In memoriam: Confirmed cases of coronavirus globally surged past the 1 million mark this week, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, and now stand at more than 1,066,000, with more than 56,000 deaths. Confirmed cases in the U.S. passed 257,000, with more than 6,600 deaths. The New York Times has begun a series memorializing those who have died from complications of Covid-19, including Fountains of Wayne singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger and the actor Mark Blum, who was known for his roles in “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Crocodile Dundee,” and most recently appeared in television shows including “You” and “Succession.”
- Also: A team of volunteers are collecting memorials to coronavirus victims posted on social media channels with the hashtag #COVIDmemorial, and sharing them in one place. “People around the world are realizing that COVID-19 is much more than statistics and graphs. This virus has a face, and too often that face belongs to someone we love,” they write. “These are the faces and lives we have already lost.”
What’s in a number? Earlier this week the White House released a projection that showed 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide as a result of coronavirus. But, as William Wan, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and Joel Achenbach report for The Washington Post, disease forecasters have no idea how the administration arrived at that figure, because the administration has not released the underlying data so others can assess its reliability. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and staff from the vice president’s office have doubts about the accuracy of the projection, according to three officials who spoke with the Post. “I’ve looked at all the models,” Fauci reportedly said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.”
- Also: The government has increased Fauci’s security, after he became a target for both threats as well as unwelcome attention from admirers, according to The Post. Conspiracy theories around Fauci and coronavirus more generally have been proliferating, and even prompted one train engineer to purposefully derail a freight train near the USNS Mercy, a Navy medical ship providing relief to Los Angeles hospitals by taking on non-coronavirus trauma patients. The suspect reportedly was suspicious of the ship and believed officials were lying about its real purpose.
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You’re fired: Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly has relieved Capt. Brett Crozier from his post as the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after a memo he wrote to military officials pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak at sea was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal. “It creates the perception that the Navy is not on the job,” Mr. Modly said about the leaked memo at a Pentagon news briefing, “and that is not true.”
The year of the mask: The Trump administration is expected to recommend that everyone wear a cloth mask or face covering in public to curb the spread of coronavirus, a reversal of the administration’s previous policy position, Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey note in The Washington Post. At a White House coronavirus task force briefing, President Trump said the new policy would be a recommendation, not a mandate, Kevin Liptak reported for CNN. Local government leaders, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, beat federal officials to the punch, urging city residents to don face coverings while out and about, just not the surgical masks so desperately needed by health care workers.
- Also: In a Twitter post, Trump criticized the manufacturing company 3M, which produces the in-demand N95 respirator masks, for “what they were doing with their Masks.” Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz pointed out that the timing of this outburst coincided with a Fox News segment in which a Florida official tells Tucker Carlson that 3M is selling masks overseas instead of to Florida. The Washington Post reported that the reason 3M was slow to ramp up mask production was out of liability concerns, and the Trump administration’s laggard response to those concerns.
Too little, too late? The President used the Defense Production Act to push General Electric, Hill-Rom Holdings, Medtronic, ResMed, Phillips, Vyaire Medical and 3M to produce protective masks and ventilators for the coronavirus epidemic, promising the manufacturers the supplies they need in order to do so, Gavin Bade reports for Politico. However, legal experts say the President has still not used the full authority of the Defense Production Act, which allows the administration to set production demands and to centrally coordinate production and distribution, allocating resources to the states and hospitals that need them most. President Trump has blamed the shortage of ventilators on the states. “The states should have been building their stockpile. We have almost 10,000 in our stockpile and we’ve been building it,” Trump said. “We’ve been supplying it. But the states should be building. We’re a backup. We’re not an ordering clerk.”
Great Outdoors not such a great idea: National parks like Joshua Tree and the Grand Canyon saw enormous crowding in March even as local, state and federal officials asked Americans to stay home to curb the spread of coronavirus. “People thought somehow that coming to Joshua Tree, out into nature, was exempt from the don’t-go-out category,” Robin Hercia, a graphic artist who lives in the unincorporated community of Joshua Tree, told FairWarning’s Marjie Lundstrom. “It’s just this defiant, selfish behavior,” she added. Although most social distancing recommendations have allowed for time outside to take exercise and de-stress, as well as to perform necessary household errands, the guidance has been amended—or clarified—by some to stipulate that people should only enjoy the outdoors while close to home. “If you have to drive to get to a trailhead, it’s probably too far,” said the director of communications for the nonprofit Washington Trails Association, Kindra Ramos. Thru-hikers on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails have been asked to cancel or quit the months-long journey, but some aren’t complying with the “request,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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