Police Kill George Floyd

Police Kill George Floyd

With the story of Ahmaud Arbery still in the news, George Floyd, another black man, was killed while detained by police regarding a possible forgery.

Monday 25 May 2020

Monday, 25 May 2020: According to a statement from the Minneapolis Police Department, officers were called to Cup Foods to investigate reports of a forgery.

George Floyd, 46, who was suspected of attempting to spend a counterfeit $20 bill, was in his car when police arrived and ordered him to exit the vehicle.

According to police spokesman John Elder, Floyd “physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”

A Facebook user posted a video in which Floyd, 46, was killed by police outside the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis, writing: “They killed him right in front of Cup Foods over south on 38th and Chicago! No type of sympathy.”

The video showed a white police office kneeling on a black man’s neck in the midst of the arrest. The man, Floyd, repeatedly tells the cop that he can’t breathe. After several minutes, the man ceases to move, yet the officer still bears down on his neck. Bystanders call for the officer to let the man go. “He’s not even resisting arrest right now, bro,” one says, while another informs the officer that Floyd’s nose is bleeding and that he looks like he’s about to pass out.

Another video shows the incident from a different angle:

Police Kill George Floyd

Tuesday 26 May

Tuesday 26 May: the FBI and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension began investigating the incident, and the four officers involved were fired. “This is the right call,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said on Twitter. “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence,” he wrote on Facebook. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense. What happened on Chicago and 38th last night is awful. It was traumatic. It serves as a reminder of how far we have to go.”

Police Kill George Floyd

Wednesday 27 May

Wednesday 27 May: the Minneapolis police department revealed the names of the officers fired after the incident: Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng (via the New York Times). Mayor Frey called for prosecutors to file federal charges against the men at a press conference. “I want to see a charge take place,” he said. “I want to see justice for George Floyd.”

Police Kill George Floyd

Thursday 28 May

Thursday 28 May: prosecutors continued to investigate whether or not to charge Derek Chauvin. The lack of action from authorities, however, accelerated protests near the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Participants eventually set fire to the police precinct station, according to the New York Times. Protests also broke out in New York, Denver, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio. Demonstrators also gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police while in her own home in March.

NBC reported that Chauvin had been the subject of several police-conduct reports — at least 12 since he started in 2001. Still, according to Minneapolis’ Communities United Against Police Brutality database — which has been cited in various reports on Chauvin’s record — he has received only a few verbal reprimands. Most of the complaints in the database are listed as “closed.”

Police Kill George Floyd

Friday 29 May

THUGS

Friday, 29 May: early in the morning, President Donald Trump denounced protesters, tweeting: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Twitter flagged the tweet with a message reading: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter had determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

This was the first time Twitter had flagged one of the president’s tweets as questionable. The move cames days after the platform added a fact-check option to some of Trump’s false tweets about mail-in voting, prompting him to threaten to close down Twitter. He then signed an executive order aimed at bolstering the government’s ability to regulate social media sites

Undeterred, the president spent the morning deriding the platform on Twitter, tweeting in the early afternoon: “The National Guard has arrived on the scene. They are in Minneapolis and fully prepared. George Floyd will not have died in vain. Respect his memory!!!”

Protesters across the country blocked highways and clashed with the police

The NY Times reported: chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe,” thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the country on Friday night .

  • A large crowd in Washington chanted outside the White House, prompting the Secret Service to temporarily lock down the building. Video on social media showed demonstrators knocking down barricades and spray-painting other buildings.

  • A march in Houstonwhere Mr. Floyd grew up, briefly turned chaotic as the windows of a police S.U.V. were smashed and at least 12 protesters were arrested. As a standoff continued, the police shut all roads into and out of downtown. “We don’t want these young people’s legitimate grievances and legitimate concerns to be overshadowed by a handful of provocateurs and anarchists,” the city’s police chief, Art Acevedo, said in an interview.

  • Images from news helicopters above San Jose, Calif., showed protesters throwing objects at police officers, blocking a major freeway and setting fires downtown. Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview that he watched from City Hall as a peaceful protest — what he called people “expressing their righteous outrage on the injustice in Minneapolis” — turned violent.

  • Demonstrators in Los Angeles blocked the 110 Freeway, marching through downtown and around Staples Center. Local television footage showed police officers clashing with a crowd suspected of vandalizing a patrol car. By 9:30 p.m., L.A.P.D. had declared all of downtown to be an unlawful assembly and was warning residents of the loft districts to stay inside.

  • The police said a 19-year-old man was killed in Detroit after someone opened fire into a crowd of demonstrators late Friday. Earlier, a small group gathered outside Police Headquarters, declaring “Black is not a crime.” The demonstration swelled to more than 1,000 protesters, who blocked traffic while marching on major thoroughfares.

  • In downtown Dallas, protesters and the police clashed during a demonstration blocks from City Hall. Protesters blocked the path of a police vehicle and then started banging on its hood. Officers eventually responded with tear gas, and a flash-bang was later heard.

  • In Portland, Ore., demonstrators broke into the Multnomah County Justice Center and lit a fire inside the building late Friday night, authorities said.

  • Hundreds of protesters converged on Civic Center Park in Denver, waving signs and chanting as Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” played over a loudspeaker. Some thrust fists in the air and scrawled messages on the ground in chalk, according to a news broadcast.

  • Protesters in Milwaukee briefly shut down part of a major highway, according to WTMJ-TV, and demonstrators shouted “I can’t breathe” — echoing Mr. Floyd’s anguished plea and the words of Eric Garner, a black man who died in New York police custody in 2014.

Police Kill George Floyd

Saturday into Sunday

A day of frustration turns into a night of fury

Saturday 30 May:  the NY Times reported that a largely peaceful day of protests descended into a night of chaos, destruction and sporadic violence overnight Saturday as tens of thousands of people poured into streets across the United States to express anger and heartbreak over the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police.

On Sunday morning, the authorities were still sorting through the smoldering wreckage as the vast scope of the unrest came into sharper focus.

Squad cars had been set on fire in Philadelphia, stores were looted in Los Angeles, police officers in Richmond, Va., were injured and hospitalized, and at least one person was killed in Indianapolis, where a deputy police chief said the department had received so many reports of shots fired that they had lost count.

Sunday 31 May

Continued Protests

May 31: NPR reported that protesters staged large-scale demonstrations across the country expressing outrage at the death of Floyd and, more broadly, anger at police brutality. Some cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta and Seattle, saw clashes with police, buildings and cars set afire, and looting.

By evening, many demonstrations had given way to another night of violence and destruction, with protesters ignoring curfews imposed in dozens of cities. Police used tear gas and stun grenades and fired rubber bullets in attempts to disperse the crowds.

Police Kill George Floyd

Monday 1 June

Autopsies conflict

June 1: The criminal complaint supporting a murder charge for the officer, which referred to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s preliminary findings, said the autopsy had discounted traumatic asphyxia or strangulation as the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death.

Lawyers representing his family presented a very different version of how Mr. Floyd died. In their telling, three officers on the scene killed Mr. Floyd and should be held criminally responsible.

The private autopsy by doctors hired by Mr. Floyd’s family determined that he died not just because of the knee on his neck — held there by the officer, Derek Chauvin — but also because of two other officers who helped pin him down by applying pressure on his back.

The cause of death, according to the private autopsy, was mechanical asphyxia and the manner of death was homicide.

All three officers were fired last week, as was a fourth officer at the scene. [NYT article]

Trump

June 1: in his first remarks from the White House since massive protests have swept the country, President Trump said Monday evening that the looting and violent demonstrations in reaction to the death of George Floyd in police custody were “acts of domestic terror.”

Speaking in the Rose Garden as protesters and law enforcement held a tense standoff outside, Mr. Trump said he planned for a police and law enforcement presence to “dominate the streets” and said he would respond with an “overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”

Afterwards, police officers used tear gas and flash grenades to clear out the crowd so Mr. Trump could visit the nearby St. John’s Church, where there had been a parish house basement fire Sunday night. The president stood in front of the boarded up church posing for photographs with a Bible, after the police dispersed peaceful protesters.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington criticized the president’s church visit. She said she was “outraged” that Mr. Trump went to the church “after he threatened to basically rain down military force.”

“The president used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without even asking us, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” she said in an interview. [NYT article]

Monday night

June 2: tens of thousands of protesters began another week of demonstrations and disturbances, returning to the streets of cities around the country despite curfew orders, threats of arrest and the words of the brother of George Floyd, who made an emotional plea for the destruction to end.

Police Kill George Floyd

Wednesday 3 June

Less violence

June 3: the NY Times reported that  for an eighth day and night, tens of thousands of people staged peaceful protests and impassioned marches across the United States, while the widespread destruction and looting that had followed demonstrations in recent days was largely absent.

President Trump called on states to bring in the military to restore order and combat “lowlifes and losers,” as an infantry battalion from Fort Bragg was dispatched to the nation’s capital as part of a broader show of force. But governors resisted the president’s entreaties, instead bolstering the police presence, changing tactics and imposing curfews to prevent people from using the protests as cover to wreak mayhem.

While demonstrators in many cities defied curfews, they did so peacefully.

No Active Duty Troops

June 3: responding to President’s Trump call for the military,  Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said that he did not think the current state of unrest in American cities warranted the deployment of active-duty troops to confront protesters.

In a Pentagon news conference, Mr. Esper said ordering active-duty troops to police American cities should be a “last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.” He said that, for now, this was not warranted.

Police Kill George Floyd

Minneapolis Police Use of Force

June 3: according to the Minneapolis’s own figures , about 20 percent of its population of 430,000 is black, but when the police get physical — with kicks, neck holds, punches, shoves, takedowns, Mace, Tasers or other forms of muscle — nearly 60 percent of the time the person subject to that force is black.

Since 2015, the Minneapolis police have documented using force about 11,500 times. For at least 6,650 acts of force, the subject of that force was black.

By comparison, the police have used force about 2,750 times against white people, who make up about 60 percent of the population.

All of that means that the police in Minneapolis used force against black people at a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.

Four criminal complaints

June 3: Minnesota Public Radio reported that criminal complaints were formally filed against Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane.

According to new court documents, in addition to earlier charges officer Derek Chauvin now faces a charge of second-degree murder.  Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane, the three other former Minneapolis police officers who were involved in George Floyd’s death faced charges of aiding and abetting murder.

All four police officers were fired one day after Floyd died on Memorial Day. [NPR report]

Police Kill George Floyd

Maurice Lester Hall

June 4: the NY Times reported that Maurice Lester Hall, the longtime friend of George Floyd who was in the passenger seat of Floyd’s car when he was arrested said that Floyd had tried to defuse the tensions with the police and did not resist.

“He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” said Hall, 42, who was taken into custody in Houston on Monday and interrogated overnight by Minnesota state investigators, according to his lawyer.

“I could hear him pleading, ‘Please, officer, what’s all this for?’” Mr. Hall said in an interview with Erica L. Green of The New York Times.

Mr. Hall recounted Mr. Floyd’s last moments.

“He was just crying out at that time for anyone to help, because he was dying,” Mr. Hall said. “I’m going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd’s face, because he’s such a king. That’s what sticks with me: seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die.”

Protests coalesce into a unified push for reforms

June 6: Demonstrations that began as spontaneous eruptions of outrage after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police two weeks ago coalesced this weekend into a nationwide movement calling for police reforms and racial justice.

Tens of thousands gathered in big cities like New York and Seattle and small towns like Vidor, Texas, and Marion, Ohio — in swelling crowds that have been multiethnic, spanning generations and overwhelmingly peaceful. The movement has also spread around the world, with protests this weekend in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. [NYT article]

Floyd Funeral

June 9: the Guardian reported that George Floyd’s life was celebrated at his funeral with eulogies that honored him as a father, brother, athlete and mentor whose death sparked a global reckoning over police brutality and racial prejudice.

Crowds descended on a church in Houston, Texas, after Floyd’s body was returned to his childhood hometown to be laid to rest in a cemetery in suburban Pearland next to his mother, whom he called out for as he lay dying with a police officer’s knee on his neck in May.

Police Kill George Floyd

NASCAR Bans Confederate Battle Flag

June 10: NPR reported that NASCAR banned the Confederate battle flag at all of its events and properties. In a  tweet, the stock car racing organization said the presence of the flag “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and industry.”

One of its popular drivers (and the only full-time African American racing in its top circuit), Bubba Wallace had repeatedly called for the flag’s ouster.

Police Kill George Floyd
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Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Ahmaud Arbery
May 8, 1994 – February 23, 2020

Regardless of their mundane activity–walking, jogging, dancing, or simply standing–Black men have been and still are often targets. So was the case for Ahmaud Arbery. A 25-year old who, like millions of other young people, loved to run.

A father and a son saw that love as a threat. They pursued, shot, and killed Ahmaud.  And it was weeks before their actions came to national light.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Pursuit permitted

February 23, 2020: Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery who had been jogging near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga.

Gregory McMichael told the police that he thought Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area. The Brunswick News, citing documents obtained through a public records request, reported that there had been just one burglary in the neighborhood since January: the theft of a handgun from an unlocked truck parked outside Travis McMichael’s house.

February 27, 2020: the Brunswick[GA] District Attorney’s Office and the Glynn County Police Department conducted the initial investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

On this date, the Brunswick district attorney, Jackie L. Johnson, recused herself from the case, pointing out that Gregory McMichael, a former Glynn County police officer, had been a longtime investigator in her office until his retirement in May 2019.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Limited investigation

April 1, 2020: after a public records request, The Brunswick News [GA] reported details of the Glynn County Police Department’s records on the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery. The police report was based almost entirely on the responding officer’s interview with Gregory McMichael. The records claimed that after the McMichaels pursued Arbery, Travis McMichael and Arbery “started fighting over the shotgun, at which point Travis fired a shot and then a second later there was a second shot.”

George E. Barnhill, the Waycross district attorney, took over the case and advised the police that there was insufficient cause to arrest Mr. Arbery’s pursuers. He argued that they had acted legally under Georgia’s citizen arrest and self-defense laws, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Under pressure from Arbery’s family, Barnhill then recused himself from the case because his son had worked in the Brunswick prosecutor’s office with Gregory McMichael. Mr. Barnhill asked the Georgia Attorney General’s Office to help find another district attorney to handle the case.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

A Third Prosecutor

April 13, 2020: the Aubery case was transferred to a third prosecutor, District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.

April 26, 2020: for two months, the shooting received little attention outside Brunswick, GA. As the coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines and shut down communities around the country, The NY Times spoke with Mr. Arbery’s friends and family, who were by then concerned the case might quietly disappear in their Deep South community, because social distancing restrictions had made it difficult for them to gather and protest.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Video Emerges

May 5, 2020: a video of the encounter had begun to circulate online. Recorded from inside a vehicle, it showed Ahmaud Arbery running along a shaded two-lane residential road when he came upon a white pickup truck, with a man standing beside its open driver-side door. Another man was in the truck bed. Arbery ran around the vehicle and disappeared briefly from view. Muffled shouting could be heard before Arbery emerges, tussling with the man outside the truck as three shotgun blasts echo.

That same day,  District Attorney Tom Durden of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.said that he wanted to send the case to a grand jury to decide whether to bring charges. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that night that it would be taking over the case at Durden’s request.

CBS News report:

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Arrests

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

May 7, 2020: according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, authorities arrested Gregory and Travis McMichael and booked them into a jail in Glynn County, Both were charged with murder and aggravated assault.

May 8, 2020: to commemorate his birthday, supporters of  Ahmaud Arbery’s family ran 2.23-mile — a reference to the date of his killing. And at a time when many people were prevented from gathering in person to rally, some were connecting instead on social media using the hashtag #IRunWithMaud.

DOJ asked to investigate

May 10, 2020: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Department of Justice on Sunday to conduct an investigation  into the handling of the Ahmaud Arbery case. [NPR story]

Fourth Prosecutor

May 11, 2020: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr named Joyette M. Holmes to oversee the case of Ahmaud Arbery

Holmes, comes from Cobb County in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where she was the first African-American to serve as district attorney. She was the fourth prosecutor assigned to lead a case that has bounced among district attorneys and law enforcement agencies. [NYT article]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

William Bryan arrested

May 21: the NY Times reported that authorities had arrested William Bryan, 50, the man who filmed the pursuit and shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. Bryan was arrested  in connection with the killing, Georgia authorities said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said in a statement that the  Bryan was arrested on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Bryan, who is white, had recorded the confrontation.

Lawyers for Mr. Arbery’s family said they were “relieved” by the arrest. “His involvement in the murder of Mr. Arbery was obvious to us, to many around the country and after their thorough investigation, it was clear to the G.B.I. as well,” the statement said.

Sufficient Probable Cause

June 4: Richard Dial, an assistant special agent in charge for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that William Bryan, a neighbor one of the three white, heard defendant Travis McMichael, 34, use a racist slur moments after firing the three shotgun blasts  that killed Aubery.

The  revelation, suggesting overt racism was at play in the case, came in a hearing in Brunswick, Ga., that ended with Judge Wallace E. Harrell of Glynn County Magistrate Court determining that sufficient probable cause existed to support the murder charges brought against the three men.

There were several fiery moments in the hearing. At one point, after a lawyer for one defendant referred to the Book of Amos, the special prosecutor Jesse Evans cited another Bible verse.

“I’ve got one,” he said. “What about ‘Love thy neighbor’?” The three defendants, Mr. Evans said, had hunted down a “defenseless” man. “He was tormented, he was hunted, he was targeted,” Mr. Evans said. [NYT story]

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black

Indictments

June 24, 2020: CNN reported that Cobb District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes had announced that Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and William R. Bryan were indicted by a grand jury.

“We will continue to be intentional in the pursuit of justice for this family and the community at large as the prosecution of this case continues,” said Holmes, the specially appointed prosecutor in the case.

The charges also include aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to the indictment.

Ahmaud Arbery Running While Black
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May 2020 COVID 19

May 2020 COVID 19

Winter was over in the northern hemisphere. The COVID-19 virus that had been born then continued grew; then it became a pandemic  in FebruaryMarch brought lock-downs. Thousands died daily.

April’s arrival suggested some light at the end of the horror. Some said the warm weather in the northern hemisphere would bring relief. Others said there was no way to know.

Many countries and some American states began to relax their quarantine. Protesters  shouted to open everything again. Protesters shouted to keep everything closed. Governors tweaked the definition of “essential” and some of their constituents tweeted “No.”

May 2020 COVID-19

Remdesivir

May 2020 COVID 19

May 1: the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. [NYT article]

May 2020 COVID-19

The Trump administration projects about 3,000 daily deaths by early June

May 4: the NY Times reported that as President Trump pressed for states to reopen their economies, his administration was privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks.  According to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, the daily death toll would reach about 3,000 on June 1, , nearly double the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.

The numbers underscored a sobering reality: While the United States had been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, significant risks remained. And reopening the economy will make matters worse.

“There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow,” the Centers for Disease Control warned.

Pushback

NPR reported that that same day, the administration  pushed back against that report,

“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the coronavirus task force or gone through interagency vetting,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

It also included: “This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed. The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with. The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions.”

Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who reportedly created the model reported by the Timestold The Washington Post that the work contained a wide range of possibilities and modeling was not complete.

May 2020 COVID-19

253,401 deaths worldwide

May 5: cases: 3,673,387; deaths: 253,401

White House to wind down coronavirus task force

May 5: the NY Times reported that President Trump said that the White House’s coronavirus task force would be shut down and replaced with “something in a different form” as the country moved into what he called Phase 2 of a response to a pandemic that has killed nearly 70,000 Americans.

“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he toured a Honeywell mask manufacturing plant in Arizona, where he wore safety goggles but no mask. The president praised the work of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, but said it was time to focus on safety and reopening the country.

May 2020 COVID-19

Dr. Rick Bright

May 5: the NY Times reported that Dr. Rick Bright, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that since 2017 he had been protesting “cronyism and award of contracts to companies with political connections to the administration,” including a drug company executive who is close to Mr. Kushner,  Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from his Health and Human Services superiors — including Mr. Azar — while pushing as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging pandemic. (see May 8 below)

Trump contradicts his administration’s plans to shut down the coronavirus task force.

May 6: President Trump, contradicting his comments from May 5, said the White House coronavirus task force would “continue on indefinitely,” though perhaps with different members.

His announcement, made on Twitter, came one day after Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the group for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May.

But in a series of Wednesday morning tweets, Mr. Trump appeared to contradict that, and emphasized his desire to reopen the economy despite a continued rise in coronavirus cases and public health warnings that more commerce will mean more deaths.

Mr. Trump wrote that, because of the task force’s “success,” it would “continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

May 2020 COVID-19

US Infection Source

May 7: the NY Times reported that new research had revealed that  as thousands of infected people traveled from New York City they seeded the outbreaks around the country.

The research indicated that a wave of infections swept from New York City through much of the country before the city began setting social distancing limits to stop the growth. That helped to fuel outbreaks in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and as far away as the West Coast.

The findings were drawn from geneticists’ tracking signature mutations of the virus, travel histories of infected people, and models of the outbreaks by infectious disease experts.

265,668 deaths worldwide

May 7: worldwide cases: 3,843,555; worldwide deaths: 265,668

May 2020 COVID-19

Insufficient Testing

May 7: NPR reported that the Trump administration had said on April 27 the U.S. would soon have enough capacity to conduct double the current amount of testing for active infections.

As of May 7, according to the nonprofit Covid Tracking Project, the country had done nearly 248,000 tests daily on average in the previous seven days.

The Harvard’s Global Health Institute, proposed that the U.S. should be doing more than 900,000 tests per day as a country.

An accompanying chart showed that of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, in rank of testing insufficiency, the first 31 places were insufficient before the first was–North Dakota. Eleven states followed before the next state with sufficient testing (Utah). All told, only 7 states had met what most testing models predict necessary.

Dr Bright/Office of Special Counsel

May 8: CNN reported that the former federal vaccine chief Dr Richard Bright’s lawyers said the investigative office reviewing the whistleblower complaint of Dr. Richard Bright had determined there was reason to believe he had been removed as retaliation.

The office recommended he be reinstated during the investigation, the lawyers said. Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016 when he was reassigned last month to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health.

The Office of Special Counsel “advised that in light of this determination, it would contact the Department of Health and Human Services (‘HHS’) to request that it stay Dr. Bright’s removal as Director of BARDA for 45 days to allow OSC sufficient time to complete its investigation of Bright’s allegations,” Bright’s lawyers said in a statement.

May 8:  the NYT reported that in an  advancement that promised to greatly expand the nation’s testing capacity, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first antigen test that could rapidly detect whether a person had been infected by the coronavirus.

The FDA gave emergency use authorization for the test, by the Quidel Corporation of San Diego, according to a notice on the agency’s website.

May 2020 COVID-19

277,087 deaths worldwide

May 9: cases: 4,044,795; deaths: 277,087

Administration quarantines

May 9: three top public health officials in the Trump administration began partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive: Representatives for Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

May 2020 COVID-19

Top health experts testify that the U.S. is not ‘out of the woods’ and warn against reopening too fast.

The day after President Trump had declared, “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed,” experts of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response warned of dire consequences if states did not proceed with caution in reopening

They painted a grim picture of the months ahead, warning a Senate panel that the United States does not yet have control over the pandemic and lacks crucial capabilities to contain an inevitable surge in cases that could arise if the nation moves too quickly to reopen the economy.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “but we are more prepared.”

Dr. Redfield’s remark along with comments of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made clear that the country was still facing steep challenges in responding to the pandemic. [NYT article; CNN article]

May 2020 COVID-19

291,354 deaths worldwide

May 12: cases: 4,318,171; deaths: 291,354

May 2020 COVID-19

Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug against the virus.

May 18: President Trump said  that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug whose effectiveness against the coronavirus is unproven, for about a week and a half as a preventive measure.

“All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK,” he said, explaining that he takes a daily pill. The White House physician said later that Mr. Trump had no symptoms and had regularly tested negative for the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a safety warning in April about hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, malaria prevention drugs that have been repeatedly promoted by Mr. Trump and widely used to treat virus patients despite the lack of evidence that they work. [NYT article] (see May 25 below)

320,795  deaths worldwide

May 19: cases: 4,924,023; deaths: 320,795

May 2020 COVID-19

WHO reports largest single-day increase in coronavirus 

May 20: CNN reported that Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday said that more cases had been reported to the agency in the last 24 hours than any time since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva. “In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries.”

Those four countries, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove confirmed to CNN in an email, are: the United States, Russia, Brazil and India.

Disease models suggest tens of thousands of U.S. deaths could have been prevented

May 21: the NY Times reported that according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers, if the United States had begun imposing social-distancing measures one week earlier in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the pandemic.

And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than when most people started staying home, a vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

320,795  deaths worldwide

May 21: cases: 5,112,010; deaths: 330,255

May 2020 COVID-19

Drug touted by Trump as treatment linked to greater risk of death, study finds

May 22: CNN reported that seriously ill Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart arrhythmias, according to a large observational study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Researchers looked at data from more than 96,000 Covid-19 patients from 671 hospitals. All were hospitalized from late December to mid-April and had died or been discharged by April 21. Just below 15,000 were treated with the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, or one of those drugs combined with an antibiotic.
Those treatments were linked with a higher risk of dying in the hospital, the study found. About 1 in 6 patients treated with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone died in the hospital, compared to 1 in 11 patients in the control group. (see May 25 below)
May 22: as it tracked the coronavirus’s spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was combining tests that detected active infection with those that detect recovery from Covid-19 — a system that muddied the picture of the pandemic but raised the percentage of Americans tested as President Trump boasted about testing.

With serology tests, which look for antibodies in the blood of people who had recovered, were more widespread, C.D.C. officials said  they would work to separate them from the results of diagnostic tests, which detected active infection. One of the agency’s data tracker websites had been lumping them together. [NYT article]

May 2020 COVID-19

May 23: the NY Times reported that worldwide, the pace of new infections still climbed with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since May 21. The numbers were among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by the Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases was not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections had surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, was undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

342,396  deaths worldwide

May 23: cases: 5,369,351;  deaths: 342,396

May 2020 COVID-19

Citing safety concerns, W.H.O. pauses tests

May 25: the World Health Organization said  that safety concerns had prompted it to temporarily remove the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — which Mr. Trump said he had taken in hopes of warding off the coronavirus, despite the lack of evidence that it works — from a global drug trial aimed at finding treatments for Covid-19.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, said officials had decided on a “temporary pause” in testing the drug after The Lancet published an observational study last week that found that people who took the drug were more likely to die. Several earlier studies had also found no benefit — and possible harm — when the drug was used by Covid-19 patients.

Dr. Tedros said his agency would review safety data. [NYT article]

348,334  deaths worldwide

May 26: cases: 5,611,601; deaths: 348,334

May 29: the NY Times reported that after spending weeks accusing the World Health Organization of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China, President Trump said that the United States would terminate its relationship with the agency.

There was no evidence that the W.H.O. or the government in Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and public health experts generally view Mr. Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s own bungled attempts to respond to the virus’s spread in the United States.

Supreme Court/Churches/COVID

May 29, 2020: the Supreme Court  turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority.

“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling. [NYT article]

367,230  deaths worldwide

May 30: cases: 6,049,380; deaths: 367,230

Hydroxychloroquine  to Brazil

May 31: the NY Times reported that the White House had announced that United States had delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine  to Brazil for use in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries were embarking on a joint research effort to study whether the drug was safe and effective for the prevention and early treatment of Covid-19.

The announcement cames after months of controversy over the drug, hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump had aggressively promoted, despite a lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19. Mr. Trump had stunned public health experts by saying he was taking a two-week course of the medicine.

May 2020 COVID-19
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