News Update for 5/20/20

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Wed, 05/20/2020 - 4:00pm

The World Health Organization today announced that the past twenty four hours have seen the most new infections in a one-day period since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The global health body said 106,000 new cases of infections of the novel coronavirus had been recorded in the past 24 hours – most of them in low and middle income countries. The world will soon reach the tragic milestone of 5 million cases.

The WHO has come under fire from U.S. President Donald Trump, who this week threatened to withdraw from the WHO and permanently withhold funding.

The head of the WHO declined to comment on Trump’s criticism, saying they would pursue other sources of funding to carry out the critical work of emergency response, epidemic control, developing and distributing vaccines, saving lives and distributing essential Protective equipment to workers and finding medical oxygen for people in fragile settings.

 

The US response to the pandemic, in contrast, remains chaotic and political, with finger-pointing by the Trump administration but no coordinated national effort to address the rapid spread of this virus throughout the country.

Harvard University health researchers have put together a plan to mitigate the virus through a ranking of areas of the country into green, yellow and red zones based on the number of confirmed cases. Green zones would be able to fully re-open, while massive testing and immediate contact tracing would be put in place in the red and yellow zones. The researchers estimate that this plan will cost seventy four billion dollars to implement, and the country would largely be able to re-open by early July.

The plan was detailed in the Washington Post this weekend, but there has been no move by Congress or the Trump administration to fund the effort.

 

The bill that passed the US House, but which Republicans in the Senate have vowed to stop, is the three trillion dollar HEROES Act. As it stands, the bill will provide another one-time stimulus payment of about $1,200 per individual, following on from a similar measure in the CARES Act. Senator Bernie Sanders has called for ongoing monthly payments of around $2000 for low income households through the duration of this crisis. But that proposal received pushback,and isn’t included in the bill.

The HEROES Act would extend the CARES Act’s unemployment boost of $600-per-week through the end of January 2021.

It also includes $200 billion to support child care and adult day care for families in need during the crisis. The bill also provides an additional 15% in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for eligible families.

Republican Mitch McConnell has declared the bill Dead on Arrival in the Senate, while Trump has said that he’s in no hurry to pass another stimulus bill to help the economy.

 

Oregon’s primary election took place yesterday, and thanks to the state’s long-standing commitment to mail-in voting, there were no issues of voters risking transmission of the coronavirus in order to vote. This was a major issue in Wisconsin’s primary last month, when dozens of people contracted the virus when they had to vote in person. The Wisconsin governor had tried to expand mail-in voting, but the order was vetoed by the state’s conservative Supreme court. That veto was upheld by the U-S Supreme Court, setting a danger precedent for other states considering mail-in ballots.

 

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning threatened to block federal funding to Michigan over the state's decision to send absentee ballot applications to all 7.7 million registered voters.

The Michigan Secretary of State took the measure to ensure that Michigan voters can vote in August and November elections without risking the spread of Covid-19.

Critics noted that while withholding funds in such a way would likely be illegal, the president's threat shows the lengths to which he is willing to go to stop an expansion of voting rights and ballot access amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has repeatedly voiced opposition to mail-in voting—for everyone but himself—and warned that expanding it would mean that quote "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."


 

In Portland’s mayoral primary, incumbent Mayor Ted Wheeler holds a significant lead over his opponents, but may not have quite enough of a lead to avoid an election challenge in November. Votes are still being counted, and Wheeler currently has 50.4% of the votes. He needs to have over 50% to avoid a November runoff. Sarah Iannarone is in second, with 23%.

 

Oregon state economic experts predict a two point seven billion dollar loss in the state’s economy this quarter.

State economists forecast another $4.4 billion in revenue loss for the 2021-2023 budget period.

In their report, released today, the state economists note that this recession is the deepest on record in Oregon with data going back to 1939. But the recession is expected to be shorter in duration than the Great Recession, allowing the economy to return to health by mid- decade.

This revenue projection could lead to cuts in state spending for education, health care, law enforcement and other programs.

Governor Brown also called on President Trump and Congress to provide more financial support for states.

She said that As a state, we took action to shutter our economy in order to save lives in the middle of a once-in-a-century crisis. Now it’s time for Congress and the President to step up and provide once-in-a-century support for important state services, including schools, health care, and public safety.

 

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