Mixed messages: Yesterday, there were more than 64,000 new coronavirus cases reported across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention–the sixth single-day record in the last 10 days. At least six states set their own single-day records on Thursday, according to a New York Times database: Alabama, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oregon and Texas. At least two others recorded their highest one-day death totals: Florida, with 120, and Tennessee, with 22. Nationwide, the daily death toll is still well below the peak of mid-April, but it is rising. The seven-day average has increased from 471 coronavirus deaths per day earlier this month, to 608 yesterday. Meanwhile, President Trump and the CDC have clashed over public health recommendations, The Washington Post reports. An agency report detailing the dangers of coronavirus to pregnant women was criticized by the administration for “undermining the President”; earlier this week Trump publicly disparaged the agency’s recommendations for safely reopening schools, promising to have a talk with them. Increasingly, The Post reports, the president views himself as the victim of the pandemic.
- Also: There are now more than 3.1 million confirmed cases in the U.S., with over 133,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Globally, there are more than 12.3 million confirmed cases and over 556,000 deaths.
A lose-lose situation: At the beginning of the pandemic, Sweden made the unorthodox decision to continue mostly as normal. The results are in, and they aren’t pretty. Not only did far more people die in Sweden than in neighboring countries, Peter S. Goodman writes in The New York Times, but the economy suffered anyway, even without mandatory lockdowns and closures, because many people limited shopping and the pandemic disrupted supply chains. “Per million people, Sweden has suffered 40 percent more deaths than the United States, 12 times more than Norway, seven times more than Finland and six times more than Denmark,” Goodman writes. “They literally gained nothing,” said Jacob F. Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “It’s a self-inflicted wound, and they have no economic gains.”
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Deporting the sick: In the midst of a global pandemic, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to deport immigrants or bounce them from state to state, even those who have tested positive for coronavirus or are showing symptoms, a joint Marshall Project and New York Times investigation found, contributing to the spread of the disease. In interviews, more than 30 detainees described unsanitary conditions and cramped quarters where social distancing was impossible. Since March, there have been at least 750 domestic flights moving detainees around the country, and at least 200 deportation flights to other countries from March through June. Detained immigrants are compelled to board, whether or not they are sick or have tested positive, or have even been tested at all.
Testing, testing: The number of daily coronavirus tests needs to drastically increase before the country is at a level necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, Keith Collins reports for The New York Times. The country needs to do some 1.6 million daily tests; right now, we’re doing less than 635,000. Just 11 states and the District of Columbia are testing enough, five are close, and 34 are far from testing enough, including states seeing a rapid rise in cases, like Texas, Florida, and California. According to ABC News, at least 13 states have reported problems with testing capacity, from a shortage of test kits to slower turnaround time for results.
Tipping point: Many restaurant and bar workers have gone back to work as states reopen, but under drastically different circumstances, whether under mandatory reduced capacity or empty seats because customers are still eating and drinking at home, Bryce Covert writes for FairWarning. Fewer customers mean lower tips and—for workers who receive the tipped minimum wage—next-to-no wages. Some tipped workers make as little as $2.13 an hour before tips; restaurants are supposed to make up the difference if workers don’t make enough in tips to reach the regular minimum wage, but compliance is uneven. With no clear end to the pandemic and the return to business (and tips) as usual, workers have stepped up the fight to end the tipped minimum wage.
Safer streets: As writer Ben Goldfarb observes in The Atlantic, finding a silver lining in a deadly pandemic is “ghoulish.” Nevertheless, he writes, for wildlife around the globe, the pandemic brought a reprieve this spring. Roadkill surveyors from Santa Barbara to South Africa told Goldfarb that they have seen fewer carcasses this year than ever before. A researcher in Costa Rica reports only one slain ocelot this year, when they average two ocelot roadkills each month during normal times. “This is the biggest conservation action that we’ve taken, possibly ever, certainly since the national parks were formed,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. “There’s not a single other action that has saved that many animals.”
- Also: A new paper argues that expanding conservation areas would yield a return of at least $5 in economic output for every $1 spent, Simon Jessop and Matthew Green write for Reuters. The study says better forestry yields and improved fish stocks are among the gains that would result. Others question whether it’s even possible to put a number on the economic contribution of nature. But the scientists and economists who authored the paper hope to convince governments of the economic benefits of protecting nature and the environment.
Smoke and mirrors: Even after the Food and Drug Administration ostensibly banned flavored e-cigarettes that appeal to children, a company called Puff Bar has continued to sell them via a loophole carved out for disposable devices, marketing flavors like “Banana Ice,” “Mango,” and “Pineapple Lemonade.” The people behind this company are virtually unknown, Eli Wolfe reports for FairWarning, but a corporate filing in California this week offered a hint, naming 20-somethings Nick Minas and Patrick Beltran as CEO and CFO of Puff Bar. In an interview, they claimed only to operate the Puff Bar website, but refused to say who hired them to do it.
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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