some ways, an outrageous goal,” Cuomo said. “But this is New York, and we’re accustomed to outrageous goals.”