SPECIAL COVID-19 COVERAGE: The pandemic maintains its blind efficiency, attacking everyday people and the powerful alike. In response, President Trump extended the stay-at-home protocol through April 30th to give our medical personnel a chance to deal with the surge of hospital admissions. Another member of Congress, Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), has tested positive for the virus. And we can now report that the number of people in the United States who have recovered from COVID-19 has surpassed the number of persons who have died from the virus.
We also begin a new section with today’s edition, Is That a Fact?, where we fact-check misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19. Please send us your claims that need to be fact-checked, and we will try our best to review them in these pages.
Key Coronavirus Updates:
The United States By the Numbers:
- 143,055 cases
- 2,513 deaths
- 4,865 total persons recovered
Basic Guidance on How to Avoid Spread: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released some guidance on precautions that people can take to prevent the spread of the virus. Safety precautions include disinfecting home and workspaces, staying home if you are sick, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time. The Trump Administration is recommending that “all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people, avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking in bars, restaurants, and public food court.” This new guidance remains in effect until April 30, 2020.
Compounding the anxiety around contracting and spreading disease, millions of people who were already struggling or living paycheck-to-paycheck face new uncertainties about their financial security. Organizations and local governments have responded with resources and services to help individuals, small businesses and institutions cope with these challenges. Here is some information about how and where to obtain these resources.
President Trump Extends National Social Distancing Guidelines through April 30: On Sunday at a briefing in the Rose Garden, President Trump extended the deadline after suggesting the peak of the virus will hit in two weeks. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory has been won,” Trump said. According to Dr. Fauci, models suggest the United States could eventually see 100,000 or more deaths from the novel coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 2,000 American lives as cases surge across the US.
Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory urging people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel” for the next two weeks. President Donald Trump had asked the CDC on Saturday to issue the advisory after he had floated the idea of a quarantine earlier in the day. The CDC said this advisory does not apply to employees of critical infrastructure industries, including but not limited to trucking, public health professionals, financial services, and food supply.
White House Identifies Chicago, Detroit as Emerging Coronavirus Hot Spots: The coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, Dr. Deborah Birx, told reporters at a briefing that officials are concerned about rapid increases in cases in Cook County, Ill., and Wayne County, Mich. The two counties encapsulate the cities and surrounding communities of Chicago and Detroit, respectively. “We have integrated all of our information to not only look at where the cases are today, but how they’re moving so we can alert FEMA to where we think the next potential hot spot is,” Birx said. New Orleans and the Seattle area have also been identified as major hot spots.
NUL President Marc Morial Says Coronavirus No Excuse For Abandoning Federal Civil Rights Protections: On Saturday, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial called for an immediate reversal of a U.S. Labor Department order suspending equal opportunity requirements during the coronavirus crisis. “It’s appalling that the Trump Administration would exploit a crisis that disproportionately burdens Americans of color in order to further restrict their rights,” Morial said. “It serves absolutely no legitimate purpose and must be reversed at once.”
The U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month said that companies that contract with the federal government to provide coronavirus relief efforts do not have to comply with equal-opportunity requirements. “It’s well-established that Black and Latino workers are the most likely to be sidelined from their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis,” Morial said. “As a result, they need more protection, not less, from the federal government.”
Morial said the move represents an abandonment of the federal government’s traditional duty to safeguard American workers from racial bias. “If we are to survive this crisis as a nation, we need to pull together and look out for one another,” Morial said. “Pitting people against one another is a recipe for disaster.”
$2 Trillion Legislation, signed into law Friday afternoon, includes –
- $1200 checks for millions of Americans ($290 Billion) – see how much you could expect to receive here.
- Increase in UI ($260 Billion) – extends Unemployment Insurance to those unable to work because of coronavirus (including taking care of children whose schools are closed), plus an additional $600 per week in addition to UI payments.
- Aid to large businesses ($504 Billion) – includes $25 billion in grants to airlines, $25 billion in loans to airlines, $17 billion for companies “critical to national security,” and $425 billion for other businesses, cities, and states.
- Aid for small businesses ($377 Billion) – zero interest loans for businesses with less than 500 employees that can be forgiven if the business doesn’t lay anyone off
- Tax cuts and deferrals ($280 Billion) – including delaying the payment of payroll taxes by companies
- Hospital / health care funding ($180 Billion) – for providers to use on personal protective equipment, testing, etc.; increases funding for community health centers, Medicare payments, and telehealth
- Emergency Aid for state and local govs ($175 Billion) – each state will get at least $1.5 billion; $25 billion in infrastructure grants
- Education ($30 Billion) – Split between K-12 education (13.5 billion) for budgets, student nutrition, and child care services; Higher education (14.25 billion); and $3 billion for governors to use to assist K-12 and higher education in their states as they manage next steps in dealing with the coronavirus.
House Democrats Looking At “Phase Four”: The ink on phase three of Coronavirus Emergency Relief hasn’t even dried, yet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is already looking ahead to “phase four.” Democrats are pushing for additional funding for state and local governments to address the rapidly spreading virus; expanding the pool of people who qualify for family and medical leave; more federal dollars for food aid; stronger worker protections for first responders; funding to offset coronavirus treatment costs; and stabilizing pensions. More here. But not everyone is on the same page: Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Roy Blunt and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland have alluded to a fourth package, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that discussions of additional legislation were premature.
S.C. Congressman Joe Cunningham Has COVID-19: The first-term Democratic Congressman has been in self-imposed isolation since March 17, after learning he’d been contact with a fellow Congressman who also has been confirmed to have the virus. Cunningham announced the positive test on Friday afternoon, March 27, adding that he is remaining under self-quarantine.
Louisiana Federal Prison Marks Nation’s First Virus Death: On March 19th, a 49-year old inmate, Patrick Jones, was transferred to a hospital from the 1,700-inmate, minimum-security prison in Oakdale, LA after testing positive for COVID-19. Jones, who had “long-term, pre-existing medical conditions” considered risk factors for severe coronavirus illness, died Saturday at the hospital becoming the first federal inmate to die from COVID-19. The National Urban League, criminal justice reform advocates, and public health experts have been urging officials to release incarcerated people to slow the contagion. Some 30 inmates and staff in the facility are infected and another 60 inmates are in quarantine.
Stay at Home Orders: More than 225 million people in 27 states have urged people to stay home. States with orders in effect (most recent in bold) are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The following states have not issued stay-at-home orders, but have closed nonessential businesses: Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, Kentucky, and DC.
Georgia and Oklahoma ordered only the “medically fragile” or vulnerable populations to stay at home, while the city of Atlanta has issued its own order to keep all non-essential persons at home. Florida has issued a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers from NY, NJ, and CT. Kansas has issued a similar order for those traveling from CA, FL, IL, NJ, NY, and WA. While Texas hasn’t issued a statewide order, several large cities including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and El Paso have issued “stay at home” orders.
Update on School Closures: School closures due to coronavirus have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students.
There are 98,277 public schools and 34,576 private schools in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Those schools educate almost 50.8 million public school students and 5.8 million private school students. Click on this link for updates.
Is That a Fact?
In today’s edition, we begin a new fact-checking section to deal with misformation and disinformation circulating about the virus and related matters. Much of the distortion has begun on social media sites and has crept into our public discussion. We will smoke out the truth everyday right here.
“I hear that the $1,200 checks (officially called “recovery rebates”) are subject to repayment to the federal government. Is that true?”
We rate this claim as false. Section 6428 is the provision in the new CARES act that describes the amount of the rebate individuals are entitled to. According to the statute, all U.S. residents or citizens with adjusted gross income under $75,000 ($112,500 for head of household and $150,000 married), who are not the dependent of another taxpayer and have a work-eligible Social Security Number, are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. They are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. A typical family of four is eligible for a $3,400 recovery rebate.
The payments are not subject to return to the government and the payments are not treated as taxable income, according to the text of the statute (“For purposes of section 1324 of title 31, United States Code, the payments under this section shall be treated in the same manner as a refund due from a credit provision referred to in subsection (b)(2) of such section.”). Until the IRS posts official guidance, we provide you with a link to the FAQ guidance of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to answer questions you may have about the rebate.
[NOTE: Nothing in section constitutes legal or tax advice. Moreover, should check with your tax professional to determine your own personal tax situation.]
The 2020 CENSUS Is Still Happening: The Census Bureau is closely monitoring COVID-19 and are doing their part to ensure the health and safety of their staff and the public. On March 18th, the U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham suspended the 2020 Census Field Operations until April 1, 2020. The public is strongly encouraged to respond to the 2020 Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail. To complete the Census right now, go to www.2020census.gov. The National Urban League also encourages you to follow our efforts via our Make Black Count webpage www.makeblackcount.org
2020 Essence Festival Rescheduled: The 2020 Essence Festival is being postponed and moved “closer to the fall” amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Louisiana, organizers announced Friday on their website.
AT&T Supports Families & Educators During COVID-19 School Closures: AT&T is creating a $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund to give parents, students and teachers tools they need for at-home learning. The fund also will provide resources to maintain meaningful connections and bonding opportunities for those isolated from family. and friends. The first investment is $1 million in Khan Academy to improve and expand online learning resources to meet growing demand from parents, teachers and students, including those who rely on free resources and need Khan Academy the most. It will also support the development of new resources designed specifically for COVID-19 school closures.
Closing the Connectivity Gap During COVID-19: A number of network and mobile carriers are mobilizing to provide customers with connectivity during a time of CDC recommended isolation and social distancing. Organizations, schools, and businesses have moved to operate remotely, causing large numbers of people to depend more heavily on home and mobile networks.
Charter/Spectrum is offering free access to broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days for k-12 and college student households in addition to opening up its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.
AT&T has signed on with FCC Chairman Pai’s “Keep America Connected Pledge” to not terminate service for any wireless, home phone, broadband residential or small business customer due to inability to pay as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also waiving late fees and opening up public hotspots.
Verizon also signed on to the FCC Chairman’s pledge and will be following a similar protocol and waiving late fees for customers. Follow this link for more on Verizon’s additional responses to COVID-19.
Comcast is offering two months of its Internet Essentials plan for free during this time in addition to increased downstream and upstream speeds.
T-Mobile is offering unlimited data for the next 60 days, additional hotspot data, is working with Lifeline partners to provide extra free LTE data and increasing data allowance for free to schools and students using their EMPOWER ED digital learning program.
Google has announced a number of online and offline tools to help those impacted by school and work closures stay informed and to learn and work remotely.
You can follow up with each of these providers to find out your eligibility for any of these services.
Home With Your Kids?
- Here is a list of resources available for you, organized by grade level
- ABCmouse.com is offering lessons in different subjects like math, science and art for free thanks to UNICEF. Follow this link and type in the code “AOFLUNICEF”
- Scholastic Learn at Home is also offering their lessons for free. You can choose activities within from grade levels between PreK and 6+. These include read-along e-books and educational videos under their “Watch and learn Library.”
Uber Eats Is Still Delivering: Support from Uber Eats announced a package of initiatives to support restaurant partners and their community during this time. This is in addition to the financial assistance and support the company is providing to the drivers and delivery people that use the app. The initiatives include:
- Waiving delivery fees for all small, independent restaurants in the US to help send demand to these businesses. We’re also launching daily marketing campaigns – both in-app and over email – to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.
- Launching a new daily payment option for restaurants to help create a more reliable and immediate source of cash flow.
Uber Freight to the Rescue: The company announced a series of initiatives designed to support carriers and shippers in keeping their businesses running smoothly. Since the FMCSA issued an emergency proclamation on March 13, Uber Freight has moved nearly 4,000 relief loads including food, water and cleaning supplies.
Uber’s new initiatives include:
- Relief loads booked on our shipper platform will be hauled with zero profit pricing for Uber Freight.
- Feeding truck drivers with free meals on Uber Eats to help them gain access to fresh, warm meals while on the road.
- Uber is committing to provide thousands of sanitation kits to small carriers in the U.S. who are using the Uber Freight app to run their business.
These initiatives will run until April 12 and then will be reevaluated.