Grim milestone: Coronavirus deaths in the United States passed 100,000 this week, and now stand at about 102,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Although the death rate appears to be slowing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects more than 123,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. by June 20.
In many states the number of new cases identified each day is increasing, as The New York Times documents here, including California, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, West Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, and in Puerto Rico. This may be because testing capacity in some states is up. California became the 4th state to record more than 100,000 coronavirus cases, after New York, New Jersey and Illinois; Massachusetts isn’t far behind, with about 95,000 cases.
Up in flames: Protesters outraged by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, torched a police station and other buildings in the city in a third night of demonstrations. Protests erupted in Los Angeles, Louisville and other major U.S. cities as well. Floyd, 46, died after a policeman pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck as three other officers stood by, an episode indelibly captured on video. Early this morning, Minnesota state police arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and two members of his crew as they were covering the protests. They were later released, and at a press conference Gov. Tim Walz apologized for the arrests. Underscoring his ability to make himself a center of attention regardless of the circumstance, President Trump blasted Twitter after it placed a warning on a Trump tweet that Twitter said glorified violence. Trump tweeted a call for swift action to stop rioting, adding: “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Demonstrators have demanded that the officers involved in George Floyd’s death be arrested. This afternoon, Derek Chauvin, the office who pinned Floyd, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. In the minutes before his death, Floyd can be seen on the video crying out “I can’t breathe.” As Peniel Joseph writes in The Washington Post, Floyd “managed to outrun the coronavirus pandemic that has taken too many black lives, only to be ensnared by that quintessentially American and dangerously malignant virus of white supremacy.”
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Health care worker toll: New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 60,000 health care workers have been infected, and about 300 have died from the coronavirus, Will Stone and Carrie Feibel report for NPR. But representatives of health care workers, including Zenei Cortez, president of National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the country, say that is still an undercount. Many states aren’t providing data on health care worker infection and death rates. “The really sad thing is not having solid numbers from many states,” said Pat Kane, executive director of the New York State Nurses Association. “Some of them actually died outside of the hospital, trying to recover at home.”
Tracking numbers: Amazon hasn’t been telling employees when co-workers test positive for Covid-19—so several workers have taken it upon themselves to track cases at Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods, Suhauna Hussain reports for the Los Angeles Times. As of Friday, 345 Whole Foods workers have tested positive, according to crowdsourced data in a publicly available Google document. At least four Whole Foods employees have died, including a manager at a store in Pasadena, Calif0rnia. Amazon employee Jana Jumpp told Hussain that there have been at least 1,079 cases of coronavirus among Amazon warehouse workers, and nine deaths. Dave Clark, Amazon senior vice president of global operations, said in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview in early May that looking at cumulative infection figures in warehouses “isn’t particularly useful,” but health experts disagree. “Saying aggregate data is not useful is like pulling wool over your eyes. Of course it’s useful, we’re using it to open the country up again,” said Dr. David Eisenman, director of the Center for Public Health and Disasters at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
One in four: More than one quarter of U.S. workers have lost their jobs since the coronavirus crisis shuttered many businesses across the country in March, Avie Schneider reports for NPR. Last week another 2.1 million people filed for unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday. Several major retailers, including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew, have filed for bankruptcy. Boeing cut more than 12,000 jobs; even Google is tightening the belt, rescinding offers to more than 2,000 people who had been hired as temporary and contract workers without providing severance or other financial compensation. According to The New York Times, the workers were hired before the pandemic took hold, and had their start date pushed back indefinitely without pay. In some cases, they left full-time, stable jobs to accept Google’s offer, and are now looking for work in a terrible labor market.
Pandemic procurement: Some 345 first-time federal contractors have been promised at least $1.8 billion to procure vital protective equipment and Covid-19 testing supplies—if they can deliver. This includes, a team of ProPublica reporters writes, “A firm set up by a former telemarketer who once settled federal fraud charges for $2.7 million. A vodka distributor accused in a pending lawsuit of overstating its projected sales. An aspiring weapons dealer operating out of a single-family home.” Many of these contracts were won in no-competition bids, meaning the firm didn’t have to make the case that they were best for the job, but simply won by default. But this increases the risk of price gouging, fraud and faulty products, Steve Kelman, a former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, told ProPublica.
In for the long haul: Experts say Covid-19 could be with us for good now, William Wan and Carolyn Y. Johnson report for The Washington Post, joining a league of other endemic (meaning stubborn and resistant to eradication) illnesses, like measles, HIV, and chickenpox. It’s a bleak idea, but there are already four endemic coronaviruses circulating continuously; they cause the common cold. “This virus is here to stay,” said Sarah Cobey, an epidemiologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. “The question is, how do we live with it safely?” Right now, as the death rate in many states is on the decline, we’re in a lull. But are public health leaders taking the opportunity to strategize for what’s next? “What’s concerning is that I don’t see any signs the federal government has learned any lessons and is doing anything differently to prepare for the next waves,” said Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
- Also: Every day is the great unknown, and as the country begins to grind back into gear, you might be looking to set some guidelines and boundaries of your own. To that end, The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull wrote a guide to staying safe this summer, and how to think about risk, not in black and white, but shades of gray.
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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