Archive for April, 2020

Signs of the Times (4/30/20)

April 30, 2020

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [including both Trump & Pelosi!] (Matthew 22:37-39)

Abortion Deaths in U.S. 5 Times Higher than COVID-19 Deaths

The Illinois Family Health website keeps a count of abortion deaths in the United States in comparison to COVID-19 deaths. As of Tuesday, April 28, there were 56,259 COVIC-19 deaths compared with 280,370 babies killed by abortions. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden stated that abortions are “essential health care that cannot be delayed” during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Democrats used to call for abortion to be ‘safe, legal and rare,’ and now they deem abortion on demand at all costs ‘essential’ even during a pandemic, said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

City Officials Allow Drive-In Church after Lawsuit Threat

The Greenville, Mississippi, City Council has issued a new order that lifts the city’s unconstitutional ban on drive-in church services during the coronavirus crisis in the wake of a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of a local church. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case, Temple Baptist Church v. City of Greenville, agreeing with the church that the ban cannot single out churches while allowing similar types of activities elsewhere, such as drive-in restaurants. “Public officials are right to care about public health and safety during the coronavirus crisis, but they are wrong when they treat churches more harshly than others in government orders related to it,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker.

  • Many other churches have experienced harassment, fines and arrests over socially-distanced church services when stores and other establishments routinely violate such guidelines and orders.

Circumstantial Evidence that Virus Came out of Wuhan Lab

An ongoing U.S. government investigation into the origins of the global coronavirus pandemic has found “circumstantial evidence” that a Wuhan, China, laboratory released COVID-19 on the world, The Washington Times reported Tuesday. A document obtained by the Times found that China’s explanations for the origins of the virus are less credible than the evidence pointing to a Wuhan lab accident. “All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” the report concluded. The document does not yet have more concrete, definitive evidence with which to officially blame the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” a statement from the office of acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell said.

Economic Downturn in Q1 Just the Beginning of Steep Declines to Come

The U.S. economy turned in its worst performance in more than a decade in the first quarter this year but the dismal showing reflects just a sliver of the damage to come. The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., contracted at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.8% in the January-March period as both consumer and business spending fell sharply, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It is the steepest since late 2008 during the depths of the Great Recession. The economy was performing solidly in the first quarter until most states began closing down nonessential businesses such as restaurants, malls, movie theaters and sports venues in mid-March to curtail the spread of the virus, so the downturn is just the very beginning of the economic slide to come.

Unemployment Claims Rise to 30 Million

3.8 million people filed for unemployment last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, lower than the 4.4 million who filed the week before and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications in late March. About 30 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past six weeks, a grim marker revealing how badly the coronavirus pandemic has crippled the U.S. economy. While the number of claims continues to slide, the tally is still monumental.

  • State unemployment systems have been crushed under the weight of a record-breaking 30 million Americans who filed claims over the past six weeks. The Economic Policy Institute found that for every 10 people who said they successfully filed a jobless claim in the previous four weeks, three to four more attempted to apply but couldn’t get through the system to file a claim.

Consumer Spending Plunges 7.5% – Airline, Energy, Auto Industries Suffer

U.S. consumer spending plunged 7.5% in March, reflecting the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic as Americans complied with stay-at-home orders. The Commerce Department said that the spending plunge was accompanied by a 2% drop in personal incomes in March.

  • According to the Federal Aviation Administration, air travel is down 95 percent from normal levels. American Airlines posted a significantly worse-than-expected loss in the first quarter, its first loss since emerging from bankruptcy six years ago. The world’s largest airline posted a $2.2 billion net loss.
  • Demand for energy could crash 6% this year if lockdowns persist for many months and the economic recovery is slow. Only renewable energy has held up, with demand for electricity generated from sources such as solar and wind set to rise by 1% in 2020.
  • The oil crash is blocking American frackers from accessing the cheap credit that fueled their prolific rise. That reversal of fortunes could prove fatal for overleveraged shale oil companies.
  • The Big Three carmakers in Detroit are running out of time and money. Auto industry experts say the companies must restart their North American assembly factories in the next month or they will run out of cash. ” General Motors and Ford Motor Company are each burning through $130 million to $150 million of cash every day that their assembly lines are stagnant.

New Zealand ‘Eliminated’ Coronavirus by Acting Fast & Hard

After weeks of lockdown, New Zealand says it has achieved its ambitious goal of eliminating the coronavirus. When it comes to what worked, New Zealand had some advantages in tackling the virus. It had the benefit of time — New Zealand confirmed its first case of coronavirus on February 28, well over a month after the United States confirmed its first case. Like many countries, New Zealand had models that showed that a potential coronavirus outbreak could be devastating if no action was taken. Unlike some other countries, New Zealand responded relatively fast. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on March 14 that anyone entering the country would need to self-isolate for two weeks, it was among the toughest border restrictions in the world. At the time, the country only had six cases. When Ardern banned foreigners banned all foreigners from entering the country, there were 28 confirmed cases. And on March 23, when Ardern announced that the country was going into lockdown, there were 102 confirmed cases — and no deaths.

Sweden Says Its Open Approach Worked, Numbers Say Otherwise

Sweden did not join many of its European neighbors in imposing strict limits on citizens’ lives, and images of people heading to work on busy streets, or chatting at cafes and bars have raised eyebrows. Sweden says their strategy of creating ‘herd immunity’ is working. However, the death rate in Sweden has now risen significantly higher than many other countries in Europe, reaching more than 22 per 100,000 people, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. By contrast, Denmark has recorded just over seven deaths per 100,000 people, and both Norway and Finland less than four. Further afield the Czech Republic, which has a similar-sized population to Sweden, has recorded around two deaths per 100,000 people. Each of these locked down their countries early.

After Partial Reopening, Germany Experiences an Increase in Cases

Germany, one of the first European countries to cautiously loosen its coronavirus lockdown, is now facing the bleak prospect of having to restore the measures following an uptick in new infections. Earlier this month, the country took its first step to gradually restart public life as the propagation rate of the virus fell. But on Monday, the infection rate had risen again to approximately 1.0, meaning each infected person passes the virus on to one other person. When Germany decided to lift some restrictions, the infection rate had fallen to 0.7. Virologists have insisted the infection rate must stay below 1.0 in order to keep the pandemic manageable.

Federal Social-Distancing Guidelines to Expire Thursday

Federal guidelines encouraging people to curtail nearly all public activities are poised to expire today, Thursday, after President Trump indicated he did not intend to extend them. “They’ll be fading out, because now the governors are doing it,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Wednesday, referring to the restrictions. More restrictions will be lifted on Friday as additional states, including Iowa, North Dakota and Wyoming, ease their rules. As of Friday, more than a dozen states will have begun to partially reopen their economies and restart public life, raising concerns among health experts about another spike in cases that may not be detected in official numbers for two weeks.

Many States Begin to Gradually Reopen Starting May 1st

Parts of the U.S. are starting to lift closures, and some of the quickest to do so have been rural states like Montana, Vermont and Alaska. The effects of the pandemic in small towns can seem a world away from cities grappling with overwhelmed hospitals, packed morgues and economies pushed to the brink. More than half of U.S. states have announced plans to relax social distancing restrictions aimed at bringing the faltering economy back to life. Some states have simple plans. Others are more ambitious. Most states, however, have favored a more gradual approach.

  • In some rural parts of states where stay-at-home orders remain in place, local leaders have pledged defiance. The mayor of Grants, New Mexico, population 9,000, led a rally Monday where dozens urged nonessential businesses to reopen.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom will order all beaches and state parks closed Friday after tens of thousands of people flocked to the seashore last weekend during a heat wave despite his stay-at-home order.

Federal Data Suggests COVID-19 Deaths Underestimated

Federal data released this week shows that the number of deaths recorded in the U.S. this year is higher than normal, outpacing deaths attributed to COVID-19 in states that have been hit hardest by the virus. The “excess deaths” over normal surpassed COVID-19 fatalities, implying that some of the unexplained excess could be even more COVID-19 deaths. The phenomenon is pronounced in states with some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks such as New York and New Jersey.

  • In COVID-19 hot spots, coroners report being overwhelmed with dead bodies. Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell. Crematoriums have been backed up. Funeral directors across the city have pleaded for help as they have run out of space.
  • More than 70 percent of the inmates incarcerated at federal prisons who’ve been tested for the coronavirus received a positive result, according to a report published Wednesday. As of Wednesday, at least 31 federal inmates have died from the coronavirus since late March. About 600 have recovered.

More COVID-19 Symptoms Emerge

The latest odd COVID-19 symptom making headlines: “pernio-like lesions” on the toes that are pinkish-reddish in color and can turn purple over time. The American Academy of Dermatology started a registry of any and all skin-related symptoms associated with the coronavirus, and a member of the academy’s COVID-19 task force tells USA Today that she was expecting to see a lot of rashes due to inflammation, but “what was more surprising to me was this overwhelming representation of these ‘COVID toes.'” Pernio, also called chilblains or perniosis, is a condition that occurs when a person is exposed to the cold and develops skin sores or bumps on their feet. “COVID toes” are not believed to be actual pernio, nor are they believed to be related to cold temperatures.

FDA Preparing to Authorize Remdesivir for Emergency Use

Scientists on Wednesday announced the first effective treatment against the coronavirus — an experimental drug that can speed the recovery of COVID-19 patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to authorize the drug for emergency use. “Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert. Remdesivir was developed by biotech company Gilead Sciences, which carried out a major study demonstrating that the drug shortened the time it takes for COVID-19 patients to recover by four days on average, from 15 days to 11. Also, a trend toward fewer deaths was seen among those on the drug, Fauci said.

President Trump Orders Meat Plants to Remain Open

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday requiring meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure as the nation confronts growing disruptions to the food supply. Trump cited the Defense Production Act to order the companies to stay open, and the government will provide protective gear for employees as well as corporate guidance. The order affects all processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs and pork. The White House decided to make the move amid estimates that as much as 80% of the U.S. production capacity could shut down.

  • Many meat plant workers said Wednesday that they “won’t show up” to work, despite Trump’s order. They feel conditions would be too dangerous for them from working in close proximity at a coronavirus hot spot.
  • But pork producers say the president’s action provides “hope and relief” for farmers who face destroying thousands of pigs backed up on farms.

With Food Shortages Predicted, Millions Of Animals & Fowl Are Euthanized

With meat plants closing and the supply chain disrupted, millions of pigs, chickens and cattle are being euthanized despite forecasts of a coming food shortage. Forbes reports that dairy farmers are being forced to decide between dumping their milk or selling their dairy cows for beef. Contract chicken growers have been asked to “depopulate” nearly 2 million chickens. In Iowa piglets are being aborted by the thousands, in Minnesota tens of thousands of chickens are being gassed to death, and in Wisconsin farmers have been pouring countless gallons of good milk on to the ground.

  • “During this pandemic, our entire industry is faced with an impossible choice: continue to operate to sustain our nation’s food supply or shutter in an attempt to entirely insulate our employees from risk,” Smithfield Foods, the largest global pork producer owned by the Chinese WH Group, said in a statement on Friday.

Costco to Require Customers to Wear Face Masks, Walmart Not

Costco is requiring customers to wear face masks or coverings in its stores beginning May 4. The company is the largest US retailer to enact the rule, which is aimed at helping prevent the spread of Covid-19. Costco said the face coverings must be worn “at all times” in the store and will not serve as a “substitute for social distancing.” Changes enacted previously include earlier closing times, limiting the number of guests a member can bring and giving first responders and healthcare workers priority admittance into warehouses.

  • Walmart said in a statement that customer and employee safety is a “top priority” and it’s recommending, not requiring, customers wear face coverings. In March, the retailer began taking workers’ temperatures at stores and warehouses before their shifts and also made medical masks and gloves available for employees who want to wear them.

Workers at Amazon, Other Firms Plan ‘General Strike’ Friday

Workers who say major companies like Amazon aren’t doing enough to protect them during the pandemic are planning a strike Friday—and they would like shoppers to show their support by staying away. Organizers say a walkout planned for May 1, International Workers’ Day, will also involve workers from Instacart, FedEx, Walmart, Shipt, and other firms, the Hill reports. “Because of the failings of our employers, many of our fellow employees have contracted this deadly virus and some have died,” organizers of the “May Day General Strike” said Wednesday. “Although there have been some changes in company policies, they are not enough to adequately protect us.”

Many Hospitals May Close Down Permanently

The cancellation of “elective” surgeries and medical procedures has caused large numbers of healthcare workers, particularly in areas with low coronavirus numbers, to lose their jobs or be furloughed. There are “a historic number of empty beds in [hospital] systems left untouched by the pandemic,” Rick Jackson, the CEO of the third-largest healthcare staffing company in the United States, wrote for Newsweek. “Outpatient services account for half of all hospital revenue, which means hospitals are now making, and spending, half what they were this time last year,” he explained. “It’s not surprising, then, that the industry shed a record 43,000 health care workers in the first month of this crisis. Experts expect equal or greater layoffs this month.” “Even before this crisis, one in four rural hospitals were vulnerable to closure. Now, many of these rural systems have more empty beds than ever before.” He warned that “hospitals in every corner of the country might close for good.”

Can Coronavirus Travel on Air Pollution?

Italian scientists have found the coronavirus on tiny particles of air pollution, a new preliminary study said. This means the virus could be carried over longer distances, increasing the number of people infected, according to the Guardian. “Particulate matter” are tiny grains of pollution that can be dangerous to human health because they can get deep into our lungs. Those particles, often far smaller than the width of a human hair, are produced by car tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and burning materials. Air samples were collected at two sites in Bergamo province in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, the area of the country hit hardest by the pandemic, Weather.com said. Testing found a gene highly specific to COVID-19 in multiple samples from the province, one of the most polluted in Italy. However, researchers warn that the study has not undergone the scientific peer-review process, so the findings must be taken with caution.

Cats and Dogs Catching the Coronavirus, But Symptoms are Mild

A pug in North Carolina tested positive for the virus after several of its owners did as well. It is potentially the first dog to be confirmed positive with the virus. But veterinarians say there isn’t too much for owners to worry about when it comes to the family pet and coronavirus because the symptoms are mild. Cats are at higher risk of exposure due to the similarity in lung enzymes between humans and felines. But even then, the risk of any pet having a severe case of coronavirus, the way humans are experiencing, is low. The cats that have been tested, including tigers at the zoo, seem to be much, much more mild than people experience.

9% Won’t Get Tested/Treated Because of Cost

As states gear up to reopen, a poll finds a potential obstacle to controlling the coronavirus: nearly 1 in 10 adults say cost would keep them from seeking help if they thought they were infected. The Gallup-West Health Healthcare Costs Survey out Tuesday finds that 9% of those age 18 and over would avoid seeking treatment because of concerns about the cost of care, even if they thought they were infected with the coronavirus. A significantly higher number, 14%, would avoid seeking treatment because of pocketbook worries if they had fever and a dry cough, two widely publicized symptoms of COVID-19. Although Congress and President Donald Trump have made coronavirus testing free to patients, and some insurers are waiving copays and deductibles for treatment within their networks, the survey suggests such messages may not be getting to the public.

Medical Tests for Other Diseases Down Sharply

Medical tests for detecting and monitoring certain diseases have greatly decreased in the U.S. during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report on Tuesday by Komodo Health. Cervical cancer screenings fell by 68 percent, cholesterol panels were down 67 percent, and the blood sugar test to detect diabetes decreased by 65 percent in the U.S., as residents obey stay-at-home orders. “We’re seeing a tremendous impact on preventative care, as well as on chronic conditions with massive implications for the health care system,” said Komodo Health Chief Executive Dr. Arif Nathoo. Because of a lack of certain screenings, new cancers may go undiagnosed until they hit advanced stages. There is also concern about delaying standard treatment for patients with potentially curable cancers.

Germany Bills China for Pandemic Reparations, U.S. to Follow

Germany sent China a $165 billion bill in reparations for the coronavirus damage inflicted on its country. President Donald Trump is also vowing to seek “very substantial” damages from China for its part in unleashing the coronavirus pandemic on the world. First, Trump vowed to complete the intelligence investigation in the Wuhan, China, virology lab the administration intelligence believes accidentally leaked the COVID-19 virus. “It could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world,” Trump said, blaming China for lying and covering up the initial spread of the disease.

U.S. Will Do Full Audit of PPP Takers Over $2M

The government will be performing a “full audit” on companies talking out loans of more than $2 million from Paycheck Protection Program loans after several public companies borrowed large amounts of money during the first phase of the program, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday. “This was a program designed for small businesses,” Mnuchin said. “It was not a program that was designed for public companies that had liquidity.” He added that it was “inappropriate” for most of the 220 public companies who applied for at least $870 million from the government program to take out funds, and singled out the Los Angeles Lakers’ move to borrow $4.6 million, before ultimately returning it, as “outrageous.”

Economic News

Europe’s economy suffered its deepest contraction on record in the first quarter and the worst is yet to come as the region crashes into a recession triggered by the introduction of measures to contain the coronavirus. Preliminary data published on Thursday showed that EU GDP shrank by 3.5% in the first quarter of 2020 versus the final quarter of last year when the region’s economy was still expanding. France reported a drop of 5.8% in first quarter GDP — the worst since quarterly record keeping began in 1949, according to the national statistics agency. Italy’s GDP, meanwhile, fell by 4.7% in the quarter.

Israel

The U.S. State Department gave its blessing to Israel on Monday if the Jewish State decides to proceed with its plans to annex parts of Judea and Samaria. “As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the Judea and Samaria that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel,” a spokesperson for the State Department said in a statement. However, the spokesperson did say that recognition would only be granted if Israel keeps its part of the deal, by holding talks with the Palestinians in accordance with measures set out by the ‘deal of the century.’ “The annexation would be in the context of an offer to the Palestinians to achieve statehood based upon specific terms, conditions, territorial dimensions, and generous economic support,” the spokesperson said.

Germany

Germany banned all Hezbollah activity on its soil on Thursday and designated the Iran-backed group a terrorist organization, a much-anticipated step long urged by Israel and the United States. Police also conducted early morning raids on mosque associations in cities across Germany which officials believe are close to the heavily armed Shi’ite Islamist group. “The activities of Hezbollah violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” said the interior ministry in a statement. The move means that Hezbollah symbols are banned at gatherings and in publications or in the media and Hezbollah assets can be confiscated. Security officials believe up to 1,050 people in Germany are part of what they describe as Hezbollah’s extremist wing.

Iran

The United States has circulated a draft U.N. resolution that would indefinitely extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran set to expire in October, a move almost certain to spark opposition from Russia, which has made no secret of its desire to resume conventional weapons sales to Tehran, U.S. officials and U.N. diplomats said Tuesday. The draft document, which as of Tuesday had been circulated only to a small number of Security Council members, would strike the expiration of the arms embargo from the council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between six major powers and Iran, according to Trump administration officials and U.N. diplomats.

North Korea

While there’s been much speculation that Kim’s disappearance may be tied to health problems, South Korean and US officials think Kim may simply be sheltering in place at one of his favorite compounds to avoid the coronavirus. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-chul, says people shouldn’t jump to conclusions that the North Korean leader is ill or dead just because the North Korean leader didn’t show for an April 15 anniversary event honoring his grandfather.

Environment

A record-breaking ozone hole that formed over the Arctic this spring has closed, researchers announced late last week. Scientists at the Copernicus’ Atmospheric Monitoring Service tracking the “rather unusual” ozone hole announced Thursday on Twitter that it had ended. The group said the hole was caused by a polar vortex and closed when that vortex split. A polar vortex is a large area of cold air high in the atmosphere that normally spins over the North Pole. An ozone hole is a dramatic thinning of the ozone layer. Ozone holes have formed annually for the past 35 years in the Antarctic because of human-made chemicals migrating into the stratosphere and accumulating inside a strong polar vortex. Because of unusually warm temperatures high above Antarctica, the ozone hole shrank to its smallest size on record last October.

Weather

More than 250,000 customers remained without power Wednesday due to an intense line of severe thunderstorms that rolled across the south-central U.S. overnight Tuesday. Most of the power outages were in Texas and Louisiana. The squall line sprawled across 500 miles and took aim at many major cities including Houston, New Orleans, Dallas, Oklahoma City and St. Louis. According to weather.com, the storm produced more than 250 reports of severe weather in the 24 hours ending early Wednesday morning. Most of those reports were for wind damage, strong thunderstorm winds or large hail. Another round of severe weather is forecast for later Wednesday in the Southeast, with portions of Alabama, Georgia and much of the Florida Panhandle forecast to get damaging wind gusts.

Four Amish children have died and one is missing after the buggy they were riding in was swept away by floodwaters while trying to cross a bridge. The area experienced heavy rain Wednesday. A weather station just south of nearby Owingsville recorded 1.46 inches of rain.

Signs of the Times (4/27/20)

April 27, 2020

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 35-40)

Date:, Monday 4/27 /2020

Australia and New Zealand Lead the Way

A conservative leader in Australia and a progressive prime minister in New Zealand are steadily guiding their countries toward a rapid suppression of the coronavirus outbreak, reports the New York Times. Both nations are now reporting just a handful of new infections each day, down from hundreds in March, and they are converging toward an extraordinary goal: completely eliminating the virus from their island nations. Whether they get to zero or not, what Australia and New Zealand have already accomplished is a remarkable cause for hope. Scott Morrison of Australia, a conservative Christian, and Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s darling of the left, are both succeeding with throwback democracy — in which partisanship recedes, experts lead, and cooperation is the name of the game.

  • New Zealand announced Monday that it’s now able to downgrade its coronavirus alert to “Level 3” meaning many businesses will be able to reopen, because the island nation has “won that battle” against the virus, said Prime Minister Ardern.
  • The goal of complete elimination may wind up being impossible to attain in our global village. Other places that seemed to be keeping the virus at bay, such as China, Hong Kong and Singapore, have seen it rebound, usually with infections imported from overseas.

One-Third of Death Certificates Wrong – Even Before COVID-19

As the United States struggles to track coronavirus fatalities amid spotty testing, delayed lab results and inconsistent reporting standards, a more insidious problem could thwart the country’s quest for an accurate death toll. Up to 1 in 3 death certificates nationwide were wrong before COVID-19, Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the National Center for Health Statistics, said in an interview with the USA TODAY Network. Experts said the inaccuracies are part and parcel of a patchwork, state-by-state system of medical examiners, coroners and doctors who have disparate medical backgrounds, and in some cases none at all. The problem is likely to get much worse as the pandemic inundates overworked and sometimes untrained officials who fill out the forms.

U.S. ‘Official’ Coronavirus Cases Near One Million

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States neared 1 million Monday. Over the weekend, the U.S. reached a “plateau” in new coronavirus cases, but Dr. Deborah Birx warned that social distancing “will be with us through the summer.” The virus has killed more than 208,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Three million confirmed cases have been reported, including almost 973,000 in the U.S. More than 55,000 have died in the U.S. from the virus.

  • There is still substantial dispute about the numbers, what with ‘probables’ being included and vast numbers of bodies awaiting autopsies. While many say the numbers are too high, officials say that the number of cases is likely higher because of limited testing.
  • The analysis of federal data of ‘excess deaths’ — the number beyond what would normally be expected —suggests covid-19 death tallies have failed to capture the full impact of the pandemic.

88% of NYC Patients on Ventilators Died

Eighty-eight percent of patients treated at Northwell Health in New York died after being placed on a ventilator, according to a study published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers studied the cases of 2,634 patients with COVID-19 in the New York City area who had either been discharged or died by April 4. They found that 12.2 percent, or 320 patients, received invasive mechanical ventilation. The mortality rate for that group was 88.1 percent. The study also found that less than one-third of the nearly 6,000 patients had a fever, one of the symptoms most closely associated with COVID-19, and patients with diabetes were more likely than those with other medical conditions – such as hypertension – to require the use of ventilator. New York City has 145,855 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 11,267 deaths. Nearly 20,000 people have recovered.

  • As physicians have learned more about COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, they are finding that less-invasive and less-risky therapies may be as effective and can help some patients heal faster. As a result, doctors are becoming more conservative about putting severely ill patients on ventilators. The strategy right now is to be not as aggressive with the mechanical ventilation and trying other measures first. Simply putting patients on their side or stomach — a therapy long used to allow air to get into other parts of the lung — has shown promising results in some COVID-19 patients.

Promise of Malaria Drug and Remdesivir Fades

The Food and Drug Administration warned Friday that people should not take chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 outside a hospital or formal clinical trial, citing reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.” Many of those adverse effects occurred in patients with the virus who were treated with the malaria drugs, often in combination with azithromycin, also known as Z-Pak.

Researchers gave remdesivir to 158 people, per the BBC, then compared their progress with that of 79 patients who were given a placebo. A month later, 13.9% of the patients taking the drug had died, as had 12.8% of those who had the placebo. Side effects were the reason for stopping the trial early. “Remdesivir was not associated with clinical or virological benefits,” the summary says. Researchers said that remdesivir won’t be of much help.

Six New Symptoms CDC Added to List

Originally, the Centers for Disease Control said the primary symptoms of COVID-19 were fever, shortness of breath and a persistent dry cough. The six new symptoms added to the list are chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell. Shortness of breath was tweaked to “shortness of breath or difficulty breathing”  by the CDC. Coronavirus patients can experience a diversity of issues – from mild symptoms to severe illness. These symptoms generally appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Patients may be most infectious in the days before they began showing symptoms, studies show.

  • It’s clear that COVID-19 can be more than just a respiratory disease. It’s joined the ranks of other “great imitators” — diseases that can look like almost any condition, reports World Health News. This makes it incredibly difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat. “This is a disease progression we have never seen for any infection that I can think of, and I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades,” says Joseph Vinetz, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Yale School of Medicine.

Surge of Strokes in Young & Middle-Aged Baffles Scientists

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged in many hospitals in communities hit hard by the coronavirus — are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of its connected disease, COVID-19. Its biological mechanisms continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe — impacting nearly every major organ system in the body. The analyses suggest coronavirus patients are mostly experiencing the deadliest type of stroke. Known as large vessel occlusions, or LVOs, they can obliterate large parts of the brain responsible for movement, speech and decision-making in one blow because they are in the main blood-supplying arteries.

  • Many researchers suspect strokes in covid-19 patients may be a direct consequence of blood problems that are producing clots all over some people’s bodies. When they draw blood from COVID patients, it clots in the tubes. When nurses insert catheters for kidney dialysis and IV lines to draw blood, the tubes quickly become clogged with clots. Patients are making clots all over the place,” says Adam Cuker, MD, a hematologist and associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

UK Develops 20-Minute Antibody Test

Oxford scientists reportedly have an accurate antibody test from the pin prick blood sample that will work in 20 minutes, and the United Kingdom has ordered the production of 50 million tests of the “game-changer” COVID-19 devices. The U.K. plans to produce a million of the antibody tests by June and get production up to 50 million by next year. The 20-minute test will cost £10, which is $12.37 U.S., and is as simple as a pregnancy test with the prick of blood from a finger.

  • The belief is that, if you have the antibodies, you can return to work and socialize again, although some health experts have questioned whether having antibodies for the coronavirus truly makes you immune or whether it means you can still spread the disease.

No Evidence Yet that Recovered COVID-19 Patients Are Immune

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection. In a scientific brief, the United Nations agency warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected as their accuracy could not be guaranteed. The practice could actually increase the risks of continued spread as people who have recovered may ignore advice about taking standard precautions against the virus, it said.

Partial Openings Occur After Daily Record Number of Cases

Perhaps sensing a change in the virus fight, many Americans flocked to beaches on Saturday as one Florida county expanded access and California experienced a heat wave, even as new coronavirus cases hit a record high in the United States the day before of 36,491 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Hair salons and other shops in Georgia, Oklahoma and some other states opened for a second day as pockets of the country sought to restart their economies following a month of government-ordered lockdowns. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo repeated his warning that reopening businesses too soon was risky. On Monday, New York canceled its presidential primary scheduled for June.

  • Dozens of states have announced plans to relax social distancing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus – but few have yet to enact major changes. Many announced in recent days a framework for reopening, often with tentative dates or benchmarks where restrictions may be relaxed. At the same time, a number of states are also making small moves to roll back the most severe restrictions. More states are again allowing elective surgeries. Some construction projects will resume. And plans to reopen parks and beaches are becoming more common.

Americans Out and About More after ‘Quarantine Fatigue’

Researchers have found Americans are venturing out of their homes more for the first time since social distancing guidelines were put in place in mid-March, despite warnings from experts strongly encouraging people to practice social distancing. researchers have been tracking smartphone data to determine how well more than 100 million people are complying with stay-at-home orders. For six weeks, the percentage of people who were staying at home — meaning their phones moved less than a mile each day — increased or stayed the same. After “almost two weeks, it has been consistently dropping across the country,” Zhang said. “Now for many states the level of their social distancing right now is about the same as the week of March 20th.”

  • Seeking relief from a heat wave, thousands of people crowded beaches in Southern California this weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite a statewide stay-at-home order implemented by the governor last month.While beaches in Los Angeles and San Diego Counties remained closed, they were open in Ventura and Orange Counties. However, beachgoers still had to adhere to a patchwork of guidelines and restrictions, including keeping parking lots closed to discourage outside visitors and limit crowds. Authorities in both Ventura and Orange Counties reported excellent behavior by beachgoers, who they said were observing social distancing rules. More than 18 million were under heat advisories. Temperatures reached 93 degrees in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Medical Bills for COVID-19 Due Despite Government Promises

While the government and insurance companies have promised to pay for much of coronavirus testing and treatment, experts say that because of the fragmented nature of the situation, loopholes abound. Many sufferers have been slapped with hefty medical bills, adding even more burden to their already fragile state. Since the laws governing the testing and treatment of COVID-19 are changing rapidly, insurance companies are having a tough time keeping up and many items that are said to be covered are falling through the cracks. Many patients are receiving bills even after they’ve been told costs would be waived. On March 18, President Donald Trump signed legislation requiring private insurers to waive testing costs with state authorities also stepping in, reports NBC News. And he announced that hospitals and healthcare providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government during an April 3 White House briefing.

Indian Tribes Hit Hard by Coronavirus and Lack of Funds

The $2 trillion emergency bill passed by Congress in March provided about $10 billion for tribes, including $8 billion for the nation’s more than 500 federally recognized tribes themselves and $2 billion for federal agencies tasked with Indian affairs. However, the legislation did not determine how the $8 billion would be dispersed, leaving disagreements on how much each tribe should receive. Some say the funds should be divvied up by land size, population or even the number of coronavirus infections. Tribes are having to wait for funds to funnel through layers of federal agencies before it reaches them. And the agencies tasked with helping them are already chronically underfunded.

  • The more than 5 million people who identify as Native American are getting infected and dying of COVID-19 at rates much higher than average due to poverty and underlying medical conditions. Native Americans die at much higher rates from tuberculosis and diabetes, and suffer from heart conditions at a disproportionate rate compared with the rest of the nation.

Needed Surgeries & Treatments Displaced by COVID-19

Liberty Counsel reports that there are cancer patients who can’t have surgeries to remove tumors because, in some states, they are branded ‘elective surgeries.’ A heart surgeon says he can’t perform needed heart valve replacements because these have also been designated as elective surgeries “Cancer and heart attacks are not something a politician can put on pause with an emergency order. There are real life-or-death consequences caused by these lockdowns,” notes Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel

Cruise Ships Kept Sailing and Spread Coronavirus

The cruise industry’s decision to keep sailing for weeks after the coronavirus was first detected in early February on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan, despite the efforts by top U.S. health officials to curtail voyages, was among a number of decisions that health experts and passengers say contributed to the mounting death toll around the world. At least 65 people who traveled or worked on the ships have since died, according to a Washington Post tally, although the full scope of deaths is unknown. Public health experts say that a number of factors contributed to the rapid spread of the virus around the world, predominantly air travel; an estimated 4.54 billion people flew last year, compared to the 30 million passengers who traveled on cruise ships worldwide. But with hundreds of people dining, swimming and dancing together over a sustained period of time, the cruise ships also contributed majorly to the rapid spread of the disease.

Meat Production is Rapidly Declining

Almost a third of U.S. pork capacity is down, the first big poultry plants closed on Friday and experts are warning that domestic shortages are just weeks away. Brazil, the world’s No. 1 shipper of chicken and beef, saw its first major closure with the halt of a poultry plant owned by JBS SA, the world’s biggest meat company. Key operations are also down in Canada, the latest being a British Columbia poultry plant. Tyson Foods, one of the U.S.’s biggest meat processors, didn’t mince words in a full page New York Times spread that ran Sunday, in which they warned, “the food supply chain is breaking.”

  • Three of the nation’s largest meat processors failed to provide protective gear to all workers, and some employees say they were told to continue working in crowded plants as the coronavirus spread, a Washington Post investigation has found. The companies, however, say they took strong action to protect workers, which came amid efforts to keep beef and pork available for Americans during the pandemic. Regardless, many meat plants become COVID-19 hotspots.

Baking Ingredients in Short Supply

Whether kneading dough to let off steam or to make homemade pizza for kids home from school, America is baking its heart out during the COVID-19 pandemic — or at least stockpiling key ingredients, causing deep shortages of pantry staples that rival the absence of toilet paper, disinfectant cleaners, baby formula and meat. Supplies of flour and eggs have been strained during stay-at-home orders. And some best-selling bread-making machines have sold out. Now dry yeast, usually stocked in a variety of inconspicuous packages and jars in the baking aisle next to flour, sugar and baking powder, has become one of the hardest ingredients for home bakers to find. For the four-week period ending April 11, yeast sales jumped 410% year over year, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Economic News

States are soon going to experience massive budget shortfalls. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned last week that, without additional federal aid, the state will have to prepare for a 20% budget shortfall, which could hit schools, local governments and hospitals. However, none of the federal aid packages include money for state or local governments. “We’re not ready to just send a blank check down to states and local governments to spend anyway they choose to,” said Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader.

  • Only cities with populations above 500,000 qualify for the direct Coronavirus Relief Fund aid, part of Congress’s $2.1 trillion CARES Act package.

In March, amid the rapid spread of the disease and efforts to contain the virus, nationwide non-farm employment fell by 701,000. A majority of these March job losses were in food service and drinking establishments. For the week ending April 4, approximately 8.2%, or about 12 million members of the U.S. labor force, were receiving unemployment insurance. This is the highest level ever recorded since records began in 1967, surpassing the next highest level of 7.0% in May 1975. With new unemployment claims still at record levels, these stats are only going to get much worse.

  • The current unemployment figures indicate that roughly 16.2% of the U.S. labor force are now suffering from layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Hundreds of thousands of the newly unemployed have become gig workers. joining the informal freelance sector after unexpectedly losing their jobs or being forced to close their small businesses. Jewelers by trade should be polishing gems. Instead they are polishing off meals to go. A florist is now delivering food for Postmates.

Corporate debt was already at historic highs even before the coronavirus crisis. Now it’s soaring at an unprecedented pace as companies scramble to ensure they have enough cash to weather the crisis. That added debt could make an economic recovery much more difficult. Companies will have to pay down those obligations, forcing them to scale back planned investments, defer capital spending projects or postpone bringing back employees they let go during the crisis.

  • Since March 11, companies have drawn down more than $220 billion in cash on existing credit lines, Debtwire estimates. Auto companies, airlines, restaurants, retailers and hotel chains, are trying to make up for the steep plunges in their sales, as well as oil companies and the entertainment industry.

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he was “confident” Israel will be able to annex Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria this summer, with support from the U.S. Speaking to an online gathering of evangelical Christian supporters of Israel, Netanyahu said President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan envisions Israeli sovereignty over  dozens of Jewish towns and cities in Judea and Samaria, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. “A couple of months from now, I’m confident that that pledge will be honored, that we will be able to celebrate another historic moment in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu said. Meanwhile, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said annexation would be a violation of international law.

Middle East

The Arab League will hold a virtual meeting to discuss how to organize opposition to Israel’s plan to annex large swathes of Judea and Samaria, it announced on Monday. The meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, will be carried out by video conference and include the participation of Arab foreign ministers from across the Middle East. The ministers will “discuss in their virtual meeting providing political, legal and financial support to the Palestinian leadership to confront the Israeli plans,” the Arab League’s deputy secretary Hossam Zaki said. Last week, the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Israel’s plans risked “igniting tension in the region.” He accused Israel of “exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the novel coronavirus to impose a new reality on the ground.”

  • The Palestinians seek all of Judea and Samaria as part of an independent state that they have so-far failed to establish.They have threatened to cancel existing peace agreements if Netanyahu moves forward with Israel’s plan.

Iran

The United Kingdom said on Friday that an Iranian satellite launch earlier this week was of significant concern and inconsistent with a United Nations Security Council resolution. “Reports that Iran has carried out a satellite launch – using ballistic missile technology – are of significant concern and inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “The UN has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran must abide by this,” the spokesman said. Following strong condemnation by the Unites States two of its major European allies, France and Germany, have also criticized Iran’s launch of a military satellite into space. However, Russia defended its ally.

  • Always keep in mind that Iran has consistently threatened to annihilate Israel, which has only threatened to defend itself.

North Korea

“Kim Jong Un is alive and well,” Chung-in Moon, foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday. Speculation about Kim’s health began to swirl after the North Korea leader failed to attend the April 15 celebration of his grandfather’s birthday, an important national holiday that he had not previously missed since his rise to power in 2011. Last week, a Seoul-based website called Daily NK reported that the North Korean leader had undergone heart surgery on April 12 and was recuperating at a villa outside the capital, Pyongyang.

Weather

At least one person was killed Thursday as deadly tornadoes and storms raked the Deep South for a second day in a row. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office in Tallahassee, Florida, said a tree fell on a man around 7 p.m. on the northeast side of town. Multiple trees were down and power outages were reported throughout the city. About 19,000 homes and businesses were without power statewide Friday morning.

Three days after a deadly tornado tore through the East Texas town of Onalaska and nearby areas, the scope of the devastation is becoming heartbreakingly clear: 306 homes damaged, 173 completely destroyed, three people dead and four critically injured. Onalaska, a town of about 2,800 people, sits on the shore of Lake Livingston in Polk County, about 90 miles north of Houston.

With three weeks to go before hurricane season officially starts in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the earliest tropical cyclone on record formed SaturdayThe U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tropical Depression One-E formed about 900 miles off the southwestern coast of Mexico. As of Sunday morning, the storm was centered about 765 miles southwest of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and poses no threat to land. The Hurricane Center said it was the earliest formation of a tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific since the satellite era began in 1966.

Signs of the Times (4/23/20)

April 23, 2020

In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (Isaiah 54:14-15)

Pandemic/Locusts Could Spark Famines Of “Biblical Proportions”

According to David Beasely, the head of the UN’s World Food Program, we are about to see global food shortages on a scale that is absolutely unprecedented in modern history, of “biblical proportions.”  Even before COVID-19 arrived, armies of locusts the size of major cities were voraciously eating crops all across Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia, and UN officials were loudly warning about how badly that would hurt global food production.  And now the coronavirus shutdowns that have been implemented all over the planet have brought global trade to a standstill, and are making it more difficult to maintain normal food production operations with workers getting sick and plants shutdown.

  • A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meat packing plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. And it could get worse. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest. These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants.
  • The ‘Third Horseman’ has been loosed: “Behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius.” (Revelation 6:5-6)

Court Upholds Texas Ban on Abortions as Nonessential

A federal appeals court on Monday approved a ban on most abortions in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic — including those induced by medication. The decision from a three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals out of New Orleans upholds the inclusion of abortions among the elective procedures banned in a March 22 emergency order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott aimed at freeing up hospital beds and protective equipment for health care workers. The order left available an exception for women whose health would be in danger without an abortion.

Over 5,000 Abortion Mills Shut Down Worldwide by COVID-19

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has announced the closing of 5,633 member clinics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 23 others have reported a reduced ability to commit abortions. In 2018, IPPF committed nearly 1.4 million abortions around the world with just over half being done by way of a chemical abortion (the abortion pill). IPPF also claims it is struggling with accessing “key commodities and supplies,” because personal protective equipment (PPE) is supposed to be going to frontline health care workers battling COVID-19.

  • Throughout the United States, elective surgeries—including abortions in some states—have been postponed in order to divert PPE to COVID-19 health care workers. And yet, in states where a special exception has been carved out for abortion, Planned Parenthood abortion businesses have suspended actual health care services in favor of an ‘abortion only’ protocol.

Christian TV Reaching Millions in Middle East/Africa During Lockdown

Amid strict coronavirus lockdowns, millions of people across the Middle East and North Africa are “clamoring” for a spiritual and practical lifeline, and are finding such help right in their own homes through “living television.” In the region where Christianity began but is now a minority faith, Christian satellite television broadcaster SAT-7 has seen viewer numbers surge and social media interest skyrocket since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. “There’s an explosion of spiritual hunger across the Middle East and North Africa right now as people stuck at home seek real hope and real answers,” said Dr. Rex Rogers, president of SAT-7 USA, which continues to broadcast shows 24/7 that present Christians as ‘living epistles’ who speak to people where they are in life.

AG Barr Warns Lockdown Dangerously Close to House Arrest

Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the stay-at-home orders, which he called “disturbingly close to house arrest,” did their job—but their time is now passing. “There are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty,” he said. He acknowledged that many of the restrictions imposed by various governors are within the powers granted to states to protect public health, but said some of them may interfere with interstate commerce, which is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In cases where governors go “too far,” he said, “we’ll have to address that.” He also said that the DOJ might support citizen lawsuits against states that went too far with their restrictions of freedoms and the right to work.

U.S. Sees Downward Trend in COVID-19 Cases/Deaths

After several sharp spikes last week, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. seem to be slowing. On Wednesday, 4/23, there were 25,634 cases, down from 32,549 last Saturday, 30,023 on Sunday, 28,252 Monday and 27,668 Tuesday. Deaths are down to 2,139 Wednesday from 2,572 Tuesday and a peak of 4,591 on 4/16, when ‘probable’s were added to the count.

  • There are currently coronavirus cases on 26 US Navy warships, and another 14 had been hit by the virus but the crew members impacted have recovered, said a senior Navy official. The 26 ships with current cases are in port or maintenance yards.

Number of COVID-19 Deaths Depends on Who’s Counting

What constitutes a coronavirus death? The answer, it seems, changes depending on who’s doing the counting. “The only way currently to confirm a positive case is with testing,” Brevard Medical Examiner’s Office investigator Craig Engelson said. That can mean waiting on a test result taken at a hospital before a patient died. It also can mean testing the dead. Securing testing has been a challenge. Autopsies are running way behind. Hospitals have been incentive to report COVID-19 cases and deaths. So the numbers the media posts as fact are, at best, estimates and, at worst, inflated to sensationalize the news accounts and to allow government to expand hugely and gain even more control over its constituents.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending more than $600 million to state and local governments to help with testing to identify new cases of the novel coronavirus. The CDC is awarding $631 million to 64 jurisdictions through the existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement. The funds, which come from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed last month.

Coronavirus May Be More Widespread, But Less Deadly

The number of people infected with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County may be upward of hundreds of thousands, far more than the official tally reflects. Preliminary results from a study of Los Angeles County residents show 4.1% of adults have antibodies to the virus in their blood, which means they have been exposed to the coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers conducting the study say that translates into 221,000 to 442,000 adults who have recovered from the virus. LA County had reported less than 8,000 cases at the time. The initial study findings released Monday also indicate the death rate may be much lower than previously expected, estimating a mortality rate of 0.1% to 0.2%, which is closer to the death rate associated with the seasonal flu.

First Corona Death Not in Seattle But Earlier in California

Up until recently, the first COVID-19 death in the US was thought to have occurred in Washington state on Feb. 29. But autopsies have revealed two earlier coronavirus deaths in California, one on Feb. 6 and the other on Feb. 17. Both victims died at home in Santa Clara County and tissue samples ultimately revealed they had the virus when they died. The three newly revealed deaths are believed to have been cases of “community spread,” meaning the victims caught the virus from an as-yet-unknown person in the community. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it “a stunning discovery” that radically changes the timeline of the virus in the country and adds to other recent evidence that it was circulating in the US earlier than previously believed.

2nd Wave of Coronavirus Likely to Be Worse Says CDC

As states start to reopen, the director of the CDC has a warning: The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, and when the next wave hits the US, it could be worse than this one. “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” says Director Robert Redfield. “We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,” which could be devastating for the nation’s health care system.

The Coronavirus Has Already Mutated Into 30+ Strains

New research suggests that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has already mutated into more than 30 separate strains. The study found that different strains can generate vastly different levels of viral load, the South China Morning Post reports, making some far more dangerous. One strain, for example, appeared to generate 270 times the viral load — meaning the infected person produces 270 times as much of the virus— than the least potent strain. “Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity,” Li Lanjuan, one of China’s most prolific epidemiologists and a researcher at Zhejiang University, wrote in the study. The paper also traced different strains to outbreaks in different parts of the world, finding that the version of SARS-CoV-2 that spread across Europe and New York were far more efficient killers than the one that hit other parts of the U.S. such as Washington State.

Susceptibility to Coronavirus May Be Genetic

Researchers in Arizona are investigating possible links between a person’s genetics and their likelihood of contracting a severe case of COVID-19, information that could lead to better treatments or reveal whether some people are more likely to get sick. The Translational Genomics Research Institute is ready to start mapping the DNA of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. The institute will analyze that DNA for clues about genetic links to the disease. Though evidence is accumulating, it’s still too early to tell whether there is a definitive link between certain genetic mutations and susceptibility to COVID-19.

  • One area that could be important to study is the part of the DNA that is responsible for blood type. A preliminary study from China analyzed the blood types of more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 patients and found that people with type A blood were overrepresented in the data, whereas people with type O blood were underrepresented.

FDA Authorizes First At-Home Coronavirus Test

The FDA has authorized the first diagnostic test with a home collection option for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. In a statement released Tuesday, the FDA said that it had issued an Emergency Use Authorization for LabCorp to test samples that were self-collected by patients at home using LabCorp’s Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kit. “LabCorp’s molecular test permits testing of a sample collected from the patient’s nose using a designated self-collection kit that contains nasal swabs and saline,” explained the FDA, in its statement. “Once patients self-swab to collect their nasal sample, they mail their sample, in an insulated package, to a LabCorp lab for testing.”

  • Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Wednesday that the recently authorized at-home test for the coronavirus is “as accurate as having it performed in the doctor’s office.”

Most of U.S. Economy Will Be Open by Late Summer

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday most, if not all, of the U.S. economy should be reopened by later in the summer after a devastating shutdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Mnuchin suggested that after President Donald Trump signs the latest $484 billion funding measure into law, the economy will have all the rescue funds it needs to cope with the pandemic-induced shutdown. House lawmakers were set later Thursday to pass the funding measure to add to the $2.2 trillion virus relief package signed into law less than four weeks ago. By the end, small businesses will have had access to more than $600 billion in federal assistance through the Small Business Administration and emergency disaster loans.

WHO Warns Against Reopening Too Fast

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that rushing to ease coronavirus restrictions will likely lead to a resurgence of the illness, a warning that comes as governments start rolling out plans to get their economies up and running again. “This is not the time to be lax. Instead, we need to ready ourselves for a new way of living for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific. He said governments must remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus and the lifting of lockdowns and other social distancing measures must be done gradually and strike the right balance between keeping people healthy and allowing economies to function.

  • Keep in mind that the UN/WHO/Globalists are reluctant to give up the ground they have gained during this pandemic toward a one-world-government and their 2030 Sustainable Development objectives.

New York Institutes Blanket “Do Not Resuscitate” Order

New York state issued a blanket do-not-resuscitate directive last week instructing first-responders not to try to revive patients without a pulse amid increased call volumes and lack of resources during the coronavirus public health crisis, according to a report. The new order is “necessary during the COVID-19 response to protect the health and safety of EMS providers by limiting their exposure, conserve resources, and ensure optimal use of equipment to save the greatest number of lives,’’ according to a memo issued last week by the state Department of Health. The memo claimed similar guidelines have been issued “in many areas of the U.S. as well as other locations throughout the world.” “They’re not giving people a second chance to live anymore,’’ Oren Barzilay, the president of Local 2507, Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Union, told the Post. “Our job is to bring patients back to life. This guideline takes that away from us.”

Temporary Hospitals Being Shut Down Due to Lack of Use

The Naval hospital ship USNS Comfort is set to leave New York City’s harbor after it floated for three weeks mostly empty of patients. Of four overflow hospitals built in the state, only the Javits Center has taken patients so far. “What we did was prepare for the worst and if the best comes to pass then we’ll consider ourselves fortunate,” said George Latimer, county executive of Westchester which built an unused facility. A $17M pop-up Houston hospital may be dismantled as early as next week since it is yet to be used. Area hospitals haven’t hit capacity and cases seem to be declining.

Wisconsin Says 19 People Have Coronavirus After Voting

Wisconsin health officials say 19 people involved in election day activities this month have now tested positive for the coronavirus. The 19 either voted in person or worked at polling sites on April 7, but there is “no way to know with certainty” if they contracted the coronavirus there or somewhere else, a Wisconsin Department of Health Services official told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday. A day before the election, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers ordered that it be delayed and shifted to all-mail voting, only to be overturned when Republican legislative leaders won an appeal in the state’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court.

New Zealand Close to Completely Eliminating the Coronavirus

New Zealand is inching closer toward its goal of doing something its prime minister says “no other country has achieved” — completely eliminating the coronavirus. The island nation of 5 million people has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, as new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern placed the country under a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the new virus. Only 13 have died from it since. “We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” Ardern told reporters last week. “But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.”

Chinese Drones Used to Enforce Lockdowns Could Be Spying

Chinese drones deployed by law enforcement agencies across the country to monitor if social distancing rules are being followed are causing security and privacy concerns. Drones manufactured by China’s Da Jiang Innovations have gone to 43 law enforcement agencies in 22 states. But some experts say the drones may be doing more than providing feedback to local law enforcement agencies. They could be allowing the Chinese government to spy on our country.

  • Bad enough that the drones are adding to a growing surveillance of Americans that, along with facial recognition software, are reminiscent of the surveillance state in the book/movie ‘sustain1984’.

President Trump Temporarily Suspends Immigration

In an unprecedented executive order, the president has effectively shut down most immigration to the United States, claiming the move will protect the nation from “the Invisible Enemy” and help Americans secure jobs amid a massive spike in unemployment. Some worry that the order could be difficult to undo if Trump wants it to continue indefinitely. The public appears to agree that temporarily suspending immigration is a prudent idea. A Rasmussen national survey conducted three days ago found that seven out of 10 voters support this measure. “That total includes 34% who believe that even Americans living abroad should have to wait until the pandemic is over before returning,” the poll revealed.

Judge Halts Keystone Pipeline By Revoking Key Permit

Three weeks after Canadian company TC Energy decided to proceed with the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, they were dealt a major blow when a Montana federal judge revoked a key permit that would allow the pipeline’s completion. The permit was initially issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was revoked because it had been granted without proper assessment of how it could or would impact endangered species. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ordered the army corps to suspend all filling and dredging activities until it conducts formal consultations compliant with the Endangered Species Act. The move was a response to a legal challenge brought by a coalition of environmental groups who welcomed the ruling as a victory for tribal rights and environmental protection.

Economic News

About 4.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, lower than the 5.2 million filed the week before, and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications filed in late March. . More than 26 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past five weeks. Claims have declined over the past two weeks but remain at an extraordinarily high level.

Waves of bankruptcies are about to sweep America as restaurants, farms, small manufacturers, service companies, malls and more throw in the towel for good. Some states are also talking about bankruptcy. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority leader, said Wednesday he would rather let state governments declare bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic than receive more federal funding.

State and municipal employees could be among the workers who lose their jobs in the next wave of layoffs as tax revenue that pays their salaries plunges amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sales and income taxes, two of the most critical revenue streams for states and some cities, are expected to plummet as shoppers are confined to their homes, tourists postpone travel, and businesses ranging from restaurants to retail shut down and cut jobs.

The financial condition of the government’s two biggest benefit programs remains shaky, with Medicare expected to become insolvent in just six years, while Social Security will be unable to pay full benefits starting in 2035, the government said Wednesday. And that’s before both programs are hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down large parts of the U.S. economy and put millions of people out of work, thereby reducing the payroll taxes both programs rely on.

The eurozone composite PMI, which tracks activity in the manufacturing and services sectors, hit 13.5 in April, down from 29.7 in March — easily the worst reading since the survey started in 1998. The lowest reading during the global financial crisis was 36.2 in February 2009. Readings below 50 indicate that activity is shrinking. PMI data from the United Kingdom and Japan on Thursday also turned up the worst declines in business output on record. The United States composite PMI reading for the services and manufacturing sectors hit 27.4, down from 40.9 in March. It’s the fastest reduction in output since the data series was first compiled in 2009.

Persecution Watch

Another nine Christians were killed, including two young children and a pregnant woman, in a despicable Fulani militant attack on Hura village, Plateau State, on 14 April, as the Covid-19 lockdown continues in Nigeria. Around 28 homes were burnt out or badly damaged in the Fulani militant attack on Hura, which affected most of the families in the village. The callous attack came within weeks of similar Fulani militant raids, now surging under the current coronavirus curfew, that saw seven elderly Christians burnt to death and the murder of young pastor and father, Matthew Tagwi, in Kwall district.

Seven members of an Islamist terrorist cell suspected of plotting to attack Christians in Egypt under cover of the national nightly Covid-19 curfew, were shot dead by police on 14 April. Egypt’s Interior Ministry, which oversees the police force, said the gang was preparing to strike on or before Sunday 19 April, when Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. Egypt has remained under a state of emergency since 2017, when Islamic State (IS) suicide bombers attacked two churches on Palm Sunday, killing at least 46 people.

Removal of crosses from church buildings continues across China during the coronavirus lockdown, with numerous crosses torn down in in Jiangsu, Anhui and Shangdon provinces since the beginning of the year. “The government does not provide enough help during the [Covid-19] epidemic but instead demolishes crosses,” observed a local Christian.

Israel

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on Israel’s plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, fielding questions in the press briefing room at the State Department.“ As for the annexation of [Judea and Samaria], the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” said Pompeo, answering a question regarding Israel’s new unity government and its plans to begin annexation in July.

An Israeli airstrike in central Syria killed nine fighters, including six who were not Syrians and some who were loyal to the Hezbollah terror group, an opposition war monitor said Tuesday. Iranian forces operate in Israel’s civil war-torn neighbor with virtual carte blanche from Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. Both Iran and its terror proxy in Lebanon and Syria, Hezbollah, are sworn to Israel’s destruction. Israel has routinely communicated that Iranian troops operating near its borders is a red line that it will not tolerate.

Israel’s combined security forces recently captured a Hamas cell that planned terror attacks on sites in Jerusalem, including Teddy Stadium, as well as strikes on IDF forces in the Ramallah area. The investigation revealed that three men were recently planning bomb attacks and were also involved in several attempts to carry out bombing attacks against IDF forces in recent years. The squad attempted to carry out a bomb attack on IDF forces that entered Ramallah for operational activity on March 20. The terror squad received its funding of tens of thousands of shekels from Abd al-Rahman Hamdan, a resident of Ramallah, and a senior activist at Bir Zeit University.

Iran

President Trump instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea. The warning comes a week after 11 boats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Navy sped close to U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf. IRGCN vessels repeatedly “crossed the bows and sterns” of four Navy and two Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf as they were conducting joint operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, the U.S. 5th Fleet reported. Only after an hour of ignoring multiple bridge-to-bridge radio and sound warnings did the Iranian ships finally back off. Iranian Navy tactics frequently rely on small, fast boats to swarm and take over larger vessels.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it put the Islamic Republic’s first military satellite into orbit, dramatically unveiling what experts described as a secret space program with a surprise launch Wednesday that came amid wider tensions with the United States. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the launch of the satellite, which the Guard called “Noor,” or light. The launch immediately raised concerns among experts on whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Russia:

From the start, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been criticized. At first, he downplayed coronavirus, reassuring Russians that everything was under control and that the virus which put entire countries on lockdown hadn’t crept across Russia’s borders. When the numbers got too big to ignore, Moscow’s sloppy, disjointed message to its citizens only exacerbated the problem and people started pushing back, taking to the streets in frustration. On March 30, Moscow Mayor Serge Sobyanin ordered 12 million residents in Russia’s capital to stay inside. By April 13, the city’s health system had been overwhelmed by a spike in COVID-19 cases with dozens of ambulances forming massive lines just to get into the hospitals. One ambulance driver told The Moscow Times he had to wait 15 hours to get in. Moscow’s Health Department upped fears when it announced the city would run out of intensive care unit beds by the end of April. Then came the accusations from a Russian medical union that said the government was covering up cases and forcing doctors and nurses to treat patients without any protective equipment. As outrage grew, Putin stepped out of the spotlight and relegated the crisis response to local and regional officials.

North Korea

Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen in public in more than a week, but South Korea is refuting reports that the North Korean leader’s health is in danger. The denial came soon after a CNN report claiming that the US is monitoring intelligence suggesting Kim is “in grave danger” after an unspecified surgery, plus a report from South Korea’s Daily NK claiming Kim was recovering from a cardiovascular procedure. Kim is recovering Tuesday from a cardiovascular procedure, according to a South Korean media reports.

Weather

A system producing severe storms continued to move across the South on Thursday after tornadoes killed at least five people and injured dozens more in Texas and Oklahoma on Wednesday. Storms in Louisiana killed at least two people. Tornado warnings have already been issued for parts of Mississippi and Alabama Thursday morning. More than 164,000 homes and businesses across the Deep South were without power as of 9:30 a.m. EDT Thursday.

A powerful line of thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning for part of New York City on Tuesday actually whirled up what’s known as “gustnado,” according to forecasters. A gustnado is a smaller, whirlwind which forms as an eddy in thunderstorm outflows. The thunderstorm whirlwind moved over the Harlem River around 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon and then then hit the shoreline of the Bronx before dissipating north of Fordham Road estimated wind speeds of between 70 to 75 mph.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more severe (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (4/20/20)

April 20, 2020

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:10)

Churches Get Creative During Corona Crisis

A survey by the Family Research Council taken during the coronavirus pandemic shows that churches have responded creatively to overcome not having regular services through online Sunday services (33 percent) or Bible studies (19 percent), mobilizing prayer (14 percent), delivering food or supplies for people who are at risk (13 percent), promoting resources for parents (11 percent), or providing financial assistance (10 percent). There were even 37 respondents who stated that their churches setup mobile coronavirus testing sites. Over 56 percent of respondents reported that they are spending more time in prayer, and nearly 40 percent are taking time to dive into the Bible or other devotional materials. Over 29 percent reported finding more opportunities to share the gospel with loved ones during this time.

  • The brainchild of one New Jersey pastor determined to feed those in need in a time of global crisis has sparked a national initiative. With the help of his church and two humanitarian aid organizations, Pastor Chris Morante, of the Evangel Church in Scotch Plains, was able to launch the Boxes of Hope initiative which aims to deliver groceries and essential items to those in need. Evangel church then partnered up with Convoy of Hope and World Help – along with innumerable local church congregations – to start rolling out the project on a national scale.

Atheist Group Wins $450,000 in Legal Fees after Ending Graduation Prayer

U.S. District Judge Bruce Hendricks awarded the American Humanist Association $446,466 in attorney’s fees and $9,776 in expenses, less than a year after she ruled against Greenville (S.C.) County Schools in a much-watched prayer case. The school district indicated it may appeal. “Throughout this case, the School District has argued that students, like other citizens, have the right to free speech, including that of a religious nature,” the school district said in a statement. The case dates back to 2013, when the American Humanist Association sued the school on behalf of parents of a student who objected to students leading prayers at a graduation. The organization also objected to the graduations being held in off-site chapels.

Trump Sends WHO Funds to Samaritan’s Purse & Red Cross

Last week, President Trump halted federal taxpayer funding for the WHO, the international agency that has botched its response to the coronavirus. WHO has been accused of lying to the world about the coronavirus, defending Chinese propaganda about its origins. Now, President Trump has announced where the funds will be going instead — to two organizations fighting the coronavirus: Samaritan’s Purse and the Red Cross. The US provided roughly 10 percent of the WHO’s $4.8 billion annual budget. Most US contributions were “voluntary.” Annual US dues were just $58 million, with the next installment not expected until September.

Small Business Stimulus Funds Went to Big Chains & Brokerages

The White House is facing a huge uproar after major restaurant chains received millions from a small business stimulus program that has run out of money. Big chains such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Potbelly and Shake Shack received millions from the Small Business Administration’s emergency lending program, leading to a backlash that prompted Shake Shack to give the money back and a Republican senator to say that “millions of dollars are being wasted.” Money also went out to hedge funds and brokerage houses instead of ‘mom and pop’ small businesses that were supposed to be the primary recipients of the stimulus funds.

Many Coronavirus Victims Show No Symptom

A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the coronavirus without any symptoms, fueling hope that it will turn out to be much less lethal than originally feared, the AP reports. While that’s clearly good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious. That complicates decisions about returning to work, school, and normal life. In the last week, reports of silent infections have come from a homeless shelter in Boston, a US Navy aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries, and California. The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 25% of infected people might not have symptoms. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, thinks it may be as high as 60% to 70% among military personnel.

  • Around a third of participants in a Massachusetts study tested positive for antibodies linked with coronavirus, according to researchers. The Mass. General study took samples from 200 residents on the street in Chelsea. Participants remained anonymous and provided a drop of blood to researchers, who were able to produce a result in ten minutes with a rapid test.“We’ve long thought that the reported numbers are vastly under-counting what the actual infection is,” Ambrosino told the Boston Globe. “Those reported numbers are based on positive COVID-19 tests, and we’re all aware that a very, very small percentage of people in Chelsea and everywhere are getting COVID-19 tests.” Chelsea has the state’s highest rate of confirmed cases, with at least 712 confirmed cases and 39 deaths – an infection rate of around 2 percent.
  • A study by Stanford researchers released Friday indicated that far more Americans than previously indicated may have been infected with the novel coronavirus — and now carry the protective antibodies, a sign of possible immunity. Researchers tested 3,300 volunteers in Santa Clara County, California, and found that 2.5 to 4.2% were positive for the COVID-19 antibodies. That means that in a county of 2 million, between 48,000 and 81,000 residents would have had the virus.

Key Model Reduces Estimates of Total U.S. COVID-19 Deaths

A key coronavirus model has lowered its estimate of total U.S. deaths in its latest projection of how many will die due to the contagious virus. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) lowered its projection of total deaths from 68,841 (with an estimate range of 30,188 to 175,965) to 60,308 (with an estimate range of 34,063 to 140,381) in an update published Friday. The projection is significantly lower than prior estimates from the IHME, which last month was predicting 84,000 deaths from the virus. However, this is still a lot of deaths.

  • Despite fluctuations in daily COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., the overall trend over the past nine days is down, suggesting that the peak is past.

About 2% of COVId-19 Recoveries Retest Positive

In South Korea, health officials are trying to solve a mystery: why 163 people who recovered from coronavirus have retested positive, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The same has been recorded in China, where some coronavirus patients tested positive after seeming to recover. In South Korea, the proportion of cases that retest positive is low — of the 7,829 people who have recovered from coronavirus there, 2.1% retested positive, the KCDC said Friday. KCDC deputy director Kwon Joon-wook said that so far, there’s no indication that patients who retest positive are contagious, even though about 44% of them showed mild symptoms.

Will Coronavirus Come Back this Fall? No One Knows for Sure

Even before the first horrific phase of the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course, scientists are worried about the second wave of the disease. It could crash worse than the first, killing tens of thousands of people who did such a good job of sheltering in place they remain virgin ground for the virus. Or it could be a mere swell, with so many people having been infected without symptoms that levels of immunity are higher than realized. There is no crystal ball to look to, as so many crucial pieces of information remain missing. Are people who’ve had COVID-19 immune? How long does immunity last? Will the virus play out like influenza and the common cold, peaking during cooler months and falling during warmer ones?

Third-World Countries Lack Medical Supplies to Fight Virus

With healthcare systems buckling under the pressure of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 155,000 people, experts warn coronavirus could devastate the countries that lack healthcare equipment and infrastructure. South Sudan, for example, has just four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million people. Burkina Faso has 11 ventilators, Sierra Leone 13, and Central African Republic 3, while Venezuela has 84 ICU beds for a population of 32 million. According to the World Health Organization, around one in every five people who catch the virus need hospital care.

Contamination Delayed CDC’s Coronavirus Test

The U.S. delay in getting adequate coronavirus testing across America has been determined to be contamination at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta this January, The Washington Post reported. CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes confirmed in a statement to the Post, a “quality control” issue delayed getting the test kits out because they were delivering false positives. The CDC has since “implemented enhanced quality control to address the issue,” Haynes confirmed. Among the first 26 public health labs to get the test kits, 24 confirmed false negatives. The CDC violated their own manufacturing practices at a lab that was also handling synthetic coronavirus material, sources told the Post.

U.S. & Canada Financed Wuhan Virology Lab

It has been widely reported the U.S. and Canada had helped fund the Wuhan, China, virology lab that is believed to have accidentally released the global coronavirus pandemic because of lax safety protocols, according to U.S. intelligence. A $3.7 million grant was awarded by Obama administration in 2015. The funding grant was award to the Chinese virology lab to research coronavirus pandemics, but intelligence reports the lab had been written up by skeptical U.S. officials for problematic safety procedures. U.S officials’ believe the lab accidentally infected an intern, who spread the virus to the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province through the nearby wet market – and ultimately the world.

  • Australia on Sunday called for an “independent international” investigation into China’s management of the coronavirus outbreak and the origin of the pandemic, joining the U.S. in scrutinizing China’s role.

Protests Against Lockdown Increase Across Several States

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s residence Friday, demanding an end to the lockdown. “Liberate Minnesota” protesters are calling for Walz to reopen businesses and end a stay-at-home order aimed at controlling the spread of coronavirus. Demonstrators say they want their “rights restored.” Organizer Michele Even said, “We want to get back to work. We want to support our families. We don’t want to depend on government to take care of us.”

  • A protest of more than 200 demonstrators broke out in Southern California on Friday against the state’s stay-at-home-orders. The action in Huntington Beach, south of Los Angeles, was similar to others staged this week in Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Phoenix, Denver and other locations as Americans seek a return to a more normal life after more than a month of mitigation measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Placards held by protesters Friday held messages such as “Defy Fascist Lockdown,” “Stop the Tyranny, Open California,” and “We Deem Our Governor Non Essential.”
  • Protests targeting coronavirus lockdown measures in Brazil opposed by President Jair Bolsonaro tied up traffic in several large cities.The horn-honking protests took place Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and the capital of Brasilia and involved hundreds of people in trucks, cars and motorcycles. Protesters demanded the resignations of governors over measures that have forced most businesses to close for weeks.

Some States Gradually Reopening

Crowds returned to beaches in Jacksonville Friday after Florida’s governor gave the green light for some to reopen if done safely – as a new model significantly dropped the number of forecasted fatalities in the Sunshine State. The beaches are reopening with restricted hours and can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Florida has been one of the worst-hit states in the U.S. As of Friday evening, there were 24,753 coronavirus cases, a daily increase of 1,222 and 729 deaths.

  • South Carolina is also reopening their beaches as well as numerous nonessential stores, including department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops. Occupancy in each store will be limited to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% occupancy, whichever is less.
  • New York joined Connecticut and New Jersey in opening up their marinas, boatyards and boat launches for recreational use. On Friday, Minnesota reopened outdoor recreational businesses, including golf courses, bait shops, public and private marinas and outdoor shooting ranges. Montana will “begin lifting restrictions” on April 24. Ohio, Idaho and North Dakota advised nonessential businesses to prepare for a phased reopening starting May 1. Farmers markets in Vermont can reopen in limited capacities, starting May 1.

Laid Off Workers Also Losing Their Health Insurance

In a nation where most health coverage is hinged to employment, the economy’s vanishing jobs are wiping out insurance in the midst of a pandemic. The latest census data show that job-based coverage accounted for 55 percent of Americans’ health insurance, though the kinds of work disappearing the most — restaurant jobs and others in the service industry — have always been less likely to offer health benefits. The Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that 9.2 million U.S. residents were at high risk of having lost coverage during the past four weeks. The consulting firm Health Management Associates forecasts that perhaps 12 million to 35 million people will lose job-based insurance because of the pandemic, on top of the 27.5 million who were uninsured before the virus arrived.

Traffic Crashes & Fatalities Way Down During Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a substantial drop in traffic fatalities across the United States, according to a study by AutoinsuranceEZ. The study found that Seattle saw a drop of 100% in fatal accidents, Massachusetts reported a 75% drop in crashes, accidents dropped 51% in Los Angeles and crashes in New York City fell 33% near the beginning of March. The coronavirus pandemic has reduced fatal traffic accidents more than Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Harvey, the 2016 presidential election and other major events.

Exercise Reduces Virus Risk

Regular exercise, long beneficial for maintaining general health and an effective immune system, can help prevent severe complications from the global coronavirus pandemic, a study found. The most deadly complication from COVID-19 infection, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), can be reduced, if not prevented, by a regular exercise and fitness program. Medical research findings “strongly support” exercise is effective against ARDS, which develops in between 3-17% of all COVID-19 patients, per the report from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The CDC says between 20-42% of COVID-19 hospitalizations develop ARDS. “Research conducted prior to the pandemic suggested that approximately 45% of patients who develop severe ARDS will die,” according to a University of Virginia Health System press release.

Prescriptions for Anti-anxiety Medications Spike 34%

Prescriptions for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications peaked during the week of March 15, when the coronavirus crisis was declared a pandemic. Anti-anxiety drugs showed the highest increase, a whopping 34%, which was more than twice the increase of sleeping aids (14.8%) and almost double the increase of antidepressant drug prescriptions recorded (18.6%). Those numbers were reported in a survey of over 31.5 million insured Americans conducted by Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager.

Economic News

Record levels of government and corporate debt may be reaching the tipping point, several economists say. The federal government is on its way this year to spending $4 trillion more than it collects in revenue this fiscal year, analysts say. The reliance on so much debt will leave scars after the pandemic passes, making it difficult for policymakers to withdraw support and leaving the economy more vulnerable to a recession or depression.

A survey released Thursday by the James Beard Association found independent restaurants laid off 91% of their hourly employees and nearly 70% of salaried employees as of April 13 – double-digit increases in both categories since March. The poll of 1,400 small and independent restaurants found 38% of have closed temporarily or permanently, and 77% have seen their sales drop in half or worse, and 28% of restaurants said they don’t believe they can survive another month of closure.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce poll shows that one out of ten members say they’re less than a month away from permanently going out of business. The poll also showed “something like 50% of small businesses say that they were eight weeks away from closing forever.”

Ongoing concerns over swelling oil inventories pushed West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery down by as much as 50 percent to  less than $10 per barrel early Monday.

World COVID-19 Updates

Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 3,609 to 137,439, data from the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases showed on Saturday, marking a fourth straight day of a rise in infections.

In Spain, the second-worst affected country by number of infections, but with fewer deaths than Italy, the death toll passed 20,000 on Saturday, after 565 new fatalities were recorded in 24 hours. The rate of increase slowed slightly, bolstering hope the country may be bringing its outbreak under control.

There are 40 confirmed cases among staffers in Afghanistan’s Presidential Palace, causing President Ashraf Ghani to go into isolation.

Covid-19 has moved closer to the heart of government in Nigeria, where the president’s chief of staff has died. President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff has died and 20 other staffers tested positive.

North Korean authorities have confirmed for the first time that they have seen cases of the disease, Radio Free Asia reported. The infections were revealed in public lectures, but no numbers were given.

After logging over 1,000 COVID-19 deaths, Sweden has faced a rash of criticism for having perhaps the least restrictive rules in the world regarding social distancing, as restaurants and bars and some schools remain open while staying at home is urged but not mandated.

Israel

Israel’s leaders agreed Monday to form an emergency unity government with Netanyahu to remain prime minister. Breaking a year-long political deadlock, challenger Benny Gantz agreed to wait and become prime minister after Benjamin Netanyahu serves a turn.

A senior Hamas official threatened Israel Sunday, saying that if its demands for medical equipment were not met it would take action to force Israel to give it what it wants. The terrorist organization needs ventilators and advanced medical equipment, either from Israel or from a third country.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation, announcing a plan to lift certain restrictions intended to stop the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to introducing a “purple badge” safety certification process for businesses that seek to reopen, Netanyahu also increased the percentage of employees permitted at workplaces from 15 to 30 percent and announced certain types of freestanding stores will be permitted to reopen. Under the new regulations, Israelis will be able to participate in sports in pairs and pray in outdoor services in groups of up to 10, provided worshipers maintain social distances.

Afghanistan

The Taliban have killed at least 23 Afghan troops and nine civilians, officials said Monday, as a fresh wave of violence grips Afghanistan despite a deal with the US and a worsening coronavirus crisis. Under the terms of the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan government and the insurgents were by now supposed to have concluded a prisoner exchange and started talks aimed at bringing about a comprehensive ceasefire. But the stalled prisoner swap has been beset with problems — with Kabul claiming the Taliban are demanding the release of some of the group’s most notorious warriors — and peace talks seem as elusive ever amid ongoing attacks.

Hong Kong

The Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong government have used the coronavirus pandemic as a “golden opportunity” to crack down on pro-democracy dissidence, knowing that the arrest of more than a dozen activists would have normally seen people “pouring out onto the street to protest,” according to one recently arrested political leader. Hong Kong residents have largely chosen to stay at home since February in an effort to prevent the spread of infection. The semi-autonomous country controlled the outbreak by launching a widespread program that involved testing everyone who showed symptoms, quarantining positive cases in hospitals, and tracing all contacts within the past few days, ordering them to self-isolate.

Canada

The death toll in Sunday’s Nova Scotia shooting rampage has gone up to 17, including the gunman, the CBC and Global News report. That makes it the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history, the AP reports. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer is among the dead. The 51-year-old suspect disguised himself as a police officer and shot several people in their homes and in other locations around Portapique, Nova Scotia, where he is believed to have lived part-time, starting Saturday night. He also set several homes in the area on fire. Police say he may have targeted his first victims but then gone on to kill “randomly.”

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake shook the Ogasawara Islands south of mainland Japan Saturday. The United States Geological Survey said the quake measured 6.6 in magnitude. The quake was centered in the Pacific Ocean, about 885 kilometers (550 miles) south of Shizouka, Japan, west of the Ogasawara Islands. The earthquake’s epicenter was 454 kilometers (282 miles) deep. There was no threat of a tsunami and There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Weather

Residents across the Deep South are assessing damage Monday after severe storms and tornadoes battered the region for the second consecutive weekend. At least two deaths, one in Mississippi and one in Alabama, have been blamed on the storms. The National Weather Service counted at least seven reports of tornadoes. High winds from thunderstorms knocked down hundreds of trees, many of them falling on homes or power lines. Flooding was also a problem in many areas.

Signs of the Times (4/17/20)

April 17, 2020

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

The Aftermath of Coronavirus Will Be Economic Devastation

COVID-19 deaths, whether inflated or not, are still tragic. However, the long-term effects of this pandemic will be even worse. Economies across the world have been devastated. Optimistic assurances meant to mitigate the economic impacts and prevent panic are totally unrealistic. Already, 22 million people have filed for unemployment in just four weeks, beyond unprecedented. U.S. debt was already high at $23 trillion, 107% of GDP in 2019. With trillions more in stimulus funding and more trillions in Federal Reserve programs to pump money into the economy, debt load will become unsustainable with GDP also declining due to lost jobs and company bankruptcies.

  • The pandemic and economic depression plus locust swarms and famine in Africa are right in line with Biblical end-time prophecies which lead a war in the Middle East that ushers in the anti-Christ as a “man of peace” and the one-world government of Revelation 13 that will be toxic to Christians: “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Revelation 13:7)

U.S. Deaths Spike Because They Now Include ‘Probables’

U.S. deaths spiked to a daily high of almost 2,500 Thursday and then to 4,591 on Friday. This reflects the decision by federal health officials to include deaths “probably” caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Another report said that more rapid testing helped to spike the numbers. What is clear, however, is that the numbers are not accurate and are easy to manipulate and incentivize. Liberty Counsel reports that, “There are major issues with how so-called “experts” are cooking the books to reflect more COVID-19 fatalities than there are in reality. If someone dies from a cause other than the virus, but were exposed to the virus, they are still counted as a death “by” COVID-19.”

China Ups Death Toll Confirming Suspicious of an Undercount

At least 50% more people died in China’s virus epicenter of Wuhan than previously counted, with state media on Friday attributing the initial undercount to how overwhelmed the health system was when coping with thousands of sick patients. The addition of 1,290 victims raised Wuhan’s death toll to 3,869, the most in China by far, and may confirm suspicions that far more people died in the city where the illness began than has been previously announced.

Some Countries Begin ‘Opening Up’

People in the Czech Republic can now shop at hardware and bicycle stores, play tennis and go swimming. Austria plans to reopen smaller shops after Easter. Denmark will reopen kindergartens and schools from next week if coronavirus cases remain stable, and children in Norway will return to kindergarten a week later. These nations are the first in the West to start feeling their way gradually out of the limits on daily life imposed by governments to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Germany announced it plans to reopen on May 3rd.

  • A study based on China’s outbreak, published in medical journal The Lancet, has suggested that coronavirus lockdowns across the globe should not be completely lifted until a vaccine for the disease is found.

Plans Announced for Reopening American in Three Phases

On Thursday, the White House unveiled guidelines for states to begin reopening their economies and lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The guidelines set forth a phased reopening that empowers state and local governments to make individual decisions as to when to move through each of the three phases of the new plan. Counties may implement the reopening plan at the governors’ discretion. The president said America’s reopening would happen “one careful step at a time.” Before entering phase one of the plan, states are encouraged to first witness a decline in the number of cases in their area over a 14-day period. In addition, it’s recommended that states have the hospital capacity to handle coronavirus cases without crisis care and have in place adequate testing programs, including antibody testing, to monitor at-risk health care workers.

California Churches Sue Over Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Order

Three southern California churches who want to remain open amid the coronavirus pandemic filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials on Monday, arguing that stay-at-home orders violate their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and assembly. The Center for American Liberty, a conservative non-profit, filed the lawsuit in the federal court for the Central District of California on behalf of three pastors and one parishioner in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Newsom, a Democrat, and others are accused of “criminalizing church attendance” under overly broad state and local stay-at-home orders instead of allowing houses of worship to remain open if they practice safe social distancing in the same manner as grocery stores and other outlets considered essential services.

  • Mendocino County in Northern California has banned churches from featuring singing and the use of wind instruments in their online services during the COVID-19 pandemic unless the performance is done at the individual’s residence. The county’s order targets churches with multiple people on stage singing and playing instruments.

Michigan Protesters Tie-Up Streets in Capital

Hundreds of people protesting strict lockdown measures in Michigan ignored state directives on social distancing—and instructions from protest organizers—and gathered in front of the Capitol building in Lansing Wednesday. They were among thousands of people who came from across the state to clog Lansing streets in what organizers called “Operation Gridlock.” The protest against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition. At least 200 people, some of them carrying rifles, got out of their vehicles to congregate around the building’s steps. The protesters, who were not wearing masks, chanted slogans including “Lock her up.”

  • Michigan has one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the US, with almost 2,000 deaths. Whitmer recently extended the stay-at-home order until April 30. Michigan’s order is seen as much more restrictive than in other states.
  • Other similar protests have begun popping up in various U.S. communities over the past few days.

Trump Suspends Payment to World Health Organization

President Donald Trump has decided to stop all funding for the World Health Organization, saying the group has put “political correctness over lifesaving measures.” Trump said the U.S. will lead a 60-to-90 day investigation into allegations that WHO downplayed coronavirus and how the organization uses funding. WHO is accused of downplaying the virus when it emerged in China. Trump said WHO caused “so much death” by “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the virus. The U.S. is WHO’s largest backer with about $500 million given to the organization each year. An internal report obtained by the Associated Press last year found that in 2018, the organization spent more on travel expenses than to combat problems in public health.

  • Public health experts are lashing out at the U.S. president, with some saying Trump is trying to deflect attention from his own lack of timely response to the virus outbreak. “President Trump’s decision to defund WHO is simply this—a crime against humanity,” Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, posted online.
  • At least one global health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations concedes the WHO wasn’t on top of its game regarding the virus. “The WHO could have been more diligent in determining the nature of the outbreak and how serious the problem was,” Dr. Yanzhong Huang says.
  • The World Health Organization has “blood on their hands” over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its early denial that the virus could not be spread between people, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said. Navarro said that on Jan. 14, “the World Health Organization was once again denying human-to-human transmission, even though Taiwan had told them there was such evidence of that two weeks earlier.

China’s Six Days of Silence Allowed the Coronavirus to Take Hold

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people. In addition, millions began traveling through the ground-zero city for Lunar New Year celebrations. Per internal documents obtained by the AP, the head of China’s National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, laid out a grim assessment of the situation in a confidential Jan. 14 teleconference with provincial health officials. President Xi Jinping didn’t take action or even warn the public until six days later, Jan. 20. But by then, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence. That six-day delay by the first nation to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time—the beginning of the outbreak when containment could have worked. Some are calling in a crime against humanity.

U.S. Probing Claims That COVID-19 Escaped From Chinese Lab

U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether the coronavirus may have leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic is generally thought to have begun, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the nation’s senior military officer, told reporters that initial assessments suggest COVID-19’s emergence appears to have been “natural,” occurring as a consequence of animal-to-human transmission. However, he referenced published reports that the virus may have escaped from a research laboratory. “It should be no surprise that we’ve taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence [agencies] take a hard look at that,” Milley said.

  • COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan laboratory not as a bioweapon, but as part of China’s effort to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States, multiple sources who have been briefed on the details of early actions by China’s government and seen relevant materials tell Fox News.

We Might Be Social Distancing Until 2022, Experts Say

If a coronavirus vaccine fails to become available quickly, social distancing might be here until 2022. That’s according to new research published in the journal Science on Tuesday. Researchers from Harvard took what is known about COVID-19 and other coronaviruses and used computer models to simulate various scenarios for how the pandemic could play out. In order to contain the virus, “Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available.” Researchers warn that if social distancing is practiced intermittently, outbreaks could occur quickly each time restrictions are lifted.

States Screening Out-of-Staters at Border is Unconstitutional

Amid the pandemic, some states are screening out-of-state residents at their borders and forcing some arrivals into quarantine — a practice some legal experts say is unconstitutional. Law enforcement experts say such use of roadblocks is extraordinary and unprecedented in the United States, and legal specialists question their constitutionality and effectiveness.

COVID-19 Patients May Be Contagious 2 to 3 Days Before Symptoms

COVID-19 patients may be contagious with coronavirus two to three days before their symptoms show, according to a research study in China. The research was published Wednesday in the journal Nature Medicine. “Patients with the respiratory disease COVID-19 may begin to shed, or excrete, infectious SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus 2–3 days before the first symptoms appear,” the researchers said. Researchers warn that the results have major implications on measures taken to control the spread of coronavirus. The study’s authors note, however, that the research depended on patient recall of the onset of symptoms. This, they caution, may have influenced the results, as there may be a delay in the recognition of the first symptoms.

Hydroxychloroquine Does Not Clear Coronavirus, but Can Alleviate Symptoms

A study of COVID-19 patients in China who received hydroxychloroquine showed the anti-malarial drug did not clear the patients of the virus. The research consisted of 150 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. It has not yet been peer-reviewed and was published earlier this month on the medXiv repository. Despite not clearing the patients of the virus, the researchers noted the drugdid alleviate some symptoms. The study was conducted at 16 treatment centers in China through Feb. 11 to 29, 2020 and 75 patients received the drug and 75 received standard-of-care. There were some side effects in the group of 75 who took the drug, first used for malaria nearly 70 years ago, but most were mild, the most common being diarrhea for 10 percent of patients.

  • In a French study, doctors looked back at medical records for 181 patients with Covid-19 who had pneumonia and required supplemental oxygen. About half had taken hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of being admitted to the hospital, and the other half had not. The doctors followed the patients and found there was no statistically significant difference in the death rates of the two groups.

Remdesivir Shows Promise for “Rapid Recoveries”

A Gilead Sciences antiviral drug is reportedly showing promise for treatment of the coronavirus. Remdesivir is causing “rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week” in patients at a Chicago hospital, medical site STAT reported. The University of Chicago data covered 125 people infected with COVID-19, including 113 severe cases, all of whom are being given daily doses. Remdesivir is one of numerous drugs under development to treat or cure the coronavirus. There’s no guarantee the Chicago hospital’s results will be replicated elsewhere, but there’s hope that it will.

COVID-19 Antibody Test Still Uncertain

Members of the National Academy of Sciences’ Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats told members of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy there are issues with the availability and reliability of the antibody tests in the United States right now. “In three words: Work in progress,” said Dr. David Relman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences committee who was on the call. There are several layers of issues with the antibody tests. First, the US Food and Drug Administration relaxed its rules, and now companies can sell antibody tests without submitting validation data that shows they actually work. At least half the companies making these tests are in China. There has also been concern that some of the tests might confuse the coronavirus causing the current pandemic with one of several coronaviruses that cause the common cold.

Mutation of Coronavirus May Make Vaccine Irrelevant

Researchers have discovered what they described as a “significant” mutation of the novel coronavirus, which they believe “raises the alarm” that the search for a vaccine could become “futile” down the line. The study, published on the biorxiv.org repository, notes researchers were able to analyze a sample of SARS-CoV-2 from India on January 27 and found a mutation that “leads to weaker receptor binding capability.” The receptor, known as ACE2, is an enzyme in a person’s lungs. This represents the first report of a significant SARS-CoV-2 mutant, and raises the alarm that the ongoing vaccine development may become futile in future epidemic if more mutations were identified.”

Inmate Released Over Coronavirus Charged with Murder

A Florida inmate who was released from jail because of  impending concerns nationwide over the spread of coronavirus in correctional facilities is accused of murder. Joseph Edward Williams, 26, was initially released last month – along with more than 100 other inmates – in order to limit the spread of coronavirus among incarcerated people. He was initially arrested on assorted drug charges, including possession of heroin. But a day after his release, an unidentified man was shot and killed, and authorities allege that Williams was involved in his death. “There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister in a statement.

Teachers had Little Training for How to do Online Classes

Experts say teachers ideally should receive several days, weeks or – better – months of in-depth preparation before launching an online learning program. But when schools across the USA closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, district leaders eager to keep students learning pushed teachers to pivot quickly to online learning. Many teachers only received a couple of days of training before being asked to overhaul nearly every facet of their job. The lucky ones had a couple weeks. The varying amount of training has created a patchwork of quality and gaps in accessibility. Many teachers improvise, counting on patience from parents and students as they transition to online learning on the fly.

  • In addition, many students lack the technology to participate in online training, requiring packages of learning material to be sent to them.

Restaurant Openings Could Involve New Anti-Virus Protocols

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday outlined a plan for reopening the state, but he made it clear that even when restaurants are allowed to open their dining rooms again, things won’t be the same. The Los Angeles Times reports that new policies will likely include customers having their temperatures taken at the door, servers wearing masks and gloves, single-use menus being handed out rather than the typical reusable ones, and seating being reduced by half so that physical distancing measures can be abided by. “This could become the new normal,” Newsom said, per Eater LA.

Food Shortages Widening. Baby Formula Back

We have too much milk, maybe not enough meat and could eventually run short on soup. America’s food supply chain is getting seriously out of whack due to the coronavirus pandemic. The sudden shift from restaurant dining to at-home eating, coupled with panic buying at grocery stores, is causing major disruption in the manufacturing, distribution and sales of food products. Dairy farmers are dumping excess raw milk, while meat companies are scrambling to meet demand. Industry watchers are getting concerned about supplies of beef, poultry and pork as the COVID-19 sickens workers.

Baby formula, which vanished during a nationwide run on baby supplies, could start flowing back onto store shelves in the next week or two. In some areas, it’s already much easier to find. Manufacturers ramped up production and worked hand in hand with retailers and government agencies to uncork bottlenecks that for weeks made formula frighteningly scarce. Stores in areas where there were acute shortages started limiting purchases.

Small Business Loans Stuck in Logjam

The small-business program that is supposed to quickly provide $10,000 grants during the COVID-10 pandemic has been overwhelmed and is running weeks behind schedule. Originally intended to provide aid to businesses hit by natural disasters such as tornadoes and wildfires, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program was recently expanded to also cover the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns. But the Small Business Administration doesn’t have the staff or funds to keep up with the program’s pledge to provide money within three days of an application.

  • In addition, the SBA said it was “unable to accept new applications” for the Paycheck Protection Program because so many applicants have sought loans in the past two weeks, completely draining the fund. Republicans and Democrats have called for adding money to the program, but they are at an impasse on how to proceed.

Economic News

Several million people who filed their taxes via H&R Block, TurboTax and other popular services were unable to get their stimulus (EID) payments Wednesday. Some parents complained they did not receive the $500 promised for their dependent children. Others received the wrong amount or got a “payment status not available” message from the new IRS site. Many other people expressed concern when the government website said the check was sent to a bank account that didn’t seem to belong to them.

The Labor Department reported more than 5 million new unemployment claims this week. A total of 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks as the labor market tumbles closer to Depression levels. Economists say the unemployment rate is now well into the teens. Unemployment could remain as high as 10 percent through the end of the year, even after the economy reopens, they say.

  • The vast number of filers is straining state unemployment agencies’ ability to handle the crush of filers and is threatening to drain some states’ unemployment trust funds in coming weeks.

About 3 in 10 Americans have already lost some income, 3 in 10 have stopped or cut back on their retirement savings and 3 in 10 have added debt during the pandemic, according to a new Harris poll. About 1 in 4 have missed or expect to soon miss a bill payment, while about 1 in 5 has missed or expects to soon miss a rent or mortgage payment. Some 55% of Americans are concerned that they may lose their job due to this crisis. and 53% say they’re not pulling money out of their 401(k) plan, while 12% are, and the rest don’t have a 401(k).

Retail sales plunged 8.7 percent in March for the biggest decline ever as the coronavirus gutted consumer spending. The falloff signals the severity of the pandemic’s effect on consumers, who drive about 70 percent of the U.S. economy but have been forced to stay home. Auto sales dropped 25.6%, while clothing sales collapsed by 50.5%. Restaurants and bars reported a nearly 27% fall in revenue. The deterioration of sales far outpaces the previous record decline of 3.9% that took place during the depths of the Great Recession in November 2008.

New residential construction slowed sharply in March with a 22% decline from the pace in February. All four geographical segments in the United States were down, led by a 43% plunge in the Northeast, which is getting hit hardest by the health crisis. Despite the sharp month-over-month drop, housing starts were still up from a year ago.

U.S. oil prices plunged Friday after China reported its gross domestic product shrank for the first time since recordkeeping began in 1992 as the economy was shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery tumbled by as much as 9.9 percent to $17.90 a barrel, its lowest since 2001.

Ford warned investors Friday that it will record a net loss of about $2 billion when it reports first quarter results later this month. Ford and other US automakers have halted production at their North American plants in mid-March due to the concerns about workers’ health. Car sales have also fallen sharply, as dealerships are closed in many states.

Persecution Watch

Federal agents arrested a western Massachusetts man and accused of him trying to blow up a Jewish assisted living facility — but he instead left his DNA on the failed explosive, authorities alleged Wednesday. John Michael Rathbun, 36, of East Longmeadow was charged with two counts of attempted arson after local police found a 5-gallon plastic gas container with burned paper placed in the nozzle of the canister outside the assisted living home on April 2, according to a criminal complaint. The burned paper was a Christian religious pamphlet, and blood was on the side of the gas canister and the paper, the FBI said. The blood is alleged to have matched Rathbun’s DNA, which had been stored in a federal database because of his 2011 arrests on charges of breaking and entering and receiving stolen property.

Israel

In a roller-coaster week of ups and downs in coalition negotiations, the verdict finally came in on Thursday morning – they failed. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin took the mandate to form a government from Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White, and handed it to the Knesset. “I hope that the Knesset members will be able to formulate a majority in such a way that they can bring together a government as quickly as possible and avoid a fourth election campaign,” Rivlin said. Gantz’s mandate lasted for 28 days and officially ended on Monday. After last-minute talks appeared to be progressing, Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu jointly requested from Rivlin that he extend the mandate until Wednesday at midnight. Rivlin granted the request. The last-ditch effort failed to lead to a unity government, however.

North Korea

Senior officials in North Korea paid tribute to the remote kingdom’s founder Kim Il Sung Wednesday, but the apparent absence of current dictator Kim Jong Un raised questions about whether coronavirus played a part. The Hermit Kingdom’s most important holiday is April 15, the birthday of the country’s first dictator, known as the “Day of the Sun.” It’s a day that normally includes an immense military parade and synchronized public performances, sometimes involving tens of thousands. But on Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency said only that a group of senior government, party and military officials paid tribute at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for Kim Il Sung’s 108th birthday.

  • Some North Korean observers theorized that Kim may have skipped the visit over concerns about COVID-19. The Hermit Kingdom has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case on its soil, but has implemented social distancing measures.

Myanmar

Hundreds of starving Rohingya refugees have been rescued after spending almost two months at sea. The coast guard in Bangladesh says more than 30 people died on the vessel, which may have been turned back from Malaysia due to the coronavirus pandemic. At least 382 Rohingya were rescued from a big overcrowded fishing trawler and brought to a beach. Authorities say the refugees are originally from Myanmar, but it’s not clear whether they set off from there or Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims ended up in refugee camps after a bloody crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.

Weather

Blue-green algae is showing up in parts of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee earlier than usual this year after an exceptionally warm spring across much of the state. Harmful algae blooms like cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are fueled by nutrients in the water and are more likely to happen when the water temperature is warmer.

Climate and ecological measuring data are being interrupted by COVID-19, and that will have strong impacts on forecasting capabilities in the near term and lead to lags in climate studies in the long term. The usual ocean measurements and data from commercial airlines that contribute to record keeping and forecasting are now delayed or completely shut down. The people measuring and tracking the data cannot do that from home. For example, scientists often ride along on commercial container ships that cruise the world’s oceans, collecting data and deploying a variety of instruments that measure weather, currents and other oceanic properties. Many of those ships are still running, but travel restrictions mean that scientists are no longer allowed on board

Signs of the Times (4/14/20)

April 14, 2020

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens… So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (2Corinthians 5:1,6-7)

Immunity Cards, Digital ID, Mark of the Beast?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, admitted Friday that the idea of Americans being given “certificates of immunity” to the deadly COVID-19 virus is being considered and might even “have some merit.” “That’s possible. It’s one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure that we know who the vulnerable people are and not,” Fauci said. Such certificates tied to testing of antibodies would, in theory, be a step toward reopening normal life. In theory, people with certificates of immunity might be exempted from some social distancing protocols and could return to work or other activities without risk of infecting others.

  • Others have suggested giving everyone a ‘digital id’ to track those who are well or sick or who have gotten the vaccine when it is eventually available. These ideas smack of the ‘mark of the beast’ (Revelation 13:16-17. 14:9-10), but Scripture says these would be implanted in the wrist or forehead and would be used to “buy or sell,” so the certificates and digital ID are not exactly it but, rather, steps in that direction.

Churches Targeted on Easter Sunday

U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie slammed Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s Friday announcement that those who attend in-person church services over Easter weekend will face mandatory quarantine. Beshear said during his 5 p.m. news conference that law enforcement will record the license plate numbers of those attending mass gatherings of any kind, including religious services. “Taking license plates at church?” Paul tweeted late Friday. “Quarantining someone for being Christian on Easter Sunday? Someone needs to take a step back here.” Paul, who was the first member of the Senate to confirm having COVID-19, announced earlier this week that he has recovered and is volunteering at a Bowling Green hospital.

  • A federal judge granted a restraining order against a Kentucky mayor who promised to record the license plates of Easter church goers at drive-in services, calling the order “unconstitutional.” The Louisville church that brought the matter to court had been hosting drive-in-church services for several weeks consistent with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coronavirus guidelines.
  • Mississippi Pastor Arthur Scott, who is suing the city of Greenville after police officers issued tickets to people attending the church’s drive-in service last week. The suit comes after eight uniformed Greenville police officers reportedly issued $500 tickets to congregants who refused to leave a parking lot where a drive-in service was being conducted.
  • Even though churches were originally declared “essential” in Indiana, the elders at Church of Christ in Hammond, Indiana, were ticketed on Palm Sunday for holding a church service. City Hall in Hammond remained open and is having meetings with 25+ people, but when this church met with a small group, the neighbors called the police, who stopped the service and punished the leaders.
  • Authorities who choose to single out religious organizations to enforce social distancing rules will face action for discrimination, Attorney General William Barr’s office said. In the week leading up to Easter, the attorney general’s office said they would begin “monitoring govt regulation of religious services,” The Christian Post reports.

Michigan Governor Bans Homeschooling

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order closing public school buildings also bans homeschooling, which is unconstitutional, contends a legal non-profit in the state. “The Great Lakes Justice Center calls upon Gov. Whitmer to correct this unconstitutional action and assure parents in Michigan that they may continue to safely home school their own children while the EO is in effect,” the organization said in a statement Thursday. “The governor clearly has the authority to close school buildings,” the legal team acknowledged. However, “Michigan law defines home schools as nonpublic schools. “While this may be an unintended consequence of faulty drafting, the EO’s plain language bans all ‘in-person instruction’ of all children.”

Hospitals Paid to List Patients as COVID-19

Minnesota Republican state senator Scott Jensen, who is also a medical doctor, says the AMA is encouraging doctors to over-count coronavirus deaths. He revealed that “Medicare is determining that if you have a COVID-19 admission to the hospital you get $13,000. If that COVID-19 patient goes on a ventilator you get $39,000, three times as much.” Several days ago, he told local media he received a directive from the Minnesota Department of Health to list COVID-19 as the cause of death on death certificates even if patients were never tested for it. When asked why officials would want to inflate the death statistics, Jensen said, “Fear is a great way to control people, and I worry about that.”

  • Some say there’s an overcount, coroners are saying it’s a.n undercount, but whichever view is correct, the net result is the same – more loss of civil liberties that may never be regained.

U.S. Deaths Down on Three Days in a Row, China’s Up Again

The number of U.S. coronavirus deaths and confirmed cases edged lower for the third consecutive day. Monday’s U.S. death toll was 1,509, down from 1,557on Sunday, 1,877 on Saturday and more than 2,000 on Friday. Total U.S. deaths are 23,654. Worldwide, the death toll was over 121,000 with almost 2 million cases. Almost half a million have recovered worldwide.

  • China on Monday reported its largest uptick in new coronavirus infections in more than a month, but said most of the cases are imported. Officials said mainland China had 169 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. Beijing said 98 of the new cases were “imported,” meaning they originated somewhere else.
  • Europe’s five largest nations have suffered more than three times the coronavirus deaths as the United States, though collectively they have about the same population.

Coronavirus Can Travel 13 Feet, Not Just 6 Feet

A new study examining air samples from hospital wards with COVID-19 patients has found the virus can travel up to 13 feet (four meters) — twice the distance current guidelines say people should leave between themselves in public. The preliminary results of the investigation by Chinese researchers were published Friday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The scientists cautioned, however, that the small quantities of virus they found at this distance are not necessarily infectious. The researchers tested surface and air samples from an intensive care unit and a general COVID-19 ward at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan. They found that the virus was most heavily concentrated on the floors of the wards, “perhaps because of gravity and air flow causing most virus droplets to float to the ground.” High levels were also found on frequently touched surfaces like computer mice, trashcans, bed rails and door knobs.

At Least 2,300 Nursing Homes Have Coronavirus Cases

The new coronavirus is racing through America’s nursing homes, and the impact has been far greater than the federal government has said. At least 2,300 long-term care facilities in 37 states have reported positive cases of COVID-19, according to data USA TODAY obtained from state agencies. More than 3,500 residents have died. The numbers eclipse those previously disclosed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in late March estimated that 400 facilities had reported cases of the virus. But the new totals still represent an incomplete accounting due to the ongoing lack of widespread testing for the virus and inconsistent record-keeping from state to state.

Antibody Tests Needed for Second Wave of COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is among the institutions investigating antibody testing for COVID-19. The CDC says that antibody tests need to be in place before a potential second coronavirus wave nits in the fall. The possibility exists that the Coronavirus may be seasonal like the flu. In addition, there are reports of recovered COVID-19 patients seeing the disease “reactivate.” As Americans look toward a return to normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic, a major question will be: who is immune to the virus? The antibody tests  are  different  from the  diagnostic  tests  used  to  determine  whether a  person  is  sick with  the virus.  Instead,  the  tests  look  for  the  antibodies  in  a  person’s  blood  that  the  immune  system  makes  in response to an infection.

  • South Korean officials say that more than 116 people have tested positive for COVID-19 —after having been cleared of it previously. The news is troubling for public health officials as it suggests having caught the coronavirus and recovered may not be enough to guarantee future immunity.

New Saliva Test for Coronavirus Limits Exposure to Workers

A new saliva test that was developed at Rutgers University will dramatically alter the way the coronavirus is detected and potentially accelerate the rate of collections. It will also limits exposure to health care workers. The test received federal emergency approval over the weekend, and officials expect to begin rolling it out as soon as Wednesday. The saliva test will allow for broader population screening than the current nose and throat swabs used at testing facilities. It also lessens exposure for health care workers, reducing the need for personal protective equipment during the testing process.

Stay-At-Home Orders Tighten

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an extension to her stay-at-home order that now bans visiting friends and relatives in the state, except for purposes such as caring for a relative or pet or complying with a court order related to child custody. “All public and private gatherings of any size are prohibited,” Whitmer said. The executive order also shuts down “non-essential” sections in big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowes, including flooring, garden centers and plant nurseries.

All 50 States Under Emergency Declaration for First Time

All 50 states are simultaneously under a disaster declaration for the first time in history after President Donald Trump approved a declaration for Wyoming. The news came as the U.S. surpassed Italy for the most coronavirus fatalities and the total U.S. death count topped 20,000 on Saturday. Worldwide, there are more than 1.7 million cases and at least 108,000 deaths. More than 400,000 people have recovered worldwide.

Spain Reports Its Lowest Daily Death Total in 3 Weeks

Spain reported its lowest daily death count in nearly three weeks after 510 people died with the new coronavirus between Friday and Saturday. That was down from a national high of 950 fatalities reported April 2. The country saw a slight uptick in confirmed infections with 4,830 new cases reported, compared to 4,576 the day before. Spain has confirmed 161,852 infections and 16,353 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak, making it and Italy the hardest hit countries in Europe. Over 59,000 Spaniards have recovered from COVID-19 and Spain has allowed some workers to return to their jobs, but the government said the lockdown is far from over.

European Cities Loosening Restrictions Despite Warnings from Health Experts

Businesses, shops and schools are reopening in a handful of cities across Europe, despite warnings from experts that prematurely lifting social restrictions could cause a resurgence or coronavirus cases. Spain, Italy and Austria on Tuesday allowed some businesses to open their doors and allow some people to return to work. But the World Health Organization has issued a new warning that the number of COVID-19 cases around the world has “certainly” not hit its peak. Denmark is beginning to reopen schools for young children, and Poland is expected to lift some economic restrictions.

China Misled the World; Virus Erupted in Mid-December

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 diseases erupted in China in mid-December, yet the regime told the U.S. and the world the virus was only transmitted animal-to-human. As the diseases spread to more people in mid-January in China’s Hubei Province and Wuhan city, the communist government then said that human contagion was minimal. Both assertions were “clearly not correct … that was misinformation right from the beginning,” he said. COVID-19 was in fact a highly contagious disease already being seeded by Chinese travelers in mid-January to the U.S. and Europe, where it has killed thousands. Chinese authorities also threatened eight doctors with prison for trying to warn the world on social media about what would become a global pandemic.

  • The Chinese government has ordered new restrictions on studies regarding the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, in a further sign Beijing is hiding details behind the cause of the global pandemic. An internal government directive posted on the websites of several Chinese universities and research institutes states that all research papers on the virus origin must now be “strictly managed” and carefully reviewed by central government officials before publication.

Protesters Call for ICE to Release Detainees

Advocates calling on federal immigration authorities to release detainees amid the coronavirus pandemic staged a protest outside two detention centers in Eloy, Arizona, on Friday. The protest, staged in more than 100 cars to protect participants from potential spread of the disease, came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases among detainees in Arizona continues to rise. Detainees also have complained of a lack of soap, disinfectant, gloves, masks and the ability to practice social distancing in the facility. Because of the close quarters in which detainees are held, detention centers are at risk of turning into “death camps” due to the coronavirus outbreak, protesters said.

Coronavirus Cuts Meat & Chicken Production

There’s been a “spike” in coronavirus infections at meat plants, with hundreds of new cases last week. Plants are starting to slow operations or reduce output. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain,” Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan said. “A growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.”

  • One of Delaware’s chicken companies says the coronavirus outbreak has hit their staffing levels so hard that they cannot keep up with production. That means about 2 million chickens owned by Allen Harim Foods will be killed at the Delaware and Maryland farms where they were raised, but their meat will not make it to market.

Economic News

The Internal Revenue Service announced Saturday night that the first wave of stimulus checks had been deposited into Americans’ bank accounts. The Internal Revenue Service is expected to provide a new online tool as soon as Wednesday to get a better clue on when you’ll see your Economic Impact Payment via IRS.gov/eip. The IRS said the tool will let you go online to check the status of a payment, including the date it’s scheduled to be deposited or mailed.

More than 2,100 U.S. cities are bracing for budget shortfalls due to coronavirus, with many planning cuts and layoffs, new survey found. The findings come from an inquiry conducted by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

OPEC, Russia and other oil-producing nations on Sunday finalized an unprecedented production cut of nearly 10 million barrels, or a tenth of global supply, in hopes of boosting crashing prices amid the coronavirus pandemic and a price war. President Trump praised a deal among the world’s top oil producers, saying it would save jobs in the U.S. energy industry.

In its latest outlook for the world economy, the IMF said it expects GDP will contract by 3% in 2020, a far worse recession than the one that followed the global financial crisis of 2008, and a 180-degree reversal of its previous forecast in January when it was expecting growth of 3.3% this year.

The U.S. Postal Service is giving Congress a dire warning, telling lawmakers in a video briefing this week that the agency will “run out of cash” by the end of September if Congress does not step in with financial assistance. The Postal Service believes they will see a “$13 billion revenue loss” this year. The Postal Service was technically insolvent to begin with, but the pandemic has exacerbated the solvency issue with declining revenue. The Postal Service will ask Congress for a $75 billion boost to help keep it afloat.

The way we buy cars may never be the same, as auto dealers adjust to working under COVID-19 restrictions. Customers may discover they prefer the new approach, which leans heavily on internet sales. Including valet-style pickup and delivery service for everything from test drives to oil changes. “By the end of this year, you’re going to see 80%-90% of U.S. new car dealers with full e-commerce capability in their shops” to handle everything online but the test drive.

Persecution Watch

The Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on church services in homes and buildings now extends to online services, which churches around the world have conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic. A pastor of an unofficial house church explained, “Our first and only online gathering was blocked by the government soon after it started.” A few days later, he unsuccessfully attempted another online platform. Local Communist Party officials have issued public notices that churches are required to stop live-streaming any of their activities immediately.

Israel

Chances for a unity government were revived on Tuesday morning after fading last week as negotiations collapsed. Significant progress had been reported after a Monday night meeting between Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, on Tuesday afternoon the sides said that they had not reached a deal and would continue their work on Wednesday evening following the last day of Passover. The last-ditch effort to form a government came as Gantz’s mandate to do so was to expire at midnight. Both Gantz and Netanyahu requested from President Reuven Rivlin to extend the mandate given their progress. Rivlin agreed to an extension until Wednesday midnight.

Iran

The Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee declared that Tehran would move forward with its uranium enrichment process, triggering sharp criticism from the US State Department on Thursday. According to a report in the Iranian regime’s state-controlled MEHR news agency, the foreign policy committee for Iran’s parliament warned “that in case Europe does not provide Iran with a practical guarantee on implementation of JCPOA, the Islamic Republic will continue its uranium enrichment to its desired level and volume.”

Iran is seeking to gain access to $1.6 billion in assets that had been frozen in Luxembourg to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. “We will do everything we can to transfer the funds or exchange them for medicine and essential goods,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a news briefing. Iran is the Middle East epicenter of the coronavirus, with 4,585 fatalities and 73,303 cases reported. President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that the money had been released after Iran had won a legal case against U.S. efforts to use it to compensate families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government accused Houthi rebels of breaking a ceasefire on Monday. The insurgents breached the truce, which came into effect last Thursday, 241 times over the past 48 hours, the coalition said. It said the rebels “used ballistic missiles along with light and heavy weaponry,” a coalition statement read. Yemen’s army, along with the coalition, is adhering to the ceasefire, applying “self-restraint and are reserving their legitimate right of self-defense to respond to attacks on the front lines,” the coalition said. The Saudi-led truce, scheduled to last two weeks, began on April 9 at 12pm and was intended to help Yemen fight off the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

India

India’s prime minister on Tuesday announced the extension of the world’s largest lockdown for 1.3 billion people until May 3, but said there may be some easing in restrictions in people’s movement after one week to help poor daily wage earners and those working in agriculture sector. The first phase of India’s lockdown ends Tuesday after three weeks, with more than 9,000 positive cases and 339 deaths so far with people restricted to their homes for all but essential trips to places like markets or pharmacies. Modi said India has paid a big economic price by imposing the lockdown, but it was much better placed than many other countries as it had acted quickly imposing travel and quarantine restrictions even before the first death was reported in the country.

Plagues

A second wave of locusts fueled by rains that made for prime breeding grounds is swarming into parts of Africa, bringing billions more of the voracious insects to some regions already plagued by the worst outbreak of locusts in 70 years. “The current situation in East Africa remains extremely alarming as hopper bands and an increasing number of new swarms form in northern and central Kenya, southern Ethiopia and Somalia,” according to an update Wednesday from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Locust Watch. “This represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods because it coincides with the beginning of the long rains and the planting season. The locusts are also spreading into Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan and Iran.

Volcanoes

In what was the longest eruption since an explosive collapse triggered a deadly tsunami in 2018, scientists said Saturday that Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano shot a column of ash 1,640 feet into the air. There were no casualties reported. A level 2 alert status – the second-highest on a scale of four – remains in place. Anak Krakatau, which means Child of Krakatau, is the offspring of the famous Krakatau volcano, whose monumental eruption in 1883 triggered a period of global cooling.

A region of Iceland is erupting for the first time in 800 years, raising concern of disruptions in air travel for centuries to come. Since Jan. 21, the Reykjanes peninsula southwest of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, has experienced more than 8,000 earthquakes. The area is fed by five volcanic systems, the Guardian said, “which seem to come to life in a coordinated way roughly every 1,000 years.”

Weather

Ferocious winds walloped the East Coast on Monday after a harrowing Easter night that saw people huddled in basements, closets and tubs as tornadoes raged across the South, leaving at least 30 dead. It’s the nation’s deadliest tornado outbreak in  six years, since April 2014, when 35 people were killed in the central and southern U.S., the Storm Prediction Center said. Destructive winds were reported across the East on Monday, the Weather Channel said, a day after at least 40 reported tornadoes pounded several states. Calmer weather is forecast across much of the country for Tuesday, with only a slight chance of severe storms in a small area in the South.

  • A Georgia home was torn from its foundation and flung 50 to 100 yards away, where it landed, largely intact, in the middle of a road (it fell apart when they moved it off the road). Another home was completely blown apart except for the concrete safe room where a family survived inside.

More than 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power on Sunday morning after a powerful April bomb cyclone with strong winds and heavy snow pounded the state Friday through Saturday. In the immediate wake of the storm, more than a quarter million customers lost electricity. The outages came while tens of thousands of people were sheltering at home and most nonessential businesses were closed because of the new coronavirus pandemic. Even as hundreds of linemen worked to restore service, forecasters warned that high winds with gusts over 40 mph are expected on Monday.

  • End-time whether will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (4/10/20)

April 10, 2020

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. (Psalm 46:1-2)

Many Churches Have Been Overzealously Targeted this Week

Liberty Counsel reports that many churches have been aggressively targeted this past week: In Washington state, a pastor and his staff of well under the 10-person limit, were ordered not to even go to their sanctuary to record online services or they would be arrested and fined; In Greenville, MS, a pastor, his wife and each of the dozen or so congregants sitting in their cars in the church parking lot listening to the sermon being read inside were ticketed and fined $500 each for participating in a “mass gathering,” even though each participant was safely in their own vehicle and each car parked yards apart; In Chincoteague Island, VA, the pastor and 16 congregants caught worshipping in a sanctuary that normally houses 296, face $2,500 in fines plus one year in jail because they were six people over the 10-person limit. This tiny church, which doesn’t have internet, specializes in ministering to hard-core drug addicts — people without cars or internet service either, who rely on in-person meetings to maintain their sobriety; In Louisville, KY, pastors are being threatened with arrest if they hold a drive-in or parking lot service with people in their cars, even though the same people can drive to shopping malls and Home Depot and listen to the radio in their cars.

Liberties Cast Aside to Fight Pandemic, Will They Be Reinstated?

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on the civil liberties Americans take for granted. Can’t go to church? Can’t gather in groups of ten or more? Can’t buy a gun? Americans are being told to stay home. Some states are trying to block residents of other states from entering. Restrictions imposed in many states have not just made life difficult – they have infringed upon the most basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution. “All kinds of constitutional liberties are being constrained right now. They are restricted because there’s a reason to restrict them,” says David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “In a time like this, you have to defer substantially to public health experts.” To date, most of the policies put in place by state and local officials have been accepted by constituents as the price to pay for their health.

  • While liberals and conservatives both worry about protecting civil liberties, they differ on which ones are most worth defending. Liberals point to abortion rights, prisoner and detainee rights, and voting rights. Conservatives point to religious freedom, property rights and the Second Amendment. In the end, civil libertarians are left hoping that the decisions public officials make to combat the coronavirus are allowed to expire when the threat diminishes.

A 101-Year-Old British Man Beats COVID-19

A 101-year-old British man has returned home after beating coronavirus, according to the hospital that treated him. The man spent two weeks battling the virus at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, England. The BBC reports that the man went to the hospital for treatment after a fall but tested positive for COVID-19 after he developed a fever. Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We are delighted that Keith could be safely discharged home. This is a huge morale boost for our staff who are working day in day out to provide the best possible care for our patients.”

Seattle Field Hospital Not Needed, Going to Needier Location

The massive army field hospital that hundreds of troops built inside a Seattle convention center last week will be dismantled before treating a single patient. Since it hasn’t been needed, it will be redeployed to a state facing a more difficult battle against the coronavirus outbreak. The facility housed 250 beds, a lab, X-ray machines, surgery facilities and an intensive care unit. The Seattle area used early social distancing, aggressive enforcement and widespread testing, moves that appear to have worked..

Another China City Goes into Lockdown as Wuhan Relaxes

The coronavirus lockdown may be over in Wuhan, but in another part of China, it appears to be just getting started. Suifenhe, a city along China’s northern border with Russia, is now ordering residents to stay inside and only go outside for necessities once every three days, Reuters reports, citing state media. The restrictive measures were issued after provincial health officials reported 25 new coronavirus cases there Tuesday, spurred by people entering China through a border checkpoint.

Federal Reserve Unleashes Another $2.3 Trillion

The Federal Reserve announced a new $2.3 trillion round of loans that include even more support for small businesses and consumers — and, for the first time, for states, cities and municipalities, too. The Fed said Thursday that it is creating a Municipal Liquidity Facility with up to $500 billion in loans and $35 billion in credit protection in order to “help state and local governments manage cash flow stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” The Fed also said Thursday that it will supply financing to banks taking part in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Additionally, the central bank said it was boosting its Main Street Lending Program for small businesses with an additional $600 billion in loans as well as $75 billion in funding from the Treasury Department via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) fiscal stimulus.

Coronavirus Almost Twice as Infectious as First Estimated

A new analysis by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory published Wednesday in an online Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal reveals the coronavirus appears to be more than twice as infectious as previously believed. The infectiousness of the COVID-19 disease currently overwhelming the global medical system was initially assessed at 2.2, meaning that without social distancing a person with the disease would infect slightly more than two others. A March 30 paper by mathematicians and doctors at the Imperial College of London indicated the infectious rate is actually 3.87. The seasonal flu, by comparison, has an infectious rate of about 1.28.

COVID-19 Killing More People/Day than Cancer/Heart Disease

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is now the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. — killing more people on average per day than cancer or heart disease. The virus is the cause of 1,970 deaths in the U.S. per day, compared to 1,774 deaths per day are attributed to heart disease and 1,641 to cancer, according to Newsweek. Fatalities surpassed 16,600 by the end of Thursday, an increase of more than 12,000 deaths from data posted by Johns Hopkins University just eight days earlier.

Coronavirus Has Killed Hundreds of Americans Under Age 50

More than 700 Americans under the age of 50 have died from the coronavirus, a Washington Post analysis has found. That includes at least nine cases under the age of 20 and at least 45 under the age of 30. The true number of deaths among younger people is likely even higher. Not all states provide data on coronavirus deaths sorted by age group. But the available data underscores the harsh reality that young, seemingly fit people are also dying.

More Nursing Homes Hit by Coronavirus

A pair of nursing homes, one in Virginia and another in New Jersey, are in crisis mode amid escalating coronavirus death tolls that rival the number of fatalities at a Seattle-area nursing home that was the early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. The deaths at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Henrico County near Richmond, about 115 miles south of Washington, D.C., have more than doubled in the past five days. Residents started contracting the virus in the middle of March. The center reported its 33rd death Wednesday. Among the current residents, 49 have experienced virus-related symptoms, and at least 25 Canterbury health care workers have tested positive for the virus. A similar outbreak has swept through the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus, killing at least 10 residents and likely contributing to the deaths of 27 others over the past two weeks. Six residents have been hospitalized, 70 are ill and dozens of staff members have been diagnosed or are awaiting test results.

Fears Rise of Massive Death Toll in Prisons

More than 50 correctional officers, inmates and family members tell The Post they fear the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ mishandling of the pandemic in prisons across the nation will lead to a massive death toll. In less than a month, the Bureau of Prisons has gone from one reported case of covid-19 to at least 253 federal inmates and 85 prison staff with the virus. Five Inmates Died of Covid-19 in One Federal Prison.

NIH Begins Clinical Study of Malaria Drug

The National Institutes of Health launched an official clinical trial of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, or HCQ, a medication President Trump has touted as a possible “game changer” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The first patients were enrolled into the study Thursday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville in a trial to assess the drug’s safety and efficacy in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The goal of the blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was to “enroll more than 500 adults who are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 or in an emergency department with anticipated hospitalization,” across “dozens” of centers that form a drug trials network across the U.S.

Flights from Europe Leading Cause of NY COVID-19 Cases

Most of the coronavirus cases in the New York City area arrived via flights from Europe, say genome researchers. And it appears that COVID-19 was in circulation in the region in mid-February, about two weeks before the first confirmed case was officially recorded. Researchers figured this out by studying minor mutations in the coronavirus genome in patients and tracing it back. They found that the majority of cases are clearly European. Specifically, about two-thirds of the cases are from the UK and countries including Austria, France, and the Netherlands.

Testing Still Lags Behind South Korea

Only three states – New York, Louisiana and Washington – have matched or exceeded the testing rate of South Korea, whose testing procedures experts hold out as a model for the world. The country has performed 431,734 tests, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is about 1 out of every 119 people. In comparison, Vice President Mike Pence said last week that more than 1.2 million tests have been given, which means roughly 1 in every 273 people were tested given that the U.S. population is at about 327 million. The uneven testing rate among states has left public health and medical professionals without a clear picture of how much the coronavirus is spreading.

Rich Countries Push Poor Aside in Scrum for Coronavirus Supplies

Developing nations in Latin America and Africa cannot find enough materials and equipment to test for coronavirus, partly because the United States and Europe are outspending them, reports the New York Times. “As the United States and European Union countries compete to acquire scarce medical equipment to combat the coronavirus, another troubling divide is also emerging, with poorer countries losing out to wealthier ones in the global scrum for masks and testing materials.” Scientists in Africa and Latin America have been told by manufacturers that orders for vital testing kits cannot be filled for months, because the supply chain is in upheaval and almost everything they produce is going to America or Europe. All countries report steep price increases, from testing kits to masks.

U.S. Facemask Inventory Went to China

As Americans rushed to buy face masks amid the early but growing threat of coronavirus, U.S. February imports of the product from its biggest supplier – China – plummeted to its lowest level in years, a USA TODAY analysis of trade data found. Combined with a sky-high increase in U.S. mask exports to China the same month, the trade data suggest a double whammy: fewer masks coming in and more masks going out, just as U.S. medical workers were about to need as many as they could get.

Border Traffic Plummets, Holding Facilities Nearly Empty

Both legal and illegal traffic across the border has plummeted, and Customs and Border Protection has been able to empty out its border holding facilities, dramatically reducing the risk of spread there as well, said acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. As of Thursday, fewer than 100 migrants were being held in CBP facilities. That’s down from a staggering 20,000 people in those same facilities last May, amid the migrant surge. While legal commercial traffic is still running fairly strong due to an agreement made between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, non-commercial vehicular traffic is down more than 70%, and pedestrian traffic is down more than 75%. Mr. Morgan said that means about 400,000 fewer people crossing the border each day, as people embrace shelter-in-place orders.

Mental-Health Hotline Sees 891% Spike in Calls

People all over the nation are dealing with health issues, unemployment, grief and facing uncertainty about what the future holds. The Disaster Distress Helpline, a federal crisis hotline, has seen a huge spike in calls of people seeking help recently. The national helpline, ran by the at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides counseling for people facing emotional distress during times of natural and human-caused disasters. In March, the helpline saw a 338% increase in call volume compared with February, according to spokesperson with the agency. And compared to last year for the month of March, they had an 891% increase of calls.

Americans Binging on Comfort Food

Americans are indulging in comfort food as the coronavirus pandemic keeps them cooped up, eating sugary cereal, junk food, frozen pizza and other maybe-not-so-healthy items to help get them through the pandemic. The trend represents a stark reversal from the national gravitation toward more natural foods in recent years, which had benefited products viewed as healthier. But a sudden explosion of stress, boredom and, in some cases, a lack of alternatives has changed people’s habits, at least temporarily. Breakfast items, in particular, are enjoying a sudden resurgence.

Economic News

About 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment benefit claims for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, reflecting another surge in layoffs and an economy that has continued to shut down in stomach-churning waves the past few weeks to minimize further contagion. The previous week’s record 6.65 million jobless claims total was revised up by 219,000 to a new all-time high of 6.86 million. About 17 million Americans now have sought unemployment benefits the past three weeks. The weekly figures dwarf the previous 3-week record of 695,000 weekly unemployment applications during a deep recession in October 1982.

The national jobless claim numbers are likely to hover in the millions each of the next several weeks and could hit new records. That’s partly because more businesses are closing, at least temporarily, as they run short of cash or lose for customers. Forty-three states accounting for about 95% of the U.S. population are under stay-at-home orders, with nonessential businesses such as restaurants, stores, movie theaters and other outlets closed or sharply scaled back. Airlines and hotels also have been decimated as Americans shun air and other travel.

An additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits has started going out as part of the coronavirus relief bill passed in March — but the new payments, combined with state unemployment benefits, already are causing concern that some workers could be in a position to actually make more money by leaving their jobs. “It’s a huge issue. A large slice of the U.S. workforce will make more money by not working than by working,” said David Henderson, an economist and research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have called off their brutal price war and are now pushing dozens of major crude producers toward a deal that would slash production and help stabilize a market that’s been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. A marathon video conference between OPEC members and other major energy powers on Thursday ended with a tentative deal to reduce production by 10 million barrels per day in May and June, the deepest cut ever agreed by the world’s oil producers. Mexico, however, declined to support the agreement, and meeting participants acknowledged that final agreement is conditional on Mexico’s consent.

State Farm said it will return up to $2 billion in premiums to its policyholders, the latest auto insurance company to reimburse customers due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement, State Farm said its auto customers can expect to earn a credit of 25% on their premium between March 20 through May 31. “We insure more cars than anyone and we see from our claims activity people are driving less,” said Michael L. Tipsord, chairman, president and CEO of State Farm, in a statement. “This dividend is one of the ways we’re working to help our customers during this unprecedented situation.” On Wednesday, Progressive said it will provide approximately $1 billion to drivers because of fewer claims. The company said auto policy customers can potentially receive a 20% credit in April and May.

In March, sales of aerosol disinfectants jumped 343% and multipurpose cleaners 166% from a year ago, according to research firm Nielsen. And still, people are scouring the internet’s vast virtual shelves and local stores for more. Manufacturers like Clorox were not prepared for skyrocketing demand in a sleepy sector with reliably steady sales that usually only fluctuate during flu season. And, with global supply chains snarled by the coronavirus, they now can’t produce enough inventory to meet the increased demand.

Persecution Watch

Coronavirus is creating a humanitarian disaster, especially for persecuted Christians, in many parts of the world, reports Barnabas Aid. Persecuted Christians are on the margins of society, discriminated against in daily life, and often discriminated against when general aid is distributed. Many are desperately poor already because of discrimination. They have no savings, and with lockdown they have lost their meagre incomes.

Israel

Following a four-day nationwide lockdown, restrictions were eased somewhat on Friday morning, allowing people to leave their homes for essential services and to travel to other cities for work purposes. The national lockdown prevented intercity travel on Tuesday evening and banned citizens from leaving their homes from Wednesday evening until Thursday morning, making sure that people spent the Passover seder evening in their own homes. Dubbed “Operation Spring Protection,” thousands of police officers, roughly 1,400 unarmed IDF soldiers, helicopters and drones were deployed to enforce the regulations. The Health Ministry reportedly advised enforcing the severe lockdown regulations throughout the entire eight-day holiday, but others in the government were opposed.

Iran

The prestigious Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security published on Wednesday a jaw-dropping report on its website outlining a newly revealed Iranian regime nuclear weapons plant that was discovered by Israel. The authors of the report indicate that “Iran should declare this site to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and allow its inspection, since the facility was designed and built to handle nuclear material subject to safeguards under Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement.”

Turkey

Senior PKK terrorist Fadil Ekinci in charge of the terrorist group’s activities in Iraq’s Zap region and listed in the blue category of Turkey’s wanted list was killed in an anti-terror operation in coordination with National Intelligence Organization, reports said Wednesday. Ekinci was sought with a TL 1 million ($147,284) bounty on his head. Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Turkey where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence and bases. The TSK also conducts cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which they carry out attacks on Turkey./

Africa

African officials warned Thursday that if the coronavirus pandemic is left to spread on the continent, the rest of the world will remain at risk for COVID-19. “We cannot be neglected in this effort,” the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters. “The world will be terribly unsafe, and it will be completely naive, if countries think they can control COVID-19 in their countries but not in Africa.” Equipment such as medical equipment to combat the coronavirus in Africa is scarce. The World Health Organization says fewer than 5,000 intensive care unit beds are available across 43 of the continent’s 54 countries: “This is about 5 beds per 1 million people in the reported countries compared to 4,000 beds per 1 million people in Europe.” Functional ventilators in public health services across 41 countries number less than 2,000, a severe shortage for patients in respiratory distress.

Weather

A line of severe storms with possible tornadoes caused damage overnight in parts of the Midwest and the South. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses remained without electricity Thursday morning. More than 30 homes were damaged or destroyed by a possible tornado in Harrisburg in northwest Arkansas. At least two people were injured in the storm. About 70,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in Central Indiana on Thursday morning. The storm blew the second story off a building in Mooresville, about 15 miles southwest of Indianapolis. A tower with a wind turbine fell onto a home northeast of Greenfield in Hancock County.

More than 60,000 customers in Ohio were still without electricity Thursday morning. High winds toppled trees onto power lines and knocked down utility poles, mostly in the southern part of the state. High winds toppled trees onto houses and ripped walls off homes in the Mount Zion community in Kentucky’s Grant County, about 25 miles south of Cincinnati. The National Weather Service office in Charleston, West Virginia, said it had reports of two 180-foot communications towers being knocked over near St. Albans. Nearly 16,000 customers in West Virginia did not have electricity Thursday morning.

Lightning struck a major gas line and exploded it near Adkins, Texas, just east of San Antonio. More than 31,800 customers were without power late Thursday night in Texas. A storm system is also poised to dump up to a foot of snow on parts of northern New England on Friday. The strongest storms will likely be on Monday, with potentially heavy snow across Wisconsin, in Michigan’s upper peninsula and into Iowa.

Signs of the Times

April 8, 2020

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you… Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid… Those who trust in the Lord Are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever… Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding (Psalm 56:3, Isaiah 12:2, Psalm 125:1, Proverbs 3:5)

Date: Wednesday, 4/8/2020

President Trump Attends Online Church

As churches continue to stream their services online, President Trump made it known that he will be watching. On Saturday evening, Trump tweeted, “Palm Sunday is the beginning of a Holy week for many people of Faith and a great day to lift our voices in Prayer. I will be tuning into Pastor @greglaurie at @harvestorg Church in Riverside, California tomorrow at 11:00 A.M. Eastern.” According to CBN News, Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California called “Americans to turn their worry into worship and pray for an end to the spread of coronavirus.” He noted on social media that his church’s online worship attendance experienced a “nearly 50 percent increase” from a week ago. Laurie wrote on Instagram, “We had 359,000 people watch our webcast of “Harvest At Home”. That number is realistically much larger because in many cases, families and groups are watching together.”

  • President Trump asked Americans to pray for our nation, those grieving loved ones and those most impacted by the crisis. “While we may be apart from one another . . . we can use this time to turn in prayer in our own personal relationship with God. I would ask that all Americans pray for the heroic doctors and nurses, for the truck drivers and grocery store workers, and for everyone fighting this battle. But most of all, I’d like to ask for your prayers, for the families who have lost loved ones. Ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief.”

344 Unborn Babies Saved during Spring 40 Days for Life Campaign

Three-hundred forty-four unborn babies were saved during the spring 40 Days for Life, the bi-annual campaign that involves prayer, fasting and peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics worldwide. Although this spring’s campaign was hampered by a worldwide pandemic – it was scheduled to be held Feb. 26 until April 5 – it still resulted in at least 344 confirmed reports of babies saved from abortion in more than 500 cities and 30-plus countries around the world. Shawn Carney, the president of 40 Days for Life, suspended the vigils in mid-March. Prior to that, the vigils were limited in numbers in order to practice social distancing.

Trump/Congress Working on Another Stimulus Package

Americans have yet to receive their $1,200 stimulus checks from the federal government, but another round of cash payments could be coming their way. Talks are under way between the Trump administration and Congress on another recovery package to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A second round of cash payments to Americans is part of the discussions. “We could very well do a second round,” President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference on Monday. “It is absolutely under serious consideration.” Congress already has approved three stimulus bills to juice the economy amid the coronavirus crisis. The largest is a $2.2 trillion economic recovery package that provides one-time payments of up to $1,200 to millions of Americans, as well as loans, grants and tax breaks for businesses reeling from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

New Data Suggests Lower Deaths than First Estimated

An influential model tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the United States now predicts that fewer people will die and fewer hospital beds will be needed compared to its estimates from last week. As of Monday, the model predicted the virus will kill 81,766 people in the United States over the next four months, with just under 141,000 hospital beds being needed. That’s about 12,000 fewer deaths — and 121,000 fewer hospital beds — than the model estimated last Thursday. A “massive infusion of new data” led to the adjustments, according to the model’s maker, Dr. Christopher Murray, who serves as director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

New COVID-19 Cases Leveling Off in Some Areas

A day after the U.S. had nearly 2,000 coronavirus deaths – its most so far in one day – Dr. Deborah Birx said there are encouraging signs in parts of the country where the number of new cases is leveling off. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said California and Washington’s curves have been “persistently flat and that’s very encouraging” and that new cases in New York and New Jersey are “stabilizing.” The U.S. reached 400,000 confirmed cases and neared 13,000 deaths Wednesday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, there are 1.4 million confirmed cases and more than 83,000 deaths.

Wuhan Lifts Lockdown, Struggles to Recover

After 11 weeks, authorities in China are lifting the lockdown in Wuhan, the sprawling city where the coronavirus pandemic began. The city’s 11 million residents are now permitted to leave without special authorization as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus. Restrictions in the city where most of China’s more than 82,000 virus cases and over 3,300 deaths were reported have been gradually relaxed in recent weeks as the number of new cases steadily declined. The latest government figures reported Tuesday listed no new cases. Wuhan is a major center for heavy industry, particularly autos, and while many major plants have restarted production, the small- and medium-sized businesses that provide the most employment are still hurting from both a lack of workers and demand. Measures are being instituted to get them back on their feet, including $2.8 billion in preferential loans, according to the city government.

Uneven Testing Across U.S. States Clouds Spread Rate

The uneven testing rate across U.S. states has left public health and medical professionals without a clear picture of how coronavirus is spreading. Data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, an independent website run by journalists, show that disparities persist despite a doubling of daily testing last week. Ranking which states have the worst rates is hard because some are not consistently reporting every time they get a negative result. That means the public has an incomplete picture of how many people have been tested overall. On Monday, Oklahoma officials said they have succeeded in capturing large numbers of negative results that private labs had previously failed to report. Texas more than doubled the number of tests it reported last week but still only reported 55,764 results. That’s a rate of 192 tests per 100,000 people, compared to a rate of nearly 1,400 per 100,000 in New York state.

  • Australian and New Zealand passengers will be evacuated from a stricken Antarctic cruise ship Thursday, after almost 60% of those on board tested positive for the coronavirus. The Greg Mortimer, a cruise liner operated by Australia’s Aurora Expeditions, departed March 15 on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia. Since the beginning of April, however, the ship has been stuck off the coast of Uruguay.

Coroners Say Death Count Too Low

State coroners and death investigators are frustrated and worried about coronavirus deaths being missed. A coroner in Wyoming, the only state that still hasn’t reported any deaths due to the virus, said he seriously doubts its official death count, and told CNN he hasn’t been able to test a number of suspected cases. And an Ohio coroner said she believes at least four deaths in her county have already been left uncounted. As the country battles a rapidly growing number of coronavirus infections, 13 coroners and medical examiners in nine states told CNN that they are struggling to acquire the supplies needed to test bodies arriving at their facilities for the disease.

  • A “staggering” number of people in New York City are dying at home—an average of 200 a day compared to 20 to 25 before the pandemic—and the medical examiner’s office is not testing those bodies for the virus.

Black Communities Hardest Hit

As researchers scramble to get a firmer handle on the coronavirus toll, one aspect of the illness is coming into focus: It’s hitting black communities around the nation disproportionately hard. A stew of medical and sociological factors appears to be at play. It’s seen in places such as Milwaukee, where black residents make up 73% of coronavirus deaths in the surrounding county but only 28% of the population. Similar disparities are seen in New Orleans, Detroit, North and South Carolina, Las Vegas, and Chicago. In Chicago, African-Americans account for less than a third of the population but 72% of deaths. Generally speaking, African-Americans have higher rates of underlying medical conditions that can make COVID-19 lethal, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and hypertension. African Americans also hold down a disproportionate number of jobs now considered essential – health care, transportation, government, food supply, etc. And, of course, a higher percentage of blacks live in poverty than whites.

51 Recovered Coronavirus Patients in South Korea Test Positive Again

Dozens of people who were diagnosed as recovered from coronavirus in South Korea have tested positive again for the virus after leaving quarantine, according to officials. 51 people from Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province tested positive for COVID-19 a “relatively short time” after they were released. The virus likely was reactivated, said KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong, instead of the people being reinfected once they left, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. Health authorities told Yonhap news agency that a team of investigators has been sent to Daegu to conduct an epidemiological investigation into the cases.

  • In March, the South China Morning Post reported that doctors in Wuhan, China – where the virus emerged – said that as many as 10 percent of coronavirus patients had tested positive again after being discharged from the hospital.

Most COVID-19 Patients On Ventilators Don’t Survive

While governors, mayors and hospital officials conduct much-publicized, life-and-death struggles to acquire ventilators, for most COVID-19 patients the oxygen-providing apparatus will merely serve as a bridge from life to death. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently estimated that only 20% of coronavirus patients placed on ventilators “will ever come off.” Dennis Carroll, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development’s infectious disease unit for more than a decade, told USA TODAY perhaps one-third of COVID-19 patients on ventilators survive. But for many, ventilators represent their last chance. Ventilators won’t fix the ailments that put patients on them, but they can provide support until other treatments work or the patient’s body overcomes the disease. And physicians are determined to use the tool in the last-ditch effort to keep patients alive.

WHO’s Director Called On to Resign over China Coverup

There are increasing numbers of people worldwide calling for the director of the World Health Organization to resign, calling him an “accomplice to China’s massive coverup” as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has faced calls for his resignation from American politicians and others who link the group to China’s lack of transparency regarding the severity of COVID-19. Communications from the World Health Organization have been used by China to boost the nation’s message as it seeks to deflect blame for the pandemic, which a study by the University of Southampton claims could have been “reduced by 95 percent globally” if China acted three weeks earlier.

  • Ghebreyesus, from Ethiopia, also came under fire in 2017 over his handling of cholera epidemics in Ethiopia and Sudan. Physicians and health professionals at the time accused him of failing to properly classify outbreaks of the disease in order to avoid embarrassing the two African regimes.
  • President Trump on Tuesday threatened to freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, saying the international group had “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade Advisor Navarro Warned of 2M deaths in Jan/Feb

Top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro warned in stark terms about how deadly and economically devastating the coronavirus outbreak could be, weeks before it became a full-blown pandemic. Navarro delivered the warnings to others at the White House in internal memos in January and February, saying that the U.S. could see up to 2 million deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage. The first Navarro memo was dated Jan. 29 and was addressed to the White House National Security Council. In it, Navarro made his case for an “immediate travel ban on China.” In that memo, Navarro also reportedly warned that “the lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil.” In late February Navarro penned another memo, this time addressed to the president himself and escalating the warnings.

  • Now, Navarro is pushing for wider use of the malaria drug and antibiotics but is facing resistance from medical officials who want to see more test results.
  • S. intelligence officials were warning as far back as late November that the novel coronavirus was spreading through China’s Wuhan region and posing a threat to its people and daily life, according to ABC News.
  • President Trump said Tuesday he has not seen memos in which one of his top advisers warned that a coronavirus pandemic could cost the country trillions of dollars and endanger millions of Americans, but that even if he had, it would not have changed his response to the pandemic.

Auto Insurers Returning $600M In Premiums for Less Driving

Auto insurance companies Allstate and American Family Insurance said they will give policyholders millions of dollars back because Americans are driving less during the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement released Monday, Allstate announced it would return $600 million in premiums to customers. The company said most policyholders will get back 15% of their premium in April and May. The credit will arrive either to their bank, credit card or Allstate account. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents,” said Tom Wilson, Allstate chairman, president and CEO, in a statement.

Grocery Workers Now Dying

Grocery store employees are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic—and now they’re dying. The Washington Post reports that at least four have died from COVID-19 in recent days, and many more have tested positive. The Post notes that while many grocery workers expressed dissatisfaction with safety measures their employers were taking early on in the crisis, many stores have since stepped up protective measures. But with the deaths, pressure is likely to increase that even more be done, and experts say grocery stores will likely struggle to retain workers and hire new ones.

  • Starting Friday, L.A. residents must wear a mask, bandanna, or something else that covers their noses and mouths when they’re in a number of essential businesses including grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, laundromats, restaurants, hotels, taxis, and rideshare vehicles

Online Grocery Shopping Overwhelms Suppliers

A pandemic forcing everyone to stay home should be the perfect moment for online grocery services, but they’ve struggled to keep up with an unprecedented onslaught of demand. After panic buying left store shelves stripped of staples such as pasta, canned goods and toilet paper, many shoppers found online grocery delivery slots almost impossible to come by, too. The problem for many delivery services is ramping up staff to pick up goods in shops and deliver. As a result, customers in hard-hit New York City wait days to receive deliveries that usually take hours.

Diabetics Can’t Find Rubbing Alcohol & Swabs

As the country goes on a disinfecting frenzy, people suffering from diabetes have been left unable to find the alcohol swabs they need to use in dealing with their disease. Many diabetics are forced to disregard the recommendation to stay at home as they scour stores for alcohol and alcohol swabs. According to Kaiser Health News, for those suffering from diabetes the nationwide panic poses a threat to their medical routines — which require swabbing their skin with an alcohol swab or alcohol-soaked cotton ball before injecting insulin to prevent infection.

Coronavirus Panic Clears Shelves of Eggs

When disaster strikes, market watchers know that American shoppers typically lunge for the same staples: milk, bread, toilet paper – and cartons of eggs. Over the last three weeks, the Northeast has seen unprecedented demand for eggs. Regionwide, egg retailers’ orders from wholesalers have increased by anywhere from double to 600%, and supply can’t immediately be increased. Many stores throughout the region have imposed limits on the number of cartons a customer can buy in a single trip. The price of wholesale eggs in the U.S. has skyrocketed 180 percent from its regular price.

Small Business Loan Applications Hit Snags

Banks are struggling to handle a massive surge of applications for loans aimed at helping small businesses keep workers on staff and pay other bills as the coronavirus pandemic takes a growing toll on the economy. The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration allowed firms with less than 500 employees to start applying for the loans on Friday, but the early rollout has been marred by confusion, technical glitches and banks’ own loan volume limits.   How quickly the loans — which are forgivable if a small businesses retains its workers – can be disbursed is likely to determine what portion of the firms can survive the crisis, which has shut down restaurants, stores and other Main Street concerns across the country. The Small Business Administration acknowledged to banks Monday in an email obtained by The Washington Times that there are frustrating flaws in its system for handling loan applications for distressed small businesses.

  • Big banks that took “free money” in 2008 are now turning their backs on small businesses, a high-level official from the Small Business Administration says in a Zoom webinar obtained by The Washington Post. The comments from SBA Nevada district director Joseph Amato offer a rare candid glimpse behind the scenes at the frustrations federal officials face as they work with banks to quickly ramp up one of the most ambitious economic stimulus programs in U.S. history.

Churches, Non-Profits Can Also Get PPP Relief

The White House and Small Business Administration (SBA) have desperately been trying to throw the faith community a lifeline. They succeeded when the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) went into effect last week, and — for the first time ever — included churches and religious charities in its relief. But the program got off to a bumpy start Friday when banks were still trying to understand the fine print. Some pastors and other groups were mistakenly told they weren’t eligible. The first clarifying rule from the Small Business Administration — which spelled out the churches’ eligibility and rights on Thursday afternoon — wasn’t enough. So, the agency issued a second one later Friday, along with an incredibly helpful set of Frequently Asked Questions so that banks — and applicants — can get answers on things like: Can houses of worship participate? Are there limits on how churches can use the money? Will my organization have to sacrifice its First Amendment rights to receive a loan? How do I know if my nonprofit is the right size to qualify?

Economic News

Almost three-fourths of Americans say the coronavirus has hurt their wallets, according to a nationwide poll released Tuesday that shows the pandemic’s impact deepening and cutting across all income levels. Of those who make more than $100,000 a year, 71% said the shutdown of businesses across the country has hurt their incomes, while the share for those making $50,000 a year or less was 74%. Of the nearly three-quarters of respondents who have felt an economic blow, 24% of them described it as “very significant,” the poll showed. The data reflects a dramatic rise from previous monthly polls. In February, for instance, only 13% of those polled said the coronavirus had had a negative financial impact on them.

Local grocers and big chains alike are deploying robots to clean floors, stock shelves and deliver groceries to shoppers during the coronavirus. Grocers are searching for ways to reduce pressure on store workers and increase efficiency amid a surge of shoppers visiting stores and ordering online during the crisis. They believe robots and AI offer solutions that can help them bring down costs and improve store operations. Experts say the crisis will speed up grocers’ use of robots in stores.

Persecution Watch

Some pastors are being told by the governor in Washington State that they cannot drive to their church to broadcast their Easter message online – because the church is “non-essential.” Another Democratic governor in Kentucky is threatening to arrest a 77-year old pastor who has served the church for 52-years because he had 60 people spread far and wide in a 700-seat sanctuary this past Sunday.

Authorities in China are maintaining their crackdown on churches online, even during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, preventing Christians from accessing live-streamed church services.

Israel

Israel is facing a “fateful week,” days that “will determine the direction – progress or retreat, and for many people, life or death” in the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, while noting positive signs on the horizon.” The entire country was placed under a full closure beginning on Tuesday evening and will last as late as Friday. Every family will have the Passover Seder on its own. While the directives are being stiffened, Netanyahu said he was pleased to say that “there are positive signs on the horizon. We are moving forward with preparations for the scenarios regarding the exit from the crisis. This will happen only after the end of Passover. But there is a real possibility that if the positive trends in Israel continue, we will gradually exit the lockdown after Passover.”

Japan

As the number of coronavirus cases surges in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a month-long state of emergency on Tuesday for Tokyo and six other prefectures in an attempt to slow the outbreak. The prime minister’s announcement came as COVID-19 infections in Tokyo have doubled to about 1,200 in the past five days, accounting for more than a quarter of all cases in the country. In Tokyo, Koike asked the capital’s 13 million-plus residents to isolate until May 6, the Japan Times reported.

Iran

Evidence suggests that Iran has deployed an array of anti-ship missiles and large rockets overlooking Strait of Hormuz. The Strait is vital for the supply of oil from the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The waterway is being patrolled by U.S. Navy and its allies to protect vessels from Iranian action. Multiple videos and photos of the weapons lined up on overlooking the beach began surfacing on social media on April 4. Geospatial analysis has confirmed that the location of one of the batteries is on Qeshm Island.

Afghanistan

The Taliban on Tuesday broke off talks with the Afghan government over prisoner exchange, a key step in peace talks being brokered by the United States. A spokesman for the Islamist insurgent group’s political office in Qatar, said on Twitter that their technical team would not participate in “fruitless meetings” and said that the release of their prisoners was being “delayed under one pretext or another”. In the late February pact between the United States and the Taliban, the U.S. said their forces will withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, the best chance yet of ending the 18-year war. But peace hinges on talks between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the militants. A prisoner exchange was meant to build confidence on both sides for those talks. A spokesman for the government said it would continue its work on the prisoner release plan.

Somalia

An April 2 airstrike by U.S. forces in Somalia killed a “senior leader” of the al-Shabab militant group, the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday. The strike left three Shabab militants dead, including Yusuf Jiis, one of the “founding” leaders of the terrorist organization, which has carried out deadly attacks against the Somali government and public targets for years, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement. Africa Command Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend said Jiis was a “key leader” in al-Shabab. “He was violent, ruthless, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives,” Townsend said in a statement.

Uganda

A local pastor called for prayer as he reported, on April 6, the arrival of a vast swarm of young desert locusts, estimated to cover an area of 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares), in north-eastern Uganda. The upsurge that was predicted to arrive late April or May has already become a reality in early April. The immature locusts migrated in a dense swarm from Kenya, crossing the border at Karita sub-county, spreading to settle in the Karamoja region, Nakapiripirit district. The fresh invasion comes at the “worst possible time”, when farmers in the region are planting new crops in the hope of a much needed harvest in a few months’ time. The ravenous insects are already destroying recently planted staple crops including maize, beans, millet and sorghum.

Environment

An aerial survey of the Great Barrier Reef shows coral bleaching is sweeping across the area off the east of Australia for the third time in five years. Bleaching has struck all three regions of the world’s largest coral reef system and is more widespread than ever, scientists from James Cook University in Queensland state said Tuesday. James Cook University professor Terry Hughes said, “As summers grow hotter and hotter, we no longer need an El Nino event to trigger mass bleaching at the scale of the Great Barrier Reef. Of the five events we have seen so far, only 1998 and 2016 occurred during El Nino conditions.” El Nino is a climate pattern that starts with a band of warm ocean water in the central and east-central Pacific around the equator and affects global weather. The Great Barrier Reef is made up of 2,900 separate reefs and 900 islands. It is unable to recover because there is not enough time between bleaching events.

Weather

Cyclone Harold stuck the Pacific island nation of Fiji, causing damage to homes and buildings as emergency officials work to assess the impacts there after the powerful storm lashed the country Wednesday. Cell phone service was knocked out in some areas, compounding the challenge of communications with more remote areas. Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office said 1,778 people were still sheltering in 69 evacuation centers as of early Wednesday morning.

Argentina’s Córdoba province was battered by massive hailstones last week, some of which were so large, they left divots in the ground after plunging from the sky. A resident of Carlos Paz collected a hailstone measuring 7.1 inches in length, which could be a Southern Hemisphere record, if verified. The worldwide record for largest hailstone measured 8 inches and fell during a storm in Vivian, South Dakota, on July 23, 2010. Although the damaging hail was not welcomed, the rainfall that accompanied these storms was needed in the drought-stricken region. Central Argentina’s farmlands were in poor shape, and weeks of drought left the soy and corn crops failing,

Signs of the Times

April 6, 2020

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ (Isaiah 41:10)

Date: Monday, 4/6/2020

90-Year-Old Woman Survives COVID-19, Credits God

Prior to spreading across the U.S., the country’s first deadly outbreak of the novel coronavirus began at a suburban nursing home, Life Care Center, in Kirkland, Washington on February 28. Many of its residents succumbed to the virus, yet one 90-woman shares her story of healing as part of her testimony. Geneva Wood spent her days at Life Care Center as she was recovering from a stroke. She was just a few days away from returning back home, when Wood “experienced a spiking fever” three days later. KIRO7 reports that her condition worsened to the point of death. Doctors even went as far as to have her family come to say goodbye. But then Wood started to experience gradual improvement, and eventually recovered from the virus, a miracle she attributes solely to God. “If it hadn’t been for my faith in God and my family and their prayers and all their families and the church and everything … the faith and prayers pulled me through,” Wood explained.

Christian Publishers Report Bible Sales Soaring

Several Christian book publishers have seen an increase in Bible sales since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Alabaster Co., which sells religious books geared toward the Instagram generation, reported a sales increase of 143 percent compared to last year. LifeWay Christian Resources sales at LifeWay are up 62 percent as of last week compared to the year before. Tyndale reports a 44 percent uptick in Bible sales this year. “We believe this is no accident, as people often go to the Bible as a source of hope in times of crisis and uncertainty,” said Lifeway’s CEO Ben Mandrell.

  • A study by the Joshua Fund found that some 20% of non-Christians have become interested in reading the Bible ever since the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep across the globe. Notably, 44% of Americans polled said they see the global coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown as a “wake-up call for us to turn back to faith in God,” and as “signs of coming judgment.”

Render to Caesar or God?

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, the pastor Liberty Counsel is representing in his illegal and unconstitutional arrest, has taken some heat this week for opening his church this past Sunday. One of the verses that has been used to justify attacks on Pastor Howard-Browne — as well as Liberty Counsel — is Mark 12:17, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” However, the rest of the verse says, “…and unto God what is God’s.”  Worship and ministering to hurting people belong to God.  No government can change that, no matter what peril – or pandemic – we face, writes Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

NYC, Arizona, Italy Past Their Peaks?

New York State’s daily deaths fell for the first time, but Governor Andrew Cuomo said it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. New York reported 594 new coronavirus deaths on Sunday, fewer than the 630 it reported on Saturday. The state has 4,159 fatalities so far. Italy, which has the highest death toll of any country at 15,887, on Sunday also saw its lowest daily death toll since March 19—525. While that could be a sign the tide is turning, the civil protection service chief said, “This is good news but we should not let our guard down.” The total identified cases in Arizona are 2,456, according to the most recent state figures. That’s an increase of 187 confirmed cases, or 8%, since Sunday. This is a lower percentage increase in cases than previous days.

Thousands of New Yorkers Treated with Malaria Drug Plus Antibiotic

As many as 4,000 seriously ill coronavirus patients in New York are being treated with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, state health officials say. President Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential life-saver, although there is no widespread scientific evidence to date showing it helps battle COVID-19. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month said health care providers in the state would be using the drug in combination with the antibiotic Zithromax, or azithromycin, for some last-ditch cases, based on potentially promising research. A state Health Department official said the DOH has shipped doses of hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York, distributing enough “to treat 4,000 patients to date.”

Crime Rates Plunge as Pandemic Keeps Residents Indoors

Crime rates plummeted in cities and counties across the U.S. over the second half of March as the coronavirus pandemic drove millions of residents to stay inside their homes. Police logged dramatically fewer calls for crime incidents and arrests in the last two weeks of March than each of the previous six weeks. Massive drops in traffic and person stops — as much as 92% in some jurisdictions — helped drive sharp declines in drug offenses and DUIs. Thefts and residential burglaries decreased with fewer stores open and fewer homes unoccupied. Some agencies logged fewer assaults and robberies.

  • Nearly one-fifth of police officers in New York City are out sick and almost 2,000 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, reports Staten Island’s silive.com.

California Acquires 7,000 Hotel Rooms for Homeless

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Friday that California had secured roughly 7,000 hotel rooms that will be made available to the homeless. The program, which aims to obtain a total of 15,000 units in areas where large numbers of people sleep on the streets, is intended to help curb the spread of COVID-19 among this highly vulnerable community. The rooms come complete with “essential wraparound services,” including cleaning, laundry, security and other support staff. Some areas will also benefit from a partnership with Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen, which will provide three meals a day. More than 800 people have already moved in.

Trump Sends 1,000 Military Troops to New York City

President Donald Trump said Saturday he is deploying 1,000 medical personnel to New York City to help battle the coronavirus. Personnel to be deployed will include doctors, nurses, respiratory specialists and others. Trump did not say from which branches of the services the officials will be deployed. But he said they will be sent Sunday and Monday to New York, “where they’re needed most.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday the U.S. military will soon be operating the largest hospital in the United States to treat patients suffering from COVID-19 at the Javits Convention Center with a 4,000 bed capacity.

25%-50% of Infected Show no Symptoms

Last week, the CDC chief told NPR that as many as 25% of people infected with coronavirus may not show any symptoms. Dr. Robert Redfield’s estimate may have been too low by a lot. “It’s somewhere between 25% and 50%,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci during the White House coronavirus briefing on Sunday. Fauci acknowledged, however, that so much is unknown at this point that his range is just an educated guess as well. Only extensive testing will provide the real answer, he added. Still, the danger of infected, asymptomatic people is part of the reason the CDC is now recommending that everybody wear face coverings in public.

FEMA Says It Has Sent Millions of Respirators and Ventilators to States

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it’s exhausting all resources to meet the demands of states seeking medical supplies to treat the coronavirus, adding that the national stockpile alone can’t fulfill the requests by state governments. As of April 2, the agency has shipped 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26.3 million surgical masks, 5.2 million face shields and 8,100 ventilators, among other medical supplies. FEMA also touted the agency’s efforts to expedite supplies from the global market, including a flight on March 29, which delivered 80 tons of equipment from Asia to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Additional flights landed in Chicago on March 30, Miami on March 31, Los Angeles on April 1 as well as in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, early Friday.

  • The Chinese government has facilitated a donation of 1,000 ventilators that are expected to arrive at JFK Airport, New York Governor Cuomo announced Saturday. The hard-hit state had 113,704 cases of coronavirus with 3,565 deaths as of Saturday morning.
  • S. President Donald Trump announced late Friday he would prevent the export of N95 protective masks and surgical gloves in a move he said was necessary to ensure they are available in the U.S. — but the prime minister of neighboring Canada suggested it was counterproductive, noting cross-border aid goes well beyond supplies.

States Enforcing Stay-At-Home Orders

States are increasingly calling out the National Guard to assist state police in enforcing shelter-at-home orders. In Pennsylvania, a motorist taking a scenic car ride on Friday was stopped by police and given a $200 ticket for violating stay-at-home orders in that state. “Stay at Home means stay at home,” Pennsylvania state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said. Rhode Island police enforced the state’s coronavirus quarantine order and arrested three golfers from Massachusetts on misdemeanor charges. Massachusetts forced golf courses in the state to close last week to contain the virus. Delaware is empowering its police to pull over out-of-state drivers and usher them into self-quarantine for two weeks.

CDC Now Says to Wear Facemasks in Public

The Center for Disease Control is advising people to start wearing cloth face masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a reversal on previous guidance that urged people not to wear masks. President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are strictly voluntary. Surgeon General Jerome Adams detailed the new recommendations Friday, acknowledging the evolving guidance has been “confusing to the American people.”

  • Adams stressed the new recommendation pertained to non-medical, cloth face coverings and do not replace current social distancing guidance. The general public should not begin wearing medical-grade equipment, Adams said, as such measures should be reserved for the medical industry.

Many Older Americans Violating Social Distancing

Last week, a 99-year-old New Jersey man who went to an engagement party was arrested in New Jersey for defying the state’s ban on gatherings. In a separate case, a 100-year-old man violated a stay-at-home order by attending a funeral. Many elderly Americans are flouting shelter-in-place directives and carrying on as usual. They’re hitting stores, visiting family and inviting over friends and neighbors. For a group that’s considered very high risk for contracting coronavirus, they’re carrying on life as usual — much to the worry of their grown children. Some attribute it to ‘cabin fever’  while others say they need human contact. Some are not tech-savvy and can’t navigate online ordering sites. And a few say they don’t care if they die, they’ve lived long enough.

Over One Thousand People in the U.S. Are Dying Every Day

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus marched to another record-setting pace early Saturday, with nearly 1,200 deaths in 24 hours as federal emergency workers tried to answer desperate pleas for respirators from dozens of states. There were more than 278,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. early Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. The nation’s death toll stood at 7,159. Worldwide, the death toll was just above 60,000, with 1.1 million people infected.

Deaths of Doctors, Nurses Highlight Coronavirus Risks

As the number of people infected has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients and a paucity of medical equipment like ventilators as well as protective masks and gloves, giving rise to growing concerns about the exposure of hospital personnel. Italy and Spain, the two worst-hit countries in Europe with combined deaths of more than 25,000 and nearly a quarter-million infections, have reported a high percentage of infections among their health care workers.

  • Carlo Palermo, head of Italy’s hospital doctors’ union, said, “I can understand those who look death in the eye every day, who are on the front lines, who work with someone who maybe is infected, then a few days later you see him in the ICU or die,” he said. “It’s a indescribable condition of stress. Unbearable.”

Senior Care Facilities Experiencing Outbreaks

Unbeknownst to nearly all of the 443 residents and 1,460 employees at the Denton State Supported Living Center in Texas, someone on campus had tested positive for COVID-19 the night before. Administrators told only the staff in the home where that individual lived. They waited until 2:18 p.m. the next day to notify the rest of the campus about the positive case. By then, the virus was moving. Within a week, 41 people at the Denton facility had tested positive. As of Friday night that number had swelled to 50 residents and 39 employees. The outbreak has become a crisis on a campus where many residents have pre-existing medical conditions and are considered at high risk if they contract the coronavirus.

  • There are similar facilities across the country where large groups of vulnerable adults live in close proximity to one another and social distancing is impossible due to the level of care needed. In Missouri, three residents at a state-run home for people with developmental disabilities tested positive for the virus last week. In New Hampshire, one resident has died and five others are infected at a similar nonprofit group home. In Texas, four hours south of Denton, two residents at another state-run senior living center tested positive earlier last week.

Child Care Centers May Never Recover from Closures

Dominated by small businesses, the country’s childcare “system” has long been at a breaking point even prior to the coronavirus. Childcare is expensive to operate and to provide, yet families are largely left to pay for it themselves while providers eke out a living on meager profits, says the Hechinger Report. To make it through coronavirus-era closures and the economic downturn, providers say they need help. Without it, parents juggling childcare with working from home, or unable to afford care while they’re laid off, could find their provider is closed when they return to work. So far, little direct help has been offered. The latest relief package, the CARES Act, provides $3.5 billion for the government subsidy program aimed at providers who serve low-income families and another $750 million for Head Start, the federal preschool program for families living in poverty. Most childcare programs also would be eligible for a slice of the $350 billion slated for forgivable small-business loans, but that’s available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Morgues, Families Struggle with Overload, Social Distancing

There are many bodies waiting in overcrowded mortuaries to be buried as cities struggle to meet demand and families wrestle with rules on social distancing that make the usual funeral rituals impossible. Morgues are begging for more refrigerated trailers so that they can handle the once unimaginable situation. With U.S. medical experts and even President Donald Trump now estimating the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could reach 240,000 nationwide, the sheer practicalities of death — where to put the bodies — are worrying just about everyone as cities, hospitals and private medical groups clamor to secure additional storage. Rules on social distancing make planning funerals difficult.

  • In Spain, where the death toll has climbed to nearly 12,000, an ice rink in Madrid was turned into a makeshift morgue after the city’s municipal funeral service said it could no longer take coronavirus bodies until it was restocked with protective equipment. In Italy, embalmed bodies in caskets are being sent to church halls and warehouses while they await cremation or burial.

Expectant Mothers Weigh Home Births Over-Crowded Hospitals

As many hospitals are transformed into overwhelmed coronavirus battle stations, more expectant mothers are deciding it’s safer to give birth at home. “Hospitals may soon, like in Italy, run out of beds, and they are running out of supplies,” said Erika McBee, a nurse in Rockville, Maryland, due in the summer with her first baby. About 1% of births in the United States occur at home, according to the National Institutes of Health and Science. It’s too early to say whether COVID-19 will change that statistic in any significant way. In its updated COVID-19 guidance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that hospitals and accredited birth centers are safe places for delivery and “continues to recommend following existing evidence-based guidance regarding home birth.”

Stay-At-Home Orders Could Cause a Rise in Domestic Abuse

For those who live in close quarters with an abuser, home may be more dangerous than the disease that confinement with family members is supposed to keep at bay. Both Phoenix Police and domestic abuse hotlines have noted a sharp uptick in domestic violence complaints in recent weeks — at a time when victims have fewer options to leave home and shelters that ordinarily have available beds are now reporting they have little or no space remaining. Domestic violence calls to Phoenix Police were up 21% from March 20 to March 27 compared with the same week in 2019.

COVID-19 Changing the Way America Shops

As the nation continues to grapple with the growing coronavirus crisis, retailers including Walmart, Target and Costco are limiting how many shoppers can enter stores to encourage social distancing. Some retailers are taking limits even further. Wisconsin-based Menards will no longer allow children under 16 to be in any of its stores. And in Miami Beach starting April 7, all customers and employees will need to wear masks inside grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies, an emergency measure approved by the South Florida city Friday. Two North Carolina towns – Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro – are also prohibiting children from accompanying parents into stores and allow “only one individual per family” to shop.

  • Two Walmart employees in the Chicago area died from the coronavirus, prompting the retailer to adopt additional safety measures in the wake of the pandemic. Both victims had underlying health conditions, medical examiners said.

Economic News

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is promising that millions of Americans will receive $1,200 stimulus checks in just two weeks, but some tax experts and congressional officials are warning it may take much longer. Antiquated technology and staff reductions at the Internal Revenue Service have seriously hampered the agency’s ability to process checks in such a short period and could mean delays in sending the money to anxious Americans who are counting on the cash to get them through hard times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon used his annual shareholder letter to detail just how bad he thinks the US economy can get from the coronavirus pandemic. Dimon expects a “bad recession,” he wrote in the letter released Monday, saying that in the most adverse scenario, gross domestic product could plunge at a 35% annual rate in the second quarter and that a downturn would last through the rest of the year. The unemployment rate would spike as high as 14% in this environment.

Bankruptcies are expected to soar in the coming months, because of the way our economy has been completely disrupted since late March. It’s an unprecedent shift in the marketplace that is also creating thousands of new millionaires (Barron’s estimates 20,000 to 200,000 so far) while at the same time destroying the financial future for many others.

The youngest American adults are facing what is, for most of them, the first serious economic crisis of their working lives. By most measures, they are woefully unprepared. While the last few years were largely good ones for the American economy, that did little to help set millennials up with a solid financial foundation. Overloaded with credit card and student debt, and underrepresented in the housing and stock markets, they entered this uncertain period with significant obligations and few resources. Their position looks doubly precarious when measured against older generations today and relative to those generations when they were the same age, from 23 to 35 years old, reports the New York Times.

OPEC and Russia have postponed a meeting set for Monday to discuss crude oil supply cuts and ending a brutal price war. The meeting is now scheduled for April 9. Saudi Arabia and Russia have been locked in an epic price war since early March when the OPEC+ oil alliance cracked, flooding the oil market with cheap crude just as demand cratered due to the coronavirus. The meeting will be held via video conference and will include oil producers from outside the OPEC+ alliance that includes Russia and a few other countries. Russia and Saudi Arabia are “very, very close” to a deal to cut oil production and settle the oil price war that has rocked global markets, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF said Monday.

Israel

In a statement Sunday, the Israeli Defense Ministry said the first plane of in a medical supplies airlift from China is set to arrive on Monday, carrying more than 900,000 surgical masks and half a million protective suits for medical teams. The ministry said Israeli airline EL Al has modified 11 Boeing Dreamliner aircraft for the operation. The airlift, which will also bring breathing machines, is to take place over two weeks. Israel has reported more than 8,000 cases of COVID-19 and 49 deaths.

China

China’s efforts to rebrand itself as a global leader focused on humanitarian relief amid the coronavirus outbreak has hit a major snag and perhaps revealed Beijing’s true intentions behind their public relations blitz. After telling the world that it would donate masks, face guards and testing equipment to Italy, China quietly backtracked and sold the Mediterranean country desperately-needed medical equipment, according to a report. What’s worse is that the personal protective equipment (PPE) China forced Italy to buy was actually the same PPE Italy donated to China before coronavirus rushed its own shores and killed nearly 16,000 people, a senior Trump administration official told The Spectator.

  • China not only hid the dangers of the novel coronavirus for a vital five to six weeks, but it was attempting during that time to corner the market in medical personal protective equipment, including masks, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Monday.

China has been appointed to a panel on the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council, where it will help vet candidates for important posts — despite its decades-long record of systematic human rights abuse that the U.S. has said fueled the coronavirus pandemic. China has been criticized over the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak, with the U.S. and others accusing the communist country of a secretive approach that punished doctors, threw out reporters, suppressed information and ultimately downplayed the seriousness of the virus — leaving the world blindsided and unable to adequately respond to what later became a global pandemic.

Africa

Africa’s coronavirus travel ban is making it difficult for rulers and rich people to fly abroad for emergency medical care, as they’ve done in the past. But that option could be narrowing as 30 of Africa’s 57 international airports have closed or severely limited flights. The grounding of Africa’s wealthy comes with the World Health Organization warning of an “imminent surge” of COVID-19 cases in Africa. Africa has more than 7,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with South Africa one of the hardest-hit countries.

Earthquakes

Southern California was hit by an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.9 on Friday evening. The quake struck just after 6:53 p.m. and was centered near Anza in a remote desert area of Riverside County, southeast of Los Angeles. It was felt up to 100 miles from the epicenter, according to a U.S. Geological Survey website, and was followed by several aftershocks. No damage or injuries have been reported so far.

Wildfires

More than 3,500 cars were damaged or destroyed in a brush fire that raced through a grassy area near an airport in southwest Florida on Friday. Plumes of thick black smoke could be seen up to 20 miles away. Officials said the cause of the fire wasn’t known, but the blaze was likely fueled by dry conditions and record heat. The fire happened in an overflow parking area for rental cars at Southwest Florida International Airport near Fort Myers in Lee County. The county and much of the Florida peninsula are experiencing moderate drought conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor.

Two forest fires were still burning near the Chernobyl nuclear power station as of Sunday night, and radiation levels in the area were said to be substantially higher than normal. “There is bad news—radiation is above normal in the fire’s center,” said the head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service in a Facebook post. He included a video in the post with a Geiger counter showing radiation levels 16 times higher than normal. However, the emergencies service said radiation levels about 60 miles away from the largely unpopulated Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, in the capital city of Kyiv, were within normal range. Fire broke out Saturday; there were discrepancies in the reported size, with the emergencies service saying the fires totaled about 62 acres but the ecological official saying they totaled 250 acres.

Weather

A strong Cyclone Harold continued to slash across the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Monday. The Vanuatu meteorology department recorded winds of 135 mph there but said gusts were reaching 145 mph. Harold made landfall as a Category 4 storm on the east coast of Espiritu Santo island on Monday morning before heading for Vanuatu’s second-largest city Luganville. Images from Luganville on Espiritu Santo island showed roofs blown off and buildings collapsed. Communications to Santo and Malekula [the island south of Espiritu Santo are down. Vanuatu Red Cross said, “There is lots of damage in Sanma, they lost lots of buildings.” Sanma is the province that encompasses Espiritu Santo island.

Signs of the Times

April 3, 2020

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2Corinthians 12:9)

Date: Friday, 4/3/2020

WWII Vet Recovers from COVID-19, Celebrates 104th Birthday

In some great news, out of Oregon, a WWII Veteran celebrated his 104th birthday, but that’s not all—he is also likely one of the oldest people to recover from COVID-19. KOIN News reported on Wednesday: William “Bill” Lapschies was one of the first two residents to test positive for the disease at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home. To date, 15 residents have tested positive and two have passed away, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. According to the report, Lapschies was “very, very sick” with the Coronavirus, to the point where his family had discussed the possibility of him not pulling through. However, he fought it all the way through to recovery.

Renowned Doctor Sees 100% Success with Two Drugs

Calling it an “absolute game changer,” renowned infectious disease specialist Dr. Stephen Smith said Wednesday he has seen 100% success in his treatment of 72 seriously ill COVID-19 patients with the drugs touted by the White House, hydroxchloroquine and azithromycin. “I think this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” he said in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “I’m very serious.” He believes his data will support other studies, such as one published earlier this month by French researchers finding remarkable success with hydroxychloroquine and antibiotics.

Researchers Believe They Have Developed a Vaccine

A research team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine announced Thursday they believe they have found a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers believe the vaccine could be rolled out quick enough to “significantly impact the spread of disease,” according to their study published in a Lancet publication, EBioMedicine. When tested on mice, the vaccine — which would be delivered on a small, fingertip-sized patch — produced enough antibodies believed to successfully counteract the virus. The scientists say they were already on the road to discovery, having done research on the similar coronaviruses SARS and MERS.

COVID-19 Estimated Death Toll Mystifies Disease Forecasters

The White House task force projected 100,000 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S., even with mitigation efforts. The White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday presented a grim picture of where the United States could be heading over the next couple of months, even with interventions such as physical distancing. Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, the leaders of the task force, emphasized that although the projections were based on data they have seen from the hardest-hit locations so far, they were hopeful they could prevent such a high number of deaths.

  • Leading disease forecasters, including some of President Donald Trump’s top advisers, were mystified when they saw the administration’s projections. White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the estimated death toll. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability.

U.S. COVID-19 Mortality Rate Increasing

According to the Worldometer statistics (which are consistent with those compiled by Johns Hopkins University), the U.S. mortality rate has surged to 2.16 percent (4,099 deaths out of 189,711 reported cases as of this morning). Last week, it was about 1.5 percent. The U.S. rate is still less than half of the global rate of 5 percent (44,214 deaths out of 885,301 reported cases).

3.4 Million Travelers Brought the Coronavirus to U.S.

Travel data of passengers arriving in the United States from China during the critical period in December, January and February, when the disease took hold in that country, shows a stunning 759,493 people entered the U.S. Total travel into the U.S. from all countries totaled 3.4 million according to an ABC News analysis. As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo put it, “I have no doubt that the virus was here much earlier than any of us know, and we have the virus more than any other state because travelers from other parts of the world come here first.”

500,000 Test Kits Not Being Used

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, says she is disappointed that 500,000 available test kits are not being used throughout the United States. “It is disappointing to me right now that we have about 500,000 capacity of (tests) that are not being utilized,” Birx said. “They are out. They are in the states. They are not being run and not utilized.” She said state officials are confused by the process of obtaining the kits.

Israel Requires Face Masks, China Vindicated, U.S. to Follow?

Israel’s health ministry advised all Israelis Tuesday to wear protective masks when leaving their homes as a tool in fighting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Ynet reported. In the United States officials at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta are “considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic,” the Washington Post reported. If so ordered, it will be a vindication of the tactic that has been adopted across much of Asia since the beginning of the crisis and appears to have been borne out by lower rates of infection and faster containment of outbreaks.

  • A prestigious scientific panel recommended wearing facemasks. They told the White House Wednesday night that research shows the coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes or coughs, but also just by talking, or possibly even just breathing.

U.S. Exported Masks & Ventilators to China Causing Present Shortage

U.S. exports of surgical masks, ventilators and other personal protective gear to China skyrocketed in January and February, when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in the country where it began and as U.S. intelligence agencies warned it would soon spread. American companies sold more than $17.5 million worth of face masks, more than $13.6 million in surgical garments and more than $27.2 million in ventilators to China during the first two months of the year, far exceeding that of any other similar period in the past decade. Now, medical professionals on the front lines of the nationwide crisis say they are being forced to reuse or go without personal protective equipment.

  • The White House and congressional intelligence committees were briefed on the scope and threat of the coronavirus in January and February, but President Trump has not stopped exports of key medical equipment – a move taken by at least 54 other countries so far. 3M facemasks are still being exported.

Protective Gear in National Stockpile is Nearly Depleted

The government’s emergency stockpile of respirator masks, gloves and other medical supplies is nearly exhausted because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving the Trump administration and states to compete for personal protective equipment in a freewheeling global marketplace rife with profiteering and price-gouging, according to Homeland Security officials involved in the frantic acquisition effort.

  • More than 2,100 ventilators in the government’s stockpile are unusable, The New York Times reported. The news comes as President Trump assured Americans the government is holding 10,000 ventilators in reserve to send to hospitals slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services are distributing nearly 200,000 N95 respirator masks and other medical supplies to New York and New Jersey after confiscating them from individuals hoarding the materials.
  • The shortage of ventilators is forcing some doctors to decide which patients get them and which ones don’t, probably condemning the latter to death.

UN Wants a 10% Global Tax to Fight COVID-19

The United Nations is calling for an international response to the coronavirus outbreak that will spend “at least 10% of global gross domestic product.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods.” What is needed is “an immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic” with the ability to be scaled up for “testing, tracing, quarantine and treatment.” His plan calls for health and unemployment insurance and “social protections, as well as a plan for “debt alleviation.” U.N. is “fully mobilized” with a new Trust Fund for COVID-19 Response and Recovery.

Civil Liberties More at Risk Than Economy

Economic depression and unemployment can be overcome, but a massive loss of American civil liberties might be tough to unwind, according to economist Ben Stein. “I fear that… we’re headed toward depression and… loss of our civil liberties in a very big way and it’s going to hard to get them back,” Stein said Wednesday on NewsMax TV. We are not headed for a long-term economic depression, he added. “We’re way, way better prepared than we were during the Great Depression, there’s no comparison,” Stein concluded.

China Lied About Cases/Deaths, U.S. Intelligence Reports

China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials. China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete, the officials say.

Numbers of Legislators with COVID-19 Increasing

The growing group of lawmakers who have contracted the virus – now at six – has underscored the dangerous predicament that Congress has found itself in as lawmakers aim to keep themselves healthy while working on vital legislation to keep families and businesses afloat across the country. More than two dozen have gone into self-quarantine after potentially interacting with someone who tested positive. Others have also done so after being in close contact with the lawmakers who tested positive. At least two congressional staff members have tested positive as well. About half of the 100-member Senate is 65 or older and, in the House, 146 of its members are above that age. The average age of a member of the House is 58, and 63 in the Senate.

  • Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have rejected the idea of voting remotely. “It’s something that could be considered “way down the road” if warranted Pelosi said. “Let’s not waste too much time on something that’s not going to happen,” she said.

What China Did to Thwart COVID-19 Might Not be Palatable in U.S.

In late February, as coronavirus infections mounted in Wuhan, China, local authorities went door-to-door for health checks – forcibly isolating every resident in makeshift hospitals and temporary quarantine shelters, even separating parents from young children who displayed symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how seemingly mild. Caretakers at the city’s ubiquitous large apartment buildings were pressed into service as ad hoc security guards, monitoring the temperatures of all residents, deciding who could come in, and implementing inspections of delivered food and medicines. Outside, drones hovered above streets, yelling at people to get inside and scolding them for not wearing face masks, while elsewhere in China facial-recognition software, linked to a mandatory phone app that color-coded people based on their contagion risk, decided who could enter shopping malls, subways, cafes and other public spaces.

  • The U.S. is unlikely to implement these draconian Big Brother measures.

GM Turns Closed Plant into Mask Factory

General Motors is working with the United Auto Workers to call in at least two dozen paid volunteers from its hourly workforce to make millions of face masks at its once-shuttered Warren Transmission plant in Michigan. By Wednesday, April 8, the first 20,000 face masks will roll off the line for distribution to offset a severe shortage of masks caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Once production is at full-scale, GM will make 50,000 masks a day, or up to 1.5 million a month.

  • GM is also working with medical device maker Ventec Life Systems to make lifesaving ventilators at GM’s plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

Spring-Breakers Struck by Coronavirus

The University of Texas says 28 students who returned to Austin from a spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico have tested positive for the coronavirus. Public health officials say dozens more are being monitored. Officials said Tuesday a group of about 70 people in their 20s departed on a chartered plane about a week and a half ago. Some of the attendees flew back on commercial flights.

Trump Sending 500 More Troops to Mexican Border

The Pentagon will send roughly 500 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist that department’s efforts to deal with the coronavirus. The United States already maintains an average of 5,000 troops at the southwest border to support Border Patrol by performing non-law enforcement duties. The latest deployment will bolster those ranks as border agents grapple with possible exposure to COVID-19. The move came as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump shelved a plan to send troops to the border with Canada.

Almost Half of Americans Lack Broadband Internet

A study by Microsoft in 2018 estimated that about half of Americans — 163 million people — do not have high-speed internet at home. With schools shut down, the transition to online learning will be difficult. Students in rural areas often find it impossible to connect to internet service at speeds that would allow online conferencing or video streaming because internet providers haven’t extended the lines. Elsewhere, especially in urban districts with high concentrations of poor students, subscribing is too expensive. The nearly $2 trillion stimulus package doesn’t address this digital divide, even though nearly all American schools are closed. A $2 billion proposal from Democrats to help expand online access didn’t make it out of the Senate last week, according to Politico. A $50 million proposal from the Trump administration didn’t either.

Abortion Ban in Texas Upheld in Court

Abortion will continue to be suspended in Texas as part of the state’s emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed a federal judge’s injunction against the Governor’s order that postponed any unnecessary medical procedures, including abortion. Governor Abbott’s March 21 Executive Order postponed any unnecessary medical procedures, including abortion, to preserve medical supplies for the health professionals combating the spread of the coronavirus.

Grand Canyon Closes to Visitors

The Grand Canyon closed indefinitely to visitors Wednesday, joining other national parks seeking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Staff at the Grand Canyon had been shutting down visitors services piecemeal as the federal government initially rebuffed its request to shutter completely. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he finally approved the park’s request at the recommendation of a county health official who said keeping the park open puts employees, residents, and tourists at risk. The park reported earlier this week that a resident who worked at a lodge run by a concessionaire tested positive for COVID-19.

Economic News

The U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March, snapping a decade-long record of employment growth, as strict measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses and forced Americans to stay at home. It was the first decline in payrolls since September 2010, and the steepest since March 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4 percent, up from a half-century low of 3.5 percent in February.

  • The private sector accounted for all of the losses last month, with 713,000 positions disappearing from the payroll, according to the Labor Department’s report released on Friday. The government actually added 12,000 jobs last month, with the federal government hiring 18,000 workers, the majority for work on the 2020 Census.
  • 42,500 jobs disappeared from the health care industry, with some of the biggest losses taking place in dentists’ offices (-17,000) and physicians’ offices (-12,000). Hospitals only added 200 jobs — possibly because the wave of patients infected with COVID-19 had not yet overwhelmed the hospitals.
  • Unsurprisingly, leisure and hospitality accounted for the bulk of the job losses, with a stunning 459,000 vanishing from the sector. Food services and drinking places — one of the hardest-hit areas of the economy, as cities and states enforce strict stay-at-home policies — shed 417,400 positions in March.

Jobless numbers released Thursday were stunning. New unemployment claims doubled to 6.6 million from last week’s record-setting 3.3 million, up more than 3,000% since early March. About 10 million workers have sought unemployment benefits in just the last two weeks, exceeding the nearly 9 million who lost jobs from 2008 to 2010 amid the Great Recession. “We are still only at the beginning of the layoffs spurred by the lockdowns throughout the country,” said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

  • The scale of job losses in such a short time is unprecedented. The previous record for unemployment filings was 660,000 in 1982.

Thousands of health care workers across the nation have been laid off, furloughed or are working reduced hours as their services are deemed nonessential and patients skip routine visits during an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. The workers range from dentists and general surgeons to medical assistants and nurses, from allergists and dermatologists to primary care physicians and pediatricians. By June, an estimated 60,000 family practices will close or significantly scale back, and 800,000 of their employees will be laid off, furloughed or have their hours reduced as they see a decline in business during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a HealthLandscape and American Academy of Family Physicians report released Thursday.

OPEC will meet on Monday with Russia and other oil producers in the hope of agreeing supply cuts and ending a brutal price war. The meeting, called by Saudi Arabia, will be held via video conference and will include oil producers from outside the OPEC+ alliance that includes Russia and a few other countries. US oil prices soared 25% — their biggest one-day gain on record — on Thursday, and continued to advance Friday, recovering some of the massive plunge seen over the past month.

Israel

No sooner had Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come out of quarantine after being exposed to a coronavirus carrier than he was forced back into isolation when Health Minister Yaakov Litzman tested positive for the disease, a spokesman said Thursday. Netanyahu had just come out of quarantine Wednesday night after one of his staff members was discovered last week to be infected, and will spend the next week working out of his residence and holding meetings via phone and video conferencing. Litzman and Netanyahu have appeared together multiple times at press conferences over the duration of the corona crisis and been in close proximity in cabinet and other meetings.

Iran

In a move designed to circumvent sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran, European countries closed their first transaction with the Islamic Republic using a trade mechanism that the Trump administration has heavily criticized. The move, announced Tuesday by Britain, France and Germany, underlined diverging European and U.S. strategies for dealing with Iran. European officials said they were confident that the transaction, the export of medical goods to Iran, would be the first of many despite past threats by U.S. officials that they could sanction the trade mechanism and people involved with it, if it provided a significant economic lifeline to Iran’s economy.

Iraq

The U.S. military said Thursday air defense systems are “moving” into Iraq following attacks on American and coalition forces in recent weeks. The weapons include Patriot surface-to-air missiles and a variant of the Navy’s SeaRam and CIWIS (“sea wiz”) which fires 3,000 rounds a minute. Two Americans and a British Army medic were killed in a rocket attack outside Baghdad last month leading to U.S. airstrikes destroying five weapons depots used by the Iranian-backed militia blamed for the attack.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rocked southern Idaho on Tuesday evening and was felt by residents from Nevada to Montana. The quake, which was given a preliminary rating of 6.5 by the U.S. Geological Survey, struck some 78 miles northeast of Boise at 5:52 p.m. local time on Tuesday. There were no reports of serious damage or injuries in the wake of the tremor. About 30 minutes after the main quake, a 4.8 magnitude aftershock was reported to the southeast. According to Earthquake Track, it was the second-strongest earthquake in the state of Idaho since records began.