Here’s a summary of today’s major news items:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Robert Redfield, “will be teleworking” for the next two weeks after he was exposed to a person at the White House who tested positive for Covid-19, the Washington Post has reported citing a CDC spokesperson.
Late Friday, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Stephen Hahn, said he will spend the next couple of weeks in self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive, though he took a diagnostic test that came back negative.
Both Redfield and Hahn are members of the White House coronavirus task force, which last convened on Thursday.
Previously on Friday, Katie Miller, the US vice-president Mike Pence’s press secretary and wife of Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, tested positive for Covid-19, raising alarm about the virus’ potential spread within the White House’s innermost circle.
Donald Trump has announced the federal government will purchase $3bn of dairy, meat and produce from farmers as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the food supply chain.
“Starting early next week, at my order, the USA will be purchasing, from our Farmers, Ranchers & Specialty Crop Growers, 3 Billion Dollars worth of Dairy, Meat & Produce for Food Lines & Kitchens,” Trump tweeted on Saturday afternoon.
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
Starting early next week, at my order, the USA will be purchasing, from our Farmers, Ranchers & Specialty Crop Growers, 3 Billion Dollars worth of Dairy, Meat & Produce for Food Lines & Kitchens. “FARMERS TO FAMILY FOOD BOX” Great news for all! @SecretarySonny @ZippyDuvall
Farmers across the United States have faced a massive surplus of perishable items in recent weeks as the shutdown of the food service industry has scrambled the supply chain.
Christopher D Cook has written about the how Covid-19 has exposed pre-existing malfunctions in the system, suggesting that a focus on smaller farmers and breaking up monopolies could represent a long-term solution.
While there’s no single, magic-bullet solution, there are clear and urgently needed policy fixes that would make our food and farming system far more balanced, sustainable, and resilient to crises – whether it be the Covid-19 pandemic or intensifying climate havoc.
For starters, policies must support smaller farmers and diversified sustainable production. This includes what’s known as “parity” – a fair price for farmers’ crops, guaranteed by the government, to prevent overproduction and market chaos.
Subsidies that currently propel farming consolidation and mass production of commodities for livestock feed and fuel must be reformed to promote organic, smaller-scale, regionally and local foods. This will help farmers survive and provide communities with resilient and diverse food supplies rather than depending on vast and fragile corporate food supply chains.
If there were ever a time to bust up the food and farming monopolies, which are reminiscent of the Beef Trust of the early 1900s, now is it. Centralized corporate power is creating agricultural and economic mono-cropping at a time when we most need a food system that’s diverse, equitable and sustainable.
The Covid-19 crisis and worsening climate chaos require far more public-sector direction and coordination of something as central to human survival as food.
Amid the current supply-chain breakdown, as news spread of gargantuan food waste, some farmers and caravans of volunteers have helped deliver food directly from the farms to people in need – a truly heroic gift.
But this vital act, feeding people in need and averting massive food waste, can’t be left to random acts of kindness. Why aren’t federal, state, and local governments setting up food distribution networks, employing laid-off truckers, warehouse workers, and others? Why not create a Green New Deal for food that creates jobs and boosts communities’ ability to feed themselves in these increasingly volatile times?
The food supply breakdowns spurred by the coronavirus pandemic are a horrific wake-up call to revamp today’s anarchic corporate food system and start replacing it with a publicly coordinated system that supports small and mid-sized farmers producing diverse organic crops for local and regional markets. Not only can we afford to create such a system, we cannot afford not to make this urgent shift.
The mayor of Palo Alto said he “would be really sad and disappointed” if the Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, pulled his company’s factory out of California and is “ready to help” resolve the tech billionaire’s escalating spat with local officials.
Adrian M. Fine (@adrianfine)
Palo Alto Mayor here. I would be really sad and disappointed if @Tesla left @cityofpaloalto, and stand ready to help. I truly appreciate having a cutting edge company based here, employing people, paying taxes, and helping to solve the climate crisis. Happy to help @elonmusk. https://t.co/LYsu0gbPfa
“Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately,” Musk tweeted on Saturday morning. “The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”
Musk, who has been the subject of criticism for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, has been up in arms over California’s stay-at-home restrictions since a first-quarter earnings call at the end of April, calling the directives “fascist”.
Tesla’s Fremont plant has been shuttered since 23 March in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19 with public health officials having since extended the order to the end of May.
The Massachusetts department of health reported 138 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, including 85 at long-term care facilities, bringing the state’s overall toll to 4,840.
Authorities said the number of confirmed cases rose by 1,410, lifting the total count to 76,743.
As around most of the country, the virus is disproportionately affecting nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As the Boston Herald reports:
More than half the state’s deaths, 2,922, continue to come from long-term care facilities that have been major sources of infection across the country as the pandemic rages.
At least 336 long-term care centers in the state had reported at least one Covid-19 case on Saturday, and some 15,965 residents and health care workers had been sickened.
The death tolls at nursing homes and assisted living facilities at times have seemed staggering. As of Friday, 73 veterans who tested positive for coronavirus had died in a large outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that has sickened another 78 residents and 83 employees. At the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, 28 veterans who tested positive for Covid-19 have died, with another 30 residents and 57 staff infected. Earlier this week, the parent company of Courtyard Nursing Care Center in Medford reported 54 residents had died.
In all, 75% of coronavirus cases in the city of Holyoke have come from long-term care facilities, Mayor Alex Morse told the Herald Friday, a situation that’s playing out in communities large and small across the commonwealth.
“That’s a high percentage here in the city and reflective of elsewhere,” Morse said.
Four percent of all coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Saturday, with 814 in intensive care units.
Donald Trump has taken one of his regular shots at his critics in a tweet on Saturday afternoon.
“Why is it that all of the political pundits & consultants that I beat so easily & badly, people that charged their clients far more than their services were worth, have become so totally ‘unhinged’ when it come to your favorite President, me. These people are stone cold crazy!” wrote Trump.
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
Why is it that all of the political pundits & consultants that I beat so easily & badly, people that charged their clients far more than their services were worth, have become so totally “unhinged” when it come to your favorite President, me. These people are stone cold crazy!
His current press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was one of those pundits who criticized him until joining his team during the 2016 presidential election. In 2015, she called Trump’s criticism of Mexicans “racist”. David Smith has more on McEnany here:
The NCAA president, Mark Emmert, has acknowledged that college football – a multibillion dollar industry – may not start on time this year.
“If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple,” Emmert said in an interview on the NCAA’s official Twitter account on Friday.
Emmert said that he hoped fans would be allowed into stadiums at some point in the season but the NCAA would take a cautious approach.
“Just because there’s some regulation that’s been lifted doesn’t mean that … you should immediately put 105,000 fans in a football stadium,” he said. “I think that the proper thing to do and the sensible thing to do is a phased approach. It’s plausible to me that early in the season, let’s just stick with football, you see a very limited fan access, but by later in the season, as things develop, hopefully in a very positive way, you all of sudden can see larger fan bases attending,” he said.
Edward Helmore has news from South Dakota on attempts to keep Covid-19 from the Cheyenne River Sioux’s reservation.
Leaders of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota have refused a request from Republican governor Kristi Noem to remove checkpoints leading to their reservation. The leaders say the checkpoints pay a valuable part in protecting the tribe from Covid-19.
Harold Frazier, the tribal chairman, said in a statement that the Cheyenne River Sioux would “regretfully decline” to remove the checkpoints, and explained that the reservation is an “island of safety in a sea of uncertainty and death”. Frazier said that Noem “continuing to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation. Ignorant statements and fiery rhetoric encourage individuals already under stress from this situation to carry out irrational actions.”
In letters to the Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux citing a Bureau of Indian Affairs memorandum, Noem said she would take legal action if the checkpoints weren’t lifted.
“The memo makes it clear that tribes must consult with the state of South Dakota and enter into an agreement with the state before closing or restricting travel on state or US Highways. Neither consultation nor agreement among the tribal and state government occurred. Regardless, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe established checkpoints on state and US Highways to control and restrict non-tribal member travel,” Noem’s letter said.
According to guidelines issued by the Cheyenne River Sioux, residents and visitors can pass through the checkpoints only to complete “essential activities”, such as medical appointments or getting essential supplies.
South Dakota reported three Covid-19-related deaths on Saturday, as well as another single-day record increase of confirmed cases. There were 249 new cases reported, bringing the statewide total to 3,393. There have been 253 people hospitalized by the virus, with 79 currently in hospital, according to the Argus Leader. There have been 34 recorded deaths from Covid-19 in South Dakota since the pandemic began.
New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, called it “a matter of time” until the state defeats Covid-19 with the number of new cases in steady decline.
Speaking at his daily press briefing from Trenton, the governor said there were 1,759 new coronavirus cases statewide in the last 24-hour period, raising the overall total to 137,085 but continuing the downward trend.
Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy)
LOOK: The number of new cases continues to show an overall positive trend.
We’re seeing the most progress in the DECLINING positivity rate – the number of tests which are coming back positive. pic.twitter.com/8UPWNstyVV
Murphy also reported 166 coronavirus-reated deaths in the last day, lifting the overall toll to 9,116.
“These lives should never be just a number,” he said. “They were real people, who lived real lives, and who leave behind real families. They were each a treasured part of our New Jersey family.”
The Food and Drug Administration has announced emergency authorization for a new type of antigen tests that could help detect coronavirus quicker and hasten the reopening of the country.
Regulators say the tests, developed by San Diego-based Quidel Corp, can “rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity”.
The Associated Press reports:
The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.
The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA.
Currently, the only way to diagnose active Covid-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.
A second type looks in the blood for antibodies, the proteins produced by the body days or weeks after fighting an infection. Such tests are helpful for researchers to understand how far a disease has spread within a community, but they aren’t useful for diagnosing active infections.
Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than genetic code of the virus itself.
The FDA said that it expects to authorize more antigen tests in the future.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has incurred criticism for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, has threatened to move his business out of California in lashing out against a warning from Alameda county to not open his company’s plant in Fremont, California.
“Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda county immediately,” Musk tweeted on Saturday morning. “The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”
Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
Tesla is filing a lawsuit against Alameda County immediately. The unelected & ignorant “Interim Health Officer” of Alameda is acting contrary to the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!
Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependen on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.
On Friday, the county released a statement saying Tesla “must not reopen”, adding: “Restoring all daily activities too soon risks a rapid spike in cases and would jeopardize the relative stability we’ve seen in our health and hospital system.”
Six counties in the San Francisco Bay area, including Alameda, barred nonessential manufacturing in a wide-ranging 16 March order.
Cuomo announces a partnership with Northwell Health to establish 24 temporary Covid-19 testing sites at churches in predominately minority communities. He is joined remotely by Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat who represents New York’s eighth congressional district, which encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens.
“Communities of color have been hit hard,” Jeffries says. “This is not over for any of us until it is over for all of us.”