Two in a row: More than 40,000 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, the largest single day increase since the pandemic began, smashing a record that had only been set the day before. California, Texas and Florida, the three most populous states, have all seen surging numbers of infections. Consequently, The New York Times reports, the White House announced that they will reconvene the coronavirus task force for a briefing today, the first since April 27. The governors of Florida and Texas announced that they are pausing the reopening process in their states. Meanwhile, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut now direct visitors from Covid-19 hotspots to self-quarantine for 14 days if traveling to the region, NBC reports. That list of states currently includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas, based on rates of infection and percentage of tests that come back positive.
- Also: Globally, there are more than 9.6 million confirmed cases and more than 490,000 deaths; over 2.4 million of those cases are from the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. But the actual number of coronavirus infections could actually be much higher in the country; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only about 1 of 10 Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has been identified, Director Robert Redfield told reporters on Thursday, with many of those infected able to spread the disease without having symptoms. With just over 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has recorded 25 percent of all coronavirus deaths–more than 124,000.
No filter fix: Some nursing homes and churches are claiming to residents, parishioners, and family members that this or that air filtration system is protecting them from Covid-19, while the manufacturers say, “hold on, not so fast, we didn’t say that,” Virginia Breen and Greg B. Smith report for the New York City nonprofit news outlet, The City. These devices have not been tested on the coronavirus, because it has only been made available to infectious disease and microbiology researchers, not manufacturers. But government agencies appear to be sitting this one out: A spokesperson for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the CDC, referred the reporters to EPA guidelines noting, “The EPA does not certify air-cleaning devices.” And in March, the Food and Drug Administration announced that, “During the declared public health emergency, FDA does not intend to object to the distribution and use of sterilizers, disinfectant devices, and air purifiers that are intended to be effective” at killing the virus, “but do not already have FDA marketing authorization.” Meanwhile, some pastors are telling people things like: a recently installed air purification system will kill “99.9 percent of COVID-19 within 10 minutes” and, “You can know if you come here that you’ll be safe and protected…Thank God for great technology!”
- Also: The FDA is warning consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products manufactured in Mexico that may contain wood alcohol, or methanol, which can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested, Christopher Mele reports for The New York Times.
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Veterans’ nightmare: After 76 veterans at a state-run nursing home in Massachusetts died from the coronavirus, a recently released independent report led by former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein catalogs a number of institutional failures that exacerbated the crisis, Ellen Barry reports for The New York Times. According to the report, superintendent Bennett Walsh failed to isolate infected veterans, failed to test veterans with symptoms, and rotated staff members between wards, which accelerated the spread of the virus through the facility. “In short, this was the opposite of infection control: Mr. Walsh and his team created close to an optimal environment for the spread of Covid-19,” the report said. Workers at the facility, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, described the situation at the home as “total pandemonium” and a “nightmare.”
Terror scare: Two environmental activists are facing up to 15 years in prison for delivering a box of plastic resin pellets collected from the Texas coast to the private residence of an unnamed oil and gas lobbyist, Emily Holden reports for The Guardian. The Baton Rouge police have charged Anne Rolfes and Kate McIntosh with a felony for “terrorizing” the individual with their box, which included a note about the hazards of plastic pollution. A police spokesman said “a note was observed on the top of the package indicating not to open the container as the contents could be hazardous” and police requested Hazmat officials to be brought in. The action was part of a campaign to raise awareness about the impacts of an expansive petrochemical and plastics complex slated to be built by Formosa Plastics in Louisiana. The company’s track record on pollution isn’t great: Formosa has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a lawsuit after being found to have violated the Clean Water Act by discharging plastic pellets into bays from a plant in Texas.
Roundup, settle down: Bayer, the giant German chemical and pharmaceutical company that owns Monsanto and Roundup, the world’s most popular weedkiller, has agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle some 95,000 lawsuits alleging that the main ingredient in the herbicide, glyphosate, had caused plaintiffs to contract non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer, Patricia Cohen reports for The New York Times. That figure includes $1.25 billion for potential future claims. Part of the money will also go to establishing an independent expert panel to resolve two hotly disputed issues: Does glyphosate indeed cause cancer; and if so, at what level of exposure? In the meantime, earlier this week a federal judge in California ruled that the state cannot require a cancer warning on Roundup, because “every government regulator of which the court is aware, with the exception of the I.A.R.C. [International Agency for Research on Cancer], has found that there was no or insufficient evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.”
- Also: Two Virginia attorneys, Timothy Litzenburg andDaniel Kincheloe, have pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges for threatening to inflict massive financial and reputational damage on Bayer and Monsanto over Roundup health risks unless the company paid them $200 million as a “consulting agreement”, Virginia TV station WHSV reports.
Verdict upheld: A Missouri appeals court has reduced by half the damages Johnson & Johnson owes to women who claimed the company’s talc-based powders caused their ovarian cancers, to $2.1 billion, but upheld the jury verdict holding the company liable, Justine Coleman writes for The Hill. Johnson & Johnson had asked the court to throw out the decision entirely, but the court determined that the plaintiffs “showed clear and convincing evidence defendants engaged in conduct that was outrageous because of evil motive or reckless indifference.” The case focused on evidence that J&J knew its talc products could contain trace amounts of asbestos, but continued to sell them and didn’t warn the public. The company, which contends the powders were safe and could not cause cancer, said it will seek review by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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