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COVID-19

Let us all have a moment of sympathy – and perhaps even understanding — for Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky.

Massie was the guy who caught hell from all sides Friday when he tried to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus relief bill in the House of Representatives. He said he wanted every individual member to record his or her vote on the gargantuan $2 trillion package, which he called the biggest relief bill in the history of mankind.

In recent weeks doctors and nurses have reported dire shortages of protective gear; on the Cape Cod peninsula in Massachusetts, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, hospital workers say they're being forced to reuse N-95 masks. In New York, the current epicenter of the U.S.

The streets of downtown Laredo, Texas, are deserted. For decades, this dense retail district has catered to Mexican shoppers coming across the bridge from Nuevo Laredo. But these days, stores like Cindy's Electronics, Classic Perfumes, and Casa Raul Mens' Clothes are shuttered.

"Now our business has dropped 80 to 90%," says Natividad Dominguez, leaning on a glass case full of empanadas, turnovers and donuts at Pano's Bakery. "People would come across the bridge and pick up a donut. But no more. It's affecting us a lot."

Joe Pinero's after-work routine has changed recently.

"I strip outside of my door, take basically all my clothes off and walk in naked and just get directly into a shower when I do come into the house," Pinero said.

But he doesn't think his neighbors in Hoboken, N.J., mind too much, because they know he works as an emergency room doctor.

"If anyone has seen me naked, I'm sorry. But it's probably gonna happen again," he said with a laugh.

A federal judge in California is weighing whether to grant an emergency order to release unaccompanied minors in government custody to protect them from contracting COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee of the Central District of California said on Friday she wants migrant children who were apprehended crossing into the United States alone to be "released to suitable sponsors in an orderly fashion," the Associated Press reported. But Gee stopped short of mandating their immediate release.

The United States on Friday surpassed more than 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, doubling the number of known infections counted just three days ago.

Data from Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the global spread of the disease, shows 101,657 people have been diagnosed in the U.S. as of Friday evening. More than 1,560 people have died.

More than 200 million people in about half of the states are under orders to stay indoors to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

Under those decrees, businesses have closed unless deemed "essential," which has sparked a nationwide debate among state and local leaders: Should gun stores be considered essential?

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an historic $2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday just hours after the House approved it amidst the deepening crisis over the pandemic.

"This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation's families, workers and businesses. And that's what this is all about," Trump said at a signing ceremony in the Oval Office.

Hospitals in New Jersey hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic are bracing for a surge in patients needing critical care as the number of confirmed cases in the state reaches almost 9,000.

Doctors and nurses say they are already running low on N95 masks, gowns and other protective personal equipment known as "PPE." They're also facing potential staffing shortages and need more intensive care beds.

New Jersey has the second highest number of cases in the country after New York. At least 2,000 people are hospitalized in New Jersey; another 108 people have died.

This is part of a series looking at pressing coronavirus questions of the week. We'd like to hear what you're curious about. Email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

COVID-19 is keeping most of us inside, isolated from others, for days on end.

For kids (and parents!), school work can only extend so far into the day. Earlier, the NPR Arts team offered some of our favorite distractions when we are feeling worried. Now we have some heart-felt recommendations for how to enjoy the rest of the time you have in close-quarters with your family.

Adventure Time

People in coronavirus hotspots are being told not to travel to other parts of the country, for fear they'll bring the infection with them. Those who do so anyway might find themselves in a forced quarantine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that he had authorized law enforcement officers to begin setting up checkpoints in the state's panhandle to screen people coming from the New Orleans area.

"There's a fear as New Orleans becomes more of a hotspot, that you could have an influx of people into the Florida panhandle from Louisiana," DeSantis said.

President Trump ordered General Motors and health care vendor Ventec to begin producing ventilators on Friday, invoking a Cold War-era law that grants him such authority.

Trump, who complained earlier on Friday about what he called problems with GM and its CEO, Mary Barra, said in a statement that the automaker was taking too long to conclude the deal.

New York City, already the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis inside the United States, is still days, if not weeks, from the peak of the outbreak there. The head of the city's hospital system says it has enough ventilators and protective equipment to survive through the end of the month. After that, New York will need massive help, and fast.

America is stocking up on food, thermometers — and hair dye.

The latest sales data from Nielsen shows how our lives have been affected by widespread social distancing and, in some areas, mandatory lockdowns, as the world tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Mike Michelon
Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted another local arts organization.  WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with the executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Mike Michelon, about their decision to cancel all indoor ticket events for the upcoming season.


People still struggle to find food at grocery stores during this pandemic, but Jameson Altott is not as worried. He grows more than half the food for his family from his large garden at home, outside Pittsburgh.

"We are lucky to have preserved a lot of food and we still have canned fruits and vegetables and jams and berries in the freezer and meat in the freezer," Altott says.

President Trump unloaded on Detroit's big two American automakers on Friday with complaints and exhortations about how they must begin producing ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump first complained about what he suggested was a breakdown in negotiations with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and then said both GM and Ford must devote some of their production capacity to medical equipment immediately.

As Americans stock up on — and often clear out — grocery staples and other household items, Amazon is taking on a growing role during the coronavirus outbreak.

Gem
Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU

Saying they are always looking for ways to be creative, Gem Advocacy Group co-founders Dr. Benjamin Edmondson and Jason Gold launched an online reading series to help kids from elementary school age to high school engage in literacy, while all schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with the Washtenaw County area men about their effort.

As the death toll of the global coronavirus epidemic continues to rise, Pope Francis celebrated an extraordinary ritual Friday evening at the Vatican.

The pope prayed for an end of the epidemic and delivered his homily against the dramatic backdrop of an empty St. Peter's Square, glistening in the rain.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

With school closed, Marla Murasko begins her morning getting her 14-year-old son, Jacob, dressed and ready for the day. They have a daily check-in: How are you doing? How are you feeling? Next, they consult the colorful, hourly schedule she has pinned on the fridge.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of coronavirus cases in his state is doubling every four days now — a marked decrease from early on in the outbreak, when it was doubling every 2 1/2 days.

"It's still doubling, and that's still bad news, because that still means you're moving up towards an apex," Cuomo said at a press conference on Friday. "But there is good news in that the rate of the increase is slowing."

Orange juice is suddenly hot.

In the commodity markets, frozen concentrate orange juice futures have soared 25% — just in the past month. (Yes, you're thinking of the comedy Trading Places.)

New York City hospitals are struggling to make sure they have enough staff, beds and protective equipment to treat a relentless and growing stream of COVID-19 patients. Providing effective, efficient care to people who are seriously ill requires hospitals to rapidly test people who appear to have the viral disease.

But even with New York's statewide effort to procure and distribute coronavirus testing supplies to hospitals, some medical centers say they still don't have what they need to test patients on-site. That includes one major hospital in Brooklyn.

Dozens of people have been injured in Kenya, as paramilitary police tear gassed and beat passengers trying to board a ferry in order to make a curfew imposed by authorities to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

According to witnesses, passengers were trying to get on the ferry on Friday in Mombasa before the 7 p.m. curfew. Because the ferry was closing early and was running at a lower capacity to encourage social distancing, a huge crowd built up at the dock. As passengers crowded toward the ferry, security forces dispersed them with tear gas and force.

Jordan has sealed off its second biggest city and the surrounding province after dozens of guests at a wedding held two weeks ago tested positive for the coronavirus.

Army vehicles drove through the streets of Irbid, about 60 miles north of Amman, Thursday night telling people their city of 2 million was now effectively under military control and not to leave their homes.

Singapore, one of the first countries in the world to report cases of the coronavirus outside China, has so far managed to keep its numbers in the hundreds even as confirmed cases in the U.S., Italy and elsewhere have exploded into the tens of thousands. For that, the small island country has won international praise — but the victory hasn't come easily for residents, nor is it complete.

One of the new staples of the coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S. has been the nightly briefings from the White House coronavirus task force. A regular at the lectern, and often the only woman on stage, is Dr. Deborah Birx. In her role as coronavirus response coordinator, she has become one of the most prominent voices of the administration around this crisis.

To hear year-round Sun Valley, Idaho, residents like Justin Malloy tell it, town right now is as crowded as you'd expect to see it in the peak Fourth of July or Christmas seasons. The small airport is packed with private jets. And then there's the parking lot at the Atkinsons' Supermarket, one of only two in town where bread and essential cleaning items are particularly hard to come by.

"We've been seeing a lot of Washington plates, a lot of California plates, their cars just full of all of their stuff that they've brought from out of state," Malloy says.

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