89.1 WEMU

COVID-19

From the hospital where he works in South Carolina, Dr. Kiran Nagarajan has been watching the coronavirus crisis explode in other parts of the country. But, like many other immigrant doctors, he can't do anything about it.

"There's a dire need of physicians especially in places like New York, New Jersey," Nagarajan said. "I wish I can go and help there."

The email came in from the editor of a small newspaper in Seaside, Calif. And she wasn't the bearer of good news.

Instead, she offered a small data point in a larger and troubling dynamic: The pandemic threatening the nation's public health is swiftly jeopardizing the local journalism that keeps its citizens informed about what's happening in their own communities.

Sweden's prime minister announced Friday that public gatherings of more than 50 people will be banned as of Sunday, with violators subject to fines or even imprisonment.

The ban is much tighter than the country's previous restriction on groups over 500, but looser than limits imposed elsewhere in Europe. It amounts to a major crackdown in a country that has otherwise become known for its lenient approach to coronavirus management.

Updated at 1:39 p.m. ET

Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy wasn't interested in President Trump's attempt at Twitter-shaming another GOP lawmaker who mounted a failed attempt to drag out a vote on a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

Updated 3:14 p.m. ET

A pretty big chunk of the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package will go to the commercial aviation industry; most notably, the airlines, airports and airplane manufacturer Boeing.

As of noon Thursday, 46 people had died in Orleans Parish — home to New Orleans — which has a population of about 391,000. That's 11.8 deaths per 100,000 residents.

To contain the spread of the coronavirus in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis has issued orders that would have seemed inconceivable just a few weeks ago. He's closed Colorado's schools, bars, the ski industry and on Thursday orderd most people to stay home.

It's an exercise of executive authority that has no precedent in recent history, and it has put the 44-year-old Democrat's leadership style in the spotlight.

Before the spreading coronavirus became a pandemic, Emma went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every week in the Boston area and to another support group at her methadone clinic. She says she felt safe, secure and never judged.

"No one is thinking, 'Oh my God, she did that?' " says Emma, "'cause they've been there."

Right-wing groups in Brazil are summoning their supporters onto the streets to demand that their country returns to work, and ends mass lockdowns imposed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

This follows a highly controversial campaign against shutdowns by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who believes mass closures will cause more economic devastation and suffering than the virus itself.

As coronavirus infections rise across the United States, public health experts widely agree it's time for a drastic step: Every state in the nation should now issue the kind of stay-at-home orders first adopted by the hardest-hit places. And while most states will probably not need to keep the rules in place for months upon months, many health specialists say the lockdowns will need to be kept up for several weeks.

Yet among these same experts, there is debate when it comes to the natural next question: What strategy can be deployed after the lockdowns are lifted?

A spate of mysterious second-time infections is calling into question the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostic tools even as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. It's also raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases.

As the coronavirus spreads and disrupts life across the country, Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans are facing a secondary threat: racism.

The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and some now blame the country for its global spread. In recent weeks, blame has escalated into reports of harassment and even assault in places with large communities of Asian Americans.

The coronavirus appears to be much more lethal in some countries than in others.

In Italy, about 10% of people known to be infected have died. In Iran and Spain, the case fatality rate is higher than 7%. But in South Korea and the U.S. it's less than 1.5%. And in Germany, the figure is close to 0.5%.

So what gives?

The answer involves how many people are tested, the age of an infected population and factors such as whether the health care system is overwhelmed, scientists say.

Debbie Dingell
Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Coronavirus has been confirmed in all 50 states.  Michigan's 12th District Congresswoman, Debbie Dingell, is working from home as some members of Congress have confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and members of her staff are awaiting test results.  In a conversation with WEMU's David Fair, Dingel says the CARES bill the U.S. House will pass today is a start, but it's imperfect.  Therefore, work will begin immediately on providing more financial assistance.  

Rebekah Warren
Michigan House Democrats / housedems.com

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to affect daily life in Michigan, the state Legislature is at work to provide stop-gap and longer term aid to those in need. 55th District State Representative Rebekah Warren addressed a myriad of issues with WEMU's David Fair.  


U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, he announced Friday. In a video announcement, Johnson said he has "mild symptoms" of COVID-19, including a fever and "a persistent cough."

Johnson is the first world leader found to be infected with the coronavirus. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under self-quarantine after her doctor tested positive for the virus. She has undergone two tests that yielded negative results; a third test is scheduled for early next week.

Chenille
The Chenille Sisters

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that can lift spirits helps out.  One nationally recognized musician out of Ann Arbor seeks to do just that with her craft.  In this installment of "WEMU Reaches Out: COVID-19 Conversations," Barbara Lucas catcves up with  Grace Morand of the Chenille Sisters, who's been using music to cope.


Rick Pluta / MPRN

School officials will have to make some tough decisions very soon about the rest of the school year.  One of them is whether to send layoff notices to teachers and other school staff who aren’t working.  That would save money for later in case the school year is extended to make up for days lost due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  School officials have sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature.  They’re asking the state to provide some certainty to parents, school staff, and students.  We have more from Rick Pluta.


With very few people booking Airbnbs or taking Uber rides right now, millions of people in the gig economy are seeing their livelihoods abruptly upended.

Take Ed Bell, in San Francisco, who rents out his in-law suite on Airbnb. That is his main source of income — he calls it his "gig" — supplemented by "side hustles" doing consulting work.

President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed the global response to the novel coronavirus in a phone call in which the two reportedly discussed easing tensions and pledged cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

The leaders spoke after an extraordinary virtual G-20 meeting that was necessitated by social distancing protocols put in place to limit the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

President Trump has signed a historic $2 trillion economic recovery package into law Friday afternoon, shortly after the House of Representatives approved the bill.

In an Oval Office ceremony Friday, the president thanked Republicans and Democrats "for coming together, setting aside their differences and putting America first" to pass the legislation. Trump was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. No Democrats were present at the signing.

The limited supply of ventilators is one of the chief concerns facing hospitals as they prepare for more COVID-19 cases. In Italy, where hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients in respiratory failure, doctors have had to make difficult life-or-death decisions about who gets a ventilator and who does not.

In the U.S., emergency plans developed by states for a shortage of ventilators include using positive airway pressure machines — like those used to treat sleep apnea — to help hospitalized people with less severe breathing issues.

Fast-moving viruses come with a cruel twist.

They tend to hammer hardest at people on the front lines of defense, making the rest of us that much more vulnerable.

Truckers, warehouse workers and cargo handlers, all in a vast network, find themselves one endless day after the next getting food, medicine and, yes, toilet paper to customers.

The complex supply logistics of our 21st-century world face a gathering storm even as reliance on those supply chains becomes more critical in the worst public health crisis in generations.

Asked if he has any regrets about the way he's handled the coronavirus crisis so far, President Trump said no — and he cited polling to back him up.

"No, I think that we've handled it really well," Trump said on Monday. "The American public thinks that we've handled it well, if you look at polling data."

Survey data has been mixed.

South Africa started a three-week nationwide lockdown on Friday as the country reported its first deaths from COVID-19 and the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus there neared 1,000, the highest on the continent.

At midnight Thursday, police and the military began enforcing an order forbidding all but essential movement. Before the deadline, there were long lines at supermarkets as people stocked up on supplies, according to the BBC.

Ann Arbor Film Festival

The 58th Ann Arbor Film Festival will come to an end this weekend.  WEMU's Jorge Avellan tells us how their move to an online only format has been going.


WISD

School districts across Washtenaw County are facing technological challenges to continue educating students as they stay at home.


A2Y Chamber

Many local businesses are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic.  WEMU's Jorge Avellan tells us about one organization's efforts to help.


A federal judge has ordered the release of 10 people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Jersey county jails where COVID-19 has been confirmed, citing chronic medical conditions of the detainees that make them particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Those ordered freed range in age from 31 to 56 years of age and have medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and some with past histories that include pneumonia and smoking. Five were being held at Bergen County Jail, three at Hudson County Jail and the other two at Essex County Jail.

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