#California; #Covid19Pandemic; #SocialDistancing; #Beaches&StateParks
California, Apr 30 (Canadian-Media): After tens of thousands of people flocked to the seashore last weekend during a heat wave despite his stay-at-home order, California Governor Gavin Newsom's plans to close all beaches and state parks from May 1 by to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to a memo sent Wednesday evening to police chiefs around the state, media reports said.
Gavin Newsom. Image credit: Facebook page
Eric Nunez, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said it was sent to give chiefs time to plan ahead of Newsom's expected announcement Thursday.
Although approximately 80,000 people visited Newport Beach, lifeguards said most people exercised social distancing.
Also pressure is building by California people to ease restrictions and slowly reopen the state as virus hospitalizations had been virtually flat for several weeks.
#US; #USPresidentTrump; #DonaldTrump; #DefenseProductionAct; #MeatProcessingPlants
Washington, Apr 29 (Canadian-Media): Concerned about food shortages and supply chain disruptions, an executive order was issued by the U.S. President Donald Trump by use of the Defense Production Act which mandated meat-processing plants continue to function, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Facebook page
Trump's order received criticism by unions regarding the safety of the workers from coronavirus outbreaks.
Operations had halted at about 20 slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America in the world's biggest meat companies, including Smithfield Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., JBS USA and Tyson, as workers fall ill raising global fears of a meat shortage.
The U.S. government would also provide guidance, said a senior administration official, to minimize risk to workers who are especially vulnerable to the virus, such as encouraging older workers and those with other chronic health issues to stay home.
Provision of the highest level of protective equipment to slaughterhouse workers and coronavirus testing on daily basis by the meat companies was demanded by UFCW, the largest U.S. meat-packing union.
More than 6,500 U.S. meat and food-processing workers had been infected with or exposed to the new coronavirus, and 20 have died, the UFCW said on Tuesday.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said that the plants were being shut down for deep cleaning and to save workers' lives and added,
"If the administration had developed meaningful safety requirements early on as they should have and still must do, this would not even have become an issue."
#HonhKong; #ArrestsOfPoliticalLeaders; #CanadiansInHongkong
Ottawa, Apr 19 (Canadian-Media): The following statement was issued Apr 19 by François-Philippe Champagne, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, on arrests of political leaders in Hong Kong, media reports said.
François-Philippe Champagne. Image credit: Facebook page
“Canada is concerned by the arrests of political figures in Hong Kong on April 18 in relation to popular demonstrations that took place last year and believes that this extraordinary measure calls for close scrutiny.
“With hundreds of thousands of Canadians living in Hong Kong, we have a vested interest in Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity—the foundation of which is its relative autonomy and basic freedoms.
“We urge all sides involved in the crisis to exercise restraint, to refrain from violence and to engage in peaceful and inclusive dialogue to address the legitimate concerns expressed during the 2019 protests.
“Canada supports the right of peaceful protest and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedoms under the Basic Law and the One Country, Two Systems framework.
“Canada will continue to closely monitor the situation in Hong Kong.”
Ottawa, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): A deal was struck between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the United States President Donald Trump to extend current border restrictions, due to COVID19 pandemic to be extended for another 30 days, media reports said.
Canada-US Border. Image credit: Facebook page
The border, which was originally closed March 21, restricting non-essential travel between Canada and the U.S.
During the past month, the border remained open for trade and commerce, for emergency response and public health purposes.
Trudeau's announcement border closure between the two countries comes as the initial agreement was set to expire Tuesday.
Trudeau thanked Public Safety Minister Bill Blair for his work leading discussions with U.S. officials about the measures being extended.
#USPresident; #DonaldTrump; #ThreeStagedGuidelines; #RevivalOfEconomy
Washington, Apr 17 (Canadian-Media): A day after new three-stage guidelines were laid out by U.S. President Donald Trump for a phased lifting of restrictions for stopping the coronavirus pandemic for states meant to revive the economy, the governors of Michigan, Florida and other states began to outline tentative steps on Friday to reopen their economies, media reports said.
Donald Trump. mage credit: Facebook page
A joint task force that was formed by New York and six other Northeastern states due to their close links on trade and transportation extended coronavirus stay-at-home orders, on Thursday to May 15.
Andrew Cuomo, New York's governor said during a daily briefing that before any discussion of reopening the economy could occur, it was vital for testing to be ramped up.
Trump rebuked Cuomo and said it was up to the states to the states to proceed with testing.
Trump's plan to reopen the economy was criticized by Democrats such as Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi who said that it as coming too early in the ongoing battle against the virus.
The guidance "does nothing to make up for the president's failure to listen to the scientists and produce and distribute national rapid testing," Pelosi said.
Also on Friday permitted city events were cancelled through May by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, extending the cancellation by a month. He said he city has to set a "high bar" for restarting large group events.
A case-tracking tool maintained by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University said that the U.S. has nearly 680,000 recorded coronavirus cases, with more than 34,000 deaths. More than 12,000 of the U.S. deaths have occurred in New York, according to the state health department.
#US; #USPresident; #DonaldTrump; #USHaltsFundingForWHO;
Washington, Apr 15 (Canadian-Media): United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump's announcement Tuesday that he has instructed his administration to stop US funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) had shocked the world leaders, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Facebook page
Health experts warned the move could jeopardize global efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, as the United States is the organization's largest single donor.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday at a news briefing that while he was disappointed with Trump's decision to halt the fund, the organization will "try to fill any gaps with partners," after assessment of the impact the withdrawal will have on their work.
Trump had criticized the UN health agency for being too lenient on China, where the novel virus first emerged late last year. China's reported infections and deaths from the virus have been questioned by the outside experts saying that this way too low and unreliable.
European Union, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern all said that WHO was needed more than ever in tackling the pandemic.
Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, similarly pushed back, and wrote on Twitter that blaming others will not help as the virus knows no borders.
Sophie Harman, a professor of international politics at Queen Mary University of London said that things would have been different if Trump was successful in handling pandemic response in the U.S. But since things are getting worse which reinforces help from WHO.
U.S.; #Covid19Pandemic; #DelayIn2020Census
Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.
New York, Apr 15 (Canadian-Media): The coronavirus pandemic will delay collection of data from the 2020 U.S. census now underway, the Trump administration announced yesterday.
But unlike the bitterly partisan fights that have followed previous decisions by the White House affecting preparations for the decennial census, including its failed attempt to add a citizenship question, social scientists and civil rights groups say this time the administration has made the right call.
“We support the decision and urge Congress to act in concert with it,” declared four former Census Bureau directors, including the two men who served during the Obama administration, in a letter released today.
Data developed by the census are used for a wide array of purposes, including distributing federal funds and, as required by the Constitution, determining how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. Typically, that data would have been released by the end of this year. But yesterday, the administration requested that Congress give the Census Bureau a 4-month extension, until 30 April 2021, to deliver the apportionment data to President Donald Trump. Similarly, the administration wants another 4 months, until 31 July 2021, to tell each state how many seats it will hold in the 435-member House.
The pandemic has forced the Census Bureau to delay sending out enumerators to track down anyone who hasn’t already completed the 10-question census form that became available last month. It expects those field operations to continue until the end of October, which makes it impossible to meet the current statutory deadlines. But the former directors say they have complete confidence in the agency’s ability to get the job done.
“The genius of the census has always been finding a Plan B when conditions rule out Plan A,” they write. “For 2020, Plan B includes a schedule adjustment.”
At the same time, the former directors remind every resident of the importance of filling out the questionnaire, which for the first time can be done online as well as on paper and with a phone call. “The best way to support the Census Bureau and our democracy in these difficult times is to be certain you have responded to the 2020 Census,” they add.
Continued flexibility will be the key to a successful census, says a coalition of human rights groups that have long worried that the Trump administration’s approach to conducting the constitutionally mandated exercise will lead to a significant undercount. And that means finding creative ways to contact those who have not responded while protecting the health of fieldworkers.
“We support the Census Bureau’s updated timeline and our advocates will be ready to re-enter the field to bolster the bureau’s outreach to households that have yet to respond,” says Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. “However, if it’s not safe to have census takers visiting people’s homes by June, then Congress has an obligation to consider other options to protect census workers and the communities they serve, and to ensure an equitable count.”
Congress must approve the revised schedule, and a leading critic of the administration’s policies on the 2020 census offered a note of caution yesterday about the proposed delay.
Representative Carolyn Maloney (D–NY), who leads the House oversight and reform committee that has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau, complained that the White House has thwarted her attempts to hear from Director Steven Dillingham about how the agency is coping with the pandemic. “If the Administration is trying to avoid the perception of politicizing the Census, preventing the Census Director from briefing the Committee and then excluding him from a call organized by the White House are not encouraging moves,” she said yesterday in a statement.
#USPresident; #DonaldTrump; #TotalAuthority, #Covid19pandemic
Washington, Apr 14 (Canadian-Media): United States (U.S.) President Donald Trump's claim of total authority Monday, to put the twin public health and economic crises behind him to reopen the economy when the weeks of tough social distancing guidelines aimed at fighting the new coronavirus would expire by the end of this month was pushed back by governors of both Republican as well as Democratic parties, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Facebook page
"When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total," Trump said at Monday's White House coronavirus briefing. "The governors know that."
Both the governors, New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat insisted that constitution gives public health, safety duties primarily to state and local officials who had issued mandatory restrictions, including shuttering schools and closing non-essential businesses.
The governors in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, California, Oregon and Washington said each state is building its own plan, they agreed to co-ordinate their actions with Wolf.
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, a supporter of Trump, said the decision of when to lift restrictions would be "a joint effort" between Washington and the states.
When asked on Sunday if the U.S. could have saved lives by acting sooner, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases responded in the affirmative.
This annoyed Trump who had referenced Fauci's comments in his tweet and included the line "Time to #FireFauci" which sent an alarming message to US leaders.
Fauci, 79, who had served in both Democratic and Republican administrations and has emerged as one of the most trusted faces of the federal government's response, clarified the whole issue to the US leaders that Trump and he were working in coordination.
Although Trump been complaining to the aides and confidants about Fauci gaining positive media attention and wanted Fauci be left out of task force briefings or have his speaking role curtailed, but that for the time being he is stuck with the doctor, said Trump.
#PulitzerCenter, #US; #Covid19Strategy; #Hongkong; #Singapore; #Suppress&LiftStrategy
Despite setbacks, Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s targeted strategies for fighting COVID-19 may yet succeed—and provide a model for other countries emerging from their first wave of cases, Pulitzer Center reports said, https://www.sciencemag.org/news said.
Until recently, the two cities had managed to keep their case numbers remarkably low while avoiding the extreme lockdowns implemented in China and many other countries. Both fought outbreaks through aggressive testing, isolating infected people, and tracing and quarantining their contacts. For everyone else, it was almost business as usual, with a bit of social distancing.
But case numbers spiked in the second half of March, and some observers feared the strategy had failed. Hong Kong had just 149 confirmed cases on 15 March; the tally reached 1005 yesterday. Singapore’s number grew from 226 on 15 March to 2532 yesterday. Neither city is seeing the explosive growth Italy, Spain, and many areas of the United States have witnessed.
Their health care systems have not been overwhelmed. But both ramped up their responses. Hong Kong recently imposed restrictions on restaurants and closed bars entirely. Singapore has closed schools and nonessential businesses and instructed residents to stay home—a dramatic escalation.
In Hong Kong, the rate of new cases has already slowed. University of Hong Kong public health specialist Gabriel Leung, who advises the city’s government, says if the trend continues, “we might be able to breathe a little bit easier” and relax the new regulations. He thinks what Hong Kong and Singapore are practicing may become the new normal in many countries: a “suppression and lift” strategy in which governments aim to alternately drive down new infections to a low level, then loosen the reins while watching for any resurgence.
When the pandemic first emerged, both Hong Kong and Singapore had certain advantages. After suffering major outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, they had built up response capabilities and laid preparedness plans. They are small and have few land borders, making it easier to control incoming travel. Each has a single government, avoiding the tensions between national and local authorities that plague the responses elsewhere. And, Leung says, “Both the Hong Kong and Singapore governments do care deeply [about scientific evidence] and listen to scientists.”
The two cities based their policies on detailed data about the state of their epidemics, gathered by extensive testing of contacts of confirmed cases and of people who enter hospitals with unexplained respiratory illnesses. Physicians can order tests for other patients based on their own clinical or epidemiological judgments. As a result, Singapore has done roughly 12,800 tests per million population; Hong Kong, 13,800, according to respective health authority statistics—some of the highest testing rates in the world.
Both cities hospitalize those who test positive, regardless of whether they have symptoms, to prevent them from infecting others. Close contacts of cases and all recent returnees must self-quarantine at home for 2 weeks. (Both cities have banned almost all noncitizens from entering.) In Hong Kong, quarantined people are fitted with electronic wristbands that work with smartphones to track their whereabouts. In Singapore, they must respond to mobile phone text messages that reveal their location several times a day. Violators face fines and jail terms.
Those very tight controls allowed both cities to impose relatively minor restrictions on the uninfected. Singapore defied conventional wisdom by keeping schools open; movie theaters and bars could stay open if they kept patrons separated by 1 meter. In Hong Kong, bars and restaurants remained open. (The city did close its schools, however, and civil servants were ordered to work from home, a move followed by many businesses.)
The rise in numbers in late March was a warning sign. “We try to project what might happen over the next couple weeks if we do not do anything,” Vernon Lee, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Singapore’s Ministry of Health, said during a 3 April Brookings Institution webinar. So, both cities ramped up countermeasures.
Since 28 March, restaurants in Hong Kong have been limited to 50% of normal capacity, with no more than four to a table, and they must check patrons’ temperatures at the door and provide hand sanitizer. Karaoke rooms and mahjong parlors were closed on 1 April, and bars on 3 April. (Each measure was to be in force for 14 days, but all have been extended until 23 April.) Singapore closed its schools on 8 April and barred eat-in dining. It has ordered all nonessential businesses to close or have employees work from home, and asked all residents to remain at home as much as possible. The city’s restrictions now resemble those adopted by New York and the United Kingdom.
This is not a sprint over the next month, it’s a marathon that we do not know how long will last.
Vernon Lee, Singapore Ministry of Health Hong Kong seems to have already reversed the uptick in cases. The city reported just 13 new cases on 9 April, down from 65 on 27 March—and 10 of them were among returning Hong Kongers. Overall, travelers into the country account for 58% of all confirmed cases. For some cases, the infection sources remain unknown, and hidden community transmission could still be taking place, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of communicable diseases at Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, recently told the South China Morning Post. However, “We’re not experiencing a locally sustained outbreak yet,” Leung says.
A factor that epidemiologists call the effective reproductive number—the average number of new cases sparked by each infected individual—indicates whether a country is stanching an epidemic. In simple terms, the effective reproductive number is calculated by comparing the case count at any point in time with the case count later, after the delay from infection to the onset of symptoms, diagnosis, and reporting. Models then use recent trends in social distancing and other factors to estimate the number in real time. If the number is above one, an outbreak is accelerating; if it’s less than one, it is decreasing. Hong Kong’s effective reproductive number was hovering about one in late March but has been trending downward since, according to an online COVID-19 dashboard maintained by the Centre for Health Protection. “It’s reassuring, at least for now,” Leung says, and it might lead the city to loosen the rules in the future.
Singapore, too, expects to go back and forth between different levels of restrictions, Lee said during the webinar, which might be the most sustainable strategy in the long run. Minimally intrusive policies, such as encouraging personal hygiene and telecommuting, are relatively easy to keep up, he noted, but it’s harder to limit the size of gatherings, cancel entertainment, and close schools and businesses for very long.
Experts in both cities believe setbacks are inevitable, as Singapore just learned. It reported 287 new cases on Thursday, its highest ever 1-day total. (Friday’s tally was 198; Saturday’s was 191.) Clusters of infections in dormitories for foreign construction workers accounted for the majority of cases. New cases in the wider community seem stable, Singapore officials told local media. As Lee put it, “This is not a sprint over the next month, it’s a marathon that we do not know how long will last.”
#BernieSanders; #Endorsement; #JoeBidden; #Democratic; #Republican
Washington, Apr 13 (Canadian-Media): Joe Biden, former Vice president was endorsed by his former democratic rival, Vermont Senator for United States (U.S.) President on Monday in a joint online appearance, media reports said.
Joe Biden. Image credit: Twitter handle
After realizing on Apr 8 that he had no hope to beat Biden, who was too far ahead, Sanders ended his presidential bid.
But Biden still needed to bring unity to the Democratic Party against Republican President Donald Trump in the fall.
Biden, who faced skepticism from many younger progressive voters, was greatly encouraged by Sanders' endorsement and backing.
But it was not clarified by Sanders on Monday if he would continue to fight for delegates at state conventions around the country.
With his biggest policy to defeat Trump, Sanders cited ongoing work between the two camps on several policy matters as a reason for the endorsement
"We've got to make Trump a one-term president," Sanders said. "I will do all that I can to make that happen."