Here’s a recap of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic for Monday, April 20, 2020.
Over 2.4 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 170,000 people have died. In the United States, 780,000 coronavirus cases and more than 42,000 deaths have been confirmed.
Donald Trump announced he will sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States, while the U.S., Mexico and Canada are extending restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days. And as some areas of the U.S. begin relaxing social distancing restrictions, a new poll showed a majority of Americans fear easing those guidelines could result in more deaths.
Biden critical of Trump coronavirus response in Yahoo News town hall
Former Vice President Joe Biden and chef José Andrés joined Yahoo News Tuesday night for a virtual town hall to discuss the coronavirus crisis, the future of the restaurant industry and the issue of food security amid the pandemic. Among the topics discussed:
* Biden said “We don’t have a food shortage problem, we have a leadership problem,” and criticized President Trump for his plans to cut food stamps.
* The presumptive Democratic nominee also criticized Trump for refusing to wear a mask, stating that he can’t walk outside without one, and for taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, saying of the president, “What in God's name is he doing?”
* Biden also said that increased meat prices were worth it for the safety of workers, saying “No worker’s life is worth a cheaper hamburger.” Andrés concurred and urged Americans to read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.”
Vice President Mike Pence wears a face mask as he departs a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Capitol Hill Tuesday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Pence says he is not taking hydroxychloroquine
After a meeting at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence was asked whether he is taking hydroxychloroquine after President Trump revealed he has been taking the controversial anti-malaria drug as a preventative to combat contraction of the coronavirus.
“I’m not," Pence told reporters. "But I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician. Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that’s been around for more than 40 years for treatment of malaria. But, early in this process, the FDA approved what’s called off-label use where physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine in terms they deemed appropriate. So my physician has not recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise.”
Trump said Monday that he consulted with the White House physician, who agreed to prescribe it.
“I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine, right now, yeah,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Couple of weeks ago, I started taking it. Because I think it’s good, I hear a lot of good stories.”
President Trump speaks to the press after attending a lunch with Senate Republicans on Tuesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Trump says it's a 'waste of time' to respond to Pelosi, then does anyway
Departing a lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday, President Trump was asked for his response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who expressed concern on Monday night that he is taking the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine despite being what she described as "morbidly obese." (Trump's body mass index is 30.4, which puts him in the obese but not morbidly obese category.)
"I don’t respond to her," Trump said. "She’s a waste of time."
The president proceeded to call the House speaker a "sick woman" with "a lot of mental problems."
He again touted the hydroxychloroquine, repeating his claim that doctors and frontline workers use it as a preventative treatment against COVID-19.
The unproven and potentially fatal anti-malaria drug "gives you an extra layer of protection," Trump added.
DeSantis (Getty Images)
Questions arise on coronavirus data used to back reopenings
The firing of a Florida state health official who says she refused orders to change data on coronavirus cases has raised questions about some of the statistics that governors have used to justify ending lockdown orders.
Rebekah Jones, who designed and managed the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, told CBS News 12 in West Palm Beach that her departure earlier this month was “not voluntary” and that she was removed from her position because she was ordered to censor some data. She said she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
In an email to her colleagues alerting them to her departure two weeks ago, Jones wrote, “As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”
Jones served as the geographic information system manager for Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. The dashboard had been previously praised by White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Deborah Birx. The state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is a Republican and close ally of President Trump who initially hesitated to fully shut down the state and has pushed for reopening.
“The Florida COVID-19 Dashboard was created by the Geographic Information System (GIS) team in the Division of Disease Control and Health Protection at the Florida Department of Health, DeSantis spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré told the Miami Herald in a statement. “Although Rebekah Jones is no longer involved, the GIS team continues to manage and update the Dashboard providing accurate and important information that is publicly accessible.”
In an email to Florida Today on Tuesday, Jones said, "I worked on it alone, sixteen hours a day for two months, most of which I was never paid for, and now that this has happened I'll probably never get paid for," confirming that she had not just been reassigned on May 5, but fired.
Last week, the state of Georgia fixed a graph showing COVID cases after intense online mockery and criticism. The original graph was not arranged chronologically along the x-axis, but instead to order the data in a way that made it look like it was declining.
Sir Winston (7), with jockey Joel Rosario, crosses the finish line to win the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes horse race in Elmont, N.Y., June 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Belmont to run first leg of Triple Crown without fans
The Belmont Stakes will be run June 20 in New York without fans and serve as the opening leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown for the first time in the sport’s history.
The New York Racing Association on Tuesday unveiled the rescheduled date for the Belmont, which will also be contested at a shorter distance than usual. The 2020 Belmont will be 1 1/8 miles instead of the 1 1/2-mile “test of the champion” that has been the race’s trademark for almost a century.
This is the first time the Belmont will lead off the Triple Crown ahead of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 5 and the Preakness from May 16 to Oct. 3 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mnuchin speaks during a meeting with restaurant industry executives about the coronavirus response on Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Mnuchin warns against unemployment workers refusing to go back
Speaking to lawmakers about bipartisan criticism over the U.S. Payroll Protection Program on Capitol Hill Tuesday, White House Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that workers who refuse to come back to their jobs because they're making more money on unemployment are no longer eligible for jobless benefits.
Employers who offer to rehire laid off workers must notify local unemployment agencies if those workers refuse, he said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany talks with reporters at the White House Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
McEnany doesn't know 'exact rationale' behind Trump's use of hydroxychloroquine
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that she didn't know "the exact rationale" behind President Trump's decision to take the controversial anti-malaria hydroxychloroquine as a preventative against the coronavirus.
"I don't have any information about the exact rationale," she told Fox News when asked for details. "That was a personal deliberation with [White House physician Sean Conley] and the president."
Trump said Monday the he has been taking the unproven drug for about a week and a half, despite warnings from scientists and doctors that it could be lethal.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House after her interview, McEnany dismissed questions about any vagueness and careful wording of a memo that Conley released Monday night.
"The purpose of this letter was to show that Dr. Conley agreed with the analysis that the benefits outweighed the risk," she said. "The president should be taken at his word, and the purpose of this letter was to show just that, as it did, the rationale behind it."
According to ABC News, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, ignored a question from a reporter this morning on the topic, as she walked by a camera in the White House driveway: "She, instead, commented on the weather."
Trump gestures during a meeting at the White House Monday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
At White House event on food security, Trump takes aim at Virginia's governor
In remarks about the nation's food supply chain, President Trump on Tuesday announced that $16 billion of an expedited $19 billion coronavirus food assistance program will go directly to help farmers.
Three farmers who spoke at the White House event were from Virginia. And Trump couldn't help get in a partisan dig aimed at the state's Democratic governor, Ralph Northam.
"We're going after Virginia with your crazy governor," the president said. "We're going after Virginia. They want to the your Second Amendment away, you know that right? You'll have nobody guarding your potatoes."
Belgium's King Philippe, center left, and Belgium's Queen Mathilde, center right, wear face masks as they attend the reopening Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels on Tuesday. (Daina Le Lardic, Pool Photo via AP)
COVID-19 news in brief
• China said the United States was trying to shift the blame for Washington's own mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, responding to President Trump's letter threatening to halt funding to the World Health Organization. (Reuters)
• The head of the World Health Organization vowed to continue to lead the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, after Trump threatened to cut off funding and to quit the body. (Reuters)
• The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in the U.K. has passed 44,000, according to new data. (Yahoo News UK)
• Sweden, which has opted for a more open strategy in combating the virus than other European countries, has the highest number of deaths in Europe per capita from the COVID-19 disease over the last seven days, data showed. (Reuters)
• Brazil has become the country with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world, after registering a total of more than 250,000 cases. Only the US and Russia have recorded more infections. (BBC)
• A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the coronavirus pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at China's prestigious Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the virus, researchers say. (AFP)