Summary of the Corona Virus Spread

MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS

  1. The House of Representatives passed a $484 billion economic relief bill to support small businesses, provide funding for hospitals and pay for more coronavirus testing. Four Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. President Donald Trump said he would sign it Thursday night.

  2. More than 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance in the week ended April 18, the Labor Department reported, bringing the total over the last five weeks to more than 26 million.

  3. The UN’s trade and development body has called for $1 trillion in developing nation debt to be cancelled to help the countries cope with the economic impact of the pandemic.

DATA IN FOCUS

Note: Yesterday’s number is in parentheses for each data point below. More information on our calculations, their limitations, and why we’ve chosen to report the numbers we have can be found here.

31,469 (vs. 28,930)

New U.S. cases

880,204 (vs. 848,735)

Total U.S. Cases

14.35 days (vs. 14.12 days)

Time for U.S. cases to double

5.7% (vs. 5.6%)

U.S. mortality rate

2,718,699 (vs. 2,637,681)

Total global cases

7.0% (vs. 7.0%)

Global mortality rate

Source: Worldometer, which compiles data from international agencies and national statistical offices around the world.

Calculations are by Knowhere staff, using data from Worldometer

THE PANDEMIC’S EVOLUTION OVER THE PAST WEEK

  • The total number of reported U.S. deaths from COVID-19 rose to more than 49,800 on April 23 from 34,619 on April 16.

  • At this time last week, some 3.40 million coronavirus tests had been conducted in the U.S. As of April 23, more than 4.66 million had been carried out.

  • On April 16, the U.S. reported 29,567 new cases of COVID-19. On April 23, the country reported 31,900 new cases.

  • The time for total cases in the U.S. to double – a measure of the rate of spread of the disease – has risen from 10.40 days on April 16 to 14.35 days on April 23, its highest since the first few days of the outbreak.

  • U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration would stop issuing many green cards, and restrict some other forms of immigration. The order exempts people already in the U.S. legally seeking green cards, spouses and children of U.S. citizens and green card holders, health care and other essential workers.

  • President Trump last Friday issued a set of federal guidelines for restarting the economy, but said it would be up to state governors to decide when and how to ease state lockdowns.

  • The president on Wednesday said he disagrees with a decision by Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp to reopen gyms, hair salons and some other businesses on Friday, with restaurants to follow on Monday. South Carolina and Tennessee have also taken steps to reopen their economies.

  • The president on Tuesday directed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to come up with a financial relief plan that would support U.S. oil and gas companies and preserve jobs in the industry.

  • The president invoked the Defense Production Act to compel companies to increase production of testing swabs by 20 million a month.

  • Authorities in Wuhan, China, the city where the first cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus were detected, raised its total for people killed by around 50%.

  • The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday the COVID-19 coronavirus “will be with us for a long time,” and that he hopes the U.S. will reconsider its decision, made earlier this month, to halt funding for the organization.

THE BREAKDOWN

A unit of meatpacking and processing giant Tyson Foods said on Thursday it will suspend work at a beef processing plant to test its workers for COVID-19, the third plant this week the company has said it will close.

Tyson Fresh Meats said it was working with health officials to test over 1,400 employees at its Pasco, Washington, beef plant. The company is already testing 5,000 workers at its pork plants in Waterloo, Iowa, and Logansport, Indiana.

The Waterloo facility, the nation’s largest pork processing plant, has been shuttered indefinitely. The Logansport plant is set to close on Saturday.

Keep plants open The nation needs to eat even in a pandemic

  • Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds said the economic disruption caused by plant shutdowns outweighed the potential health risks, and said farmers could be forced to euthanize their livestock. She said “people are gonna get” the coronavirus in large workplaces, but most of them will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Shut plants down Early action protects public health, limit closures

  • Some lawmakers said closing the Waterloo plant sooner would have protected public health and hurt the economy less. “My concern is the impact this has had because we didn’t act soon enough,” said Democratic Iowa state Rep. Ras Smith.
Read more here.

For Muslims across the globe, the holy month of Ramadan will begin on Friday amid lockdown orders and other COVID-19 prevention measures that will restrict traditional prayers and ceremonies.

The ninth month on the Muslim lunar calendar, Ramadan is marked by a daily dawn-to-dusk fast which is compulsory for most healthy adult Muslims. Additional prayers are also recommended, as are acts of charity. The fast itself is intended to teach adherents patience and compassion for the poor and hungry.

This year, however, Ramadan will not feature many of the signature mass breakfast (suhoor or sehri) and dinner (iftar) events that the month is associated with. Most mosques are closed to comply with social distancing rules and stay-at-home orders.

Saudi Arabia has already decreed that all prayers in Ramadan, including the additional Taraweeh prayers which are usually performed in mosques, should be performed at home. Congregational Friday prayers have also been cancelled, and congregational Eid al-Fitr prayers — Eid is a religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan — have also been cancelled in many countries.

Different but necessary Most Muslims states agree with lockdowns

  • Sunni Muslim countries across the Middle East and South-East Asia have banned religious gatherings in the interest of public health. Clerics have also generally been supportive.
  • Iran and Iraq, which have Shia Muslim majorities, have also called on people to avoid collective prayers.
  • The two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina will be closed. Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam, will also be closed for worshippers.  

Worth the risk Pakistan disagrees

  •  After clerics refused to adhere to the government’s lockdown orders, the Pakistani government allowed congregational prayers at mosques while urging worshippers to follow social distancing guidelines and bring their own prayer mats. 
  • The country is the only Muslim-majority state that has not closed places of worship. 
  • Around 78% of cases in Pakistan can be traced to a religious event near Lahore in mid-March, and to pilgrims returning from Iran a few weeks before that.
Read more here.

Google said on Thursday that advertisers who want to buy space on its platform will be required to complete a new verification process to increase the transparency of its advertising practices.

Until now, the search engine giant only required identity verification for political advertisers purchasing election ads.

Once the new process is implemented this summer, organizations will be required to submit legal documents (like a W9 or IRS document showing the organization’s name, address and employer identification number). An individual from the organization must also provide legal identification on the organization’s behalf. Individuals will have to show government-issued photo identification, such as a passport or identification card.

After advertisements are posted, users will be able to view a verified advertiser’s legal name and where the business is based by clicking on a context menu in ads.

Read more here.

The first war crimes trial of Syrian officials for their roles in the country’s ongoing civil war began in Germany on Thursday.

Anwar R., a former colonel in the Syrian General Intelligence Service, and co-defendant Eyad G., who was allegedly his subordinate, defected from the Syrian military in 2012 and fled to Germany, where they claimed refugee status. Under German law, defendants last names are withheld.

The case started with the 100-page indictment being read aloud, which took an hour. It detailed how anti-government and opposition activists were brought to military intelligence Branch 251 in Damascus, where Anwar was in charge of investigations.

The indictment, which included testimony from 24 witnesses, detailed incidents of interrogation using torture, including hanging people by the wrists or forcing them to sit or stand in positions that stress the body. Other torture included beatings with metal rods and copper cables, electrocution, sexual violence, starvation, and denial of medical treatment, according to the indictment.

At least 58 people died at Branch 251 between April 2011 and September 2012, the indictment charges, and over 4,000 prisoners were allegedly tortured in the building during the same time. Prosecutors allege that Anwar, whose office was in the same building, was aware of the torture and inhumane conditions which led to the deaths. He is accused of complicity in crimes against humanity.

Read more here.
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