Under protest: Since Friday, protests against restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19 have taken place in Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, western New York state and Washington state, Holly Yan reports for CNN. The protesters have the support of influential groups from Washington D.C., including FreedomWorks, a conservative organization with close ties to the Tea Party, and Stephen Moore, an economist advising President Trump on reopening the economy. “If I get sick, then I am going to bear the consequences of my getting sick,” Andy Lyons, a protester in Indianapolis, told CNN affiliate WTHR. “If anybody else gets sick, they bear the consequences of their free choice without government coercion to do so. That’s what this is about.” At a protest Monday in Sacramento, people carried signs that said things like, “I need to go back to work” and “Paychecks are essential.” Nurses and other health care workers have participated in counter-protests, urging people to go home, Adam Gabbatt reports for The Guardian. Many of the anti-shutdown protesters are defying social distancing recommendations, like covering their faces or staying six feet apart, and experts predict an additional wave of coronavirus cases two to four weeks from now. The president has stoked the flames of these protests, tweeting about “liberating” the states, Maggie Haberman wrote in The New York Times.
- Also: Global cases of Covid-19 passed 2.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins, with nearly 800,000 in the United States. More than 42,000 people have died from the disease in the U.S.
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Open and shut: The governors of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina have announced plans to start loosening restrictions in their states, allowing businesses ranging from salons and gyms to flea markets, florists and bookstores to reopen, Louis Casiano reports for Fox News. By the end of April, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said movie theaters and restaurants can reopen; beaches in South Carolina reopened today. Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted that he plans to suspend all immigration to the country to protect American jobs and respond to the attack of the “Invisible Enemy,” The Washington Post reports. As Rebecca Ballhaus and Michelle Hackman write in The Wall Street Journal, virtually all processing of immigrants to the country already has been paused. Any new rule will likely include exceptions for farm workers and health care workers, an administration official told The Journal.
Free oil: On Monday, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices fell to negative $37.63 per barrel–meaning producers would have to pay you that much to take it off their hands–the first time such a thing has happened. Oil producers refused to slow down extraction, even as demand for the product plummeted, causing a glut, Karen Ho reports for Quartz. If you have a place to store oil right now, you could make a killing—but there are only so many facilities to do so. What does it all mean? As Neil Irwin explains in the The New York Times, “the broader takeaway is that the Covid-19 crisis is an extraordinary deflationary shock to the economy.”
Take it back: The name might be Shake Shack, but the burger chain with the run-down sounding name is anything but, with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions. That’s why the company is giving back the $10 million it got from the federal program meant to help small businesses, Stephanie Ruhle and Alex Johnson report for NBC News. The $349 billion pot of money that was the Paycheck Protection Program is already out of funds, less than two weeks after it was created.
- Also: Continental Materials, a company that makes heating and cooling equipment and construction products and made more than $100 million in sales last year, also received a $5.5 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, Robert Benincasa reports for NPR. U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Ronald Gidwitz, whom President Trump appointed in 2018 after he worked as campaign finance chair for Illinois in the 2016 presidential campaign, is a member of the prominent Chicago family that owns the company.
Canada’s worst mass shooting: A 51-year-old denture specialist named Gabriel Wortman went on a killing spree late Saturday night that lasted 12 hours, leaving a police officer, two nurses, an elementary school teacher and at least 15 others dead in northern Nova Scotia, Steve McKinley and Douglas Quan report for The Toronto Star. The violence only ended after police officers shot and killed Wortman at a gas station. Wortman was wearing a Mountie uniform and driving a replica cruiser, and he set crime scenes on fire in his wake. Police officials have said the number of victims could increase after the burned areas are examined more closely, according to The Canadian Press. The motive for the killings remains unclear.
Safer at home: A slim silver lining of the lockdowns is that the number of car crashes in California, including fatal car crashes, is down by more than 50 percent, Brian Freeman writes in Newsmax, reporting on a new survey from the University of California, Davis. Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis, told the Los Angeles Times that the state is saving “about $40 million a day. That’s about $15 billion over a one-year period, which is almost the size of the state portion of California’s transportation budget for a year.” The projected savings include the costs of property damage, treatment of injuries, lost time at work and emergency response.
- Also: In New York, the city’s automated speeding cameras have issued nearly twice as many speeding tickets as they did earlier this year, as drivers take advantage of clearer streets, Winnie Hu reports for The New York Times. As of April 14, three more people have been killed in motor vehicles in New York City this year compared with the same period last year.
Slash and burn: The White House is planning to repeal or suspend a whole slate of regulations on businesses as a way to encourage economic growth during the coronavirus recovery, Jeff Stein and Robert Costa report for The Washington Post. The slashed regulations could impact environmental policy, labor policy, workplace safety and health care, just for starters. Deregulation has been a cornerstone of the Trump administration’s agenda from the beginning of his term, and will open the president up to criticism from Democrats. “This sounds exactly like the type of opportunistic political move that absolutely should not be attempted right now,” Jared Bernstein, a former adviser to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, told The Post. “Correlations between regulations and economic activity are far shakier than they assume, and I don’t believe this idea will help at all.”
On the horizon: Of course, we are already living with many of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks. On the 10th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, in which a BP oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spilling 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the Associated Press reports that safety rules have been eased as part of the president’s drive to boost U.S. oil production. The number of safety inspections in the Gulf are down more than 20 percent over the past six years. What’s more, companies are tapping into deeper and more dangerous oil reserves. “Higher risk, higher pressure, higher temperatures, more reliance on technology — it’s just a tougher environment to operate in,” Lois Epstein, a Wilderness Society civil engineer who has advised the government on improving drilling safety, told the AP.
- Also: Researchers say the Gulf of Mexico still hasn’t fully recovered from the BP oil spill, and it could be years before the full extent of the damage is known, Sara Sneath reports for Nola.com. “Every fish tested in the Gulf of Mexico has some trace of oil in it,” Sneath writes. “Dolphins living in Barataria Bay have high rates of chronic lung disease and lower birth rates. And the coastal wetlands nearest the spill site may never fully recover.”
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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