- After Trump said he wants to reopen the economy by Easter, several leaders seemed hesitant to do so, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. He said the day must be “flexible,” and that we must look at the situation on a “day-by-day and week-by-week basis.“
- Other governors like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom expressed their doubts as well. Newsom thinks California might have another 8-12 of isolation measures, while Cuomo said that the economy cannot come at the cost of human life.
- But since The majority of states with shelter in place measures are run by Democrats, it looks like Trump’s messaging about keeping the economy alive could be resonating well within his party: Only four of the 17 states with these mandates have Republican governors.
- Trump is not the only global leader who wants to hop on the fast track to regular life, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro told the country they should go to work, which was met by people protesting from their windows.
Dr. Fauci Says Easter Goal Must Be “Flexible”
After President Donald Trump said he hopes to end federal restrictions and open the economy by Easter, several leaders expressed their concerns about this high-speed deadline.
Easter Sunday will be observed on April 12 this year, which is just 18 days away. Trump thinks getting people back to their day-to-day lives by then is a “beautiful timeline.” He even added that he hoped to see “packed churches” on the holiday.
Shortly after he continued to express this wish, however, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that date cannot be set in stone.
“That’s really very flexible,” he said during a Tuesday press conference. “We just had a conversation with the President in the Oval Office talking about, you know, you could look at a date but you’ve got to be very flexible on a literal day-by-day and week-by-week basis. You need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do.”
Dr. Fuaci is among the majority of health experts who advise that a longer span of isolation is the most effective way to prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus. While speaking to reporters, he also said that because the country is so big and the situation so different in various areas, the response must be flexible and adaptive to that.
“So I think people might get the misinterpretation, you’re just going to lift everything up even if somebody’s going like that,” Dr. Fauci added, gesturing upward, suggesting a spike in cases. “That’s not going to happen, it’s going to be looking at the data.”
New York and California
On a state level, leaders also took issue with Trump’s messaging. California Governor Gavin Newsom said during a Tuesday press conference that his state, which is currently following “Safer at Home” guidelines until at least April 19, is looking at a much longer timeline.
According to Newsom, a “sober” assessment of the situation could mean another 8-12 weeks of California residents in isolation.
“I think April for California would be sooner than any of the experts I have talked to would believe is possible,” he told reporters.
Newsom is not the only governor questioning Trump’s fast track to economic recovery. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been regularly critical of the federal government’s lagging response to the coronavirus. During a Wednesday press conference, he said that economic relief should not come at the cost of human life.
“No one will say it is sustainable to keep the economy closed. It is not sustainable,” Cuomo, who has claimed the national spotlight during this pandemic said. “We all got that. China got that, South Korea got that, etc. That’s point one. Point two: everyone agrees, I believe, in this state, we do everything we can to save a life. We are not going to triage and say ‘Well these were old people there were vulnerable people, they had to die sometime soon anyway.’”
New York is now being considered an epicenter of the American outbreak of COVID-19. Residents are currently in a shelter in place, and those who have recently been to New York City have been advised to put themselves in a 14-day quarantine. The state has over 30,000 cases.
Still, New York does not have even close to the amount of resources they need to fight the virus. On Tuesday, Cuomo said New York is in need of 30,000 ventilators. While the state has gotten its hands on a couple thousand on its own, FEMA offered only 400.
“Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo asked during a press conference. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”
Blue States Shelter in Place
California and New York have something in common with many of the states observing shelter in place orders: Democratic leadership. There are currently 17 states following these guidelines, 13 of which have Democratic governors. Only four, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, are led by a Republican.
This divide gives the appearance Republican leaders are abiding by Trump’s tendency to put the economy first, and not strictly follow guidelines of social distancing. This creates an imbalance of the way the virus is being treated nationwide. This gap could be made more apparent on Easter if Trump goes through with his plans to open things up again.
Brazil and Bolsonaro
Trump is not the only leader on the global stage saying his country should already be opening businesses back up. On Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he would like to get his citizens back to work.
“We must return to normality,” he said. He also called the coronavirus a “small flu” in the same briefing. His response has not been received well by Brazilians.
Residents have proved that protesting while social distancing is in fact possible by taking to their windows to show their disapproval of Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic. While quarantining, many have been chanting or banging pots and pans, as isolation makes taking to the streets impossible.
“The feeling I have is that the presidential chair is empty,” one protester told The Guardian. “That we don’t have a president – we have a clown who doesn’t know what he is doing.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian)
Biden To Outline Actions Aimed at Combatting the Recent Rise in Violent Crime and Gun Violence
The president’s orders come the same day the Associated Press released data showing that a record number of gun sales were stopped last year because of background checks.
President Biden Issues Orders on Violent Crime Rise
President Biden will outline several actions on Wednesday that his administration plans to take to curb the recent rise in violent crime and gun violence.
That includes tougher enforcement policies for federal gun control laws, as well as new guidelines for how cities and states can use COVID-19 relief funds to combat gun violence. For instance, those guidelines will allow for the hiring of more police officers, paying officers overtime, buying equipment, and funding additional “enforcement efforts.”
Biden’s plan also includes investing in community-based intervention programs for both potential perpetrators and potential victims of gun violence and helping felons adjust to housing and work after leaving prison.
Background Checks Stop Record Number of Sales
Hours ahead of Biden’s announcement, the Associated Press reported that background checks blocked a record 300,000 gun sales last year, according to newly obtained FBI data provided by a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.
In fact, the numbers are staggering compared to previous years. For example, background checks that successfully blocked gun sales last year amounted to nearly twice that of 2019.
Notably, about 42% of those blocked sales were explicitly because would-be buyers had felony convictions on their records.
Still, it’s important to note that these stats don’t necessarily mean less guns are being successfully bought. While the rate of barred buyers has increased somewhat from around 0.6% to 0.8% since 2018, the U.S. also saw a record number of gun sales last year.
Nearly 23 million guns were bought in 2020 alone, according to the consulting firm Small Arms Analytics. Alongside that record, the country saw another record when it came to the rate of gun violence.
Because of that, Everytown for Gun Safety — the group that gave the AP the new background check data — reiterated its belief in the need for stronger gun control regulation.
“There’s no question that background checks work, but the system is working overtime to prevent a record number of people with dangerous prohibitors from being able to buy firearms,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, the group’s director of research, told the AP. “The loopholes in the law allow people to avoid the system, even if they just meet online or at a gun show for the first time.”
Unsurprisingly, gun rights advocates have pushed against that idea, and some have even pushed against this new data on background checks. As Alan Gottlieb — founder of the group the Second Amendment Foundation — argued, the higher number of denials could be partially because of false positives.
“A day doesn’t go by that our office doesn’t get complaint calls from people who’ve been denied wrongly,” he told the AP.
See what others are saying: (USA Today) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
California Plans Unprecedented $5.2 Billion Rent Forgiveness Program
State lawmakers are also debating on whether to extend the eviction moratorium, which is set to end next week, to ensure that Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state.
Rent Relief in the Works
The California State Legislature is in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented $5.2 billion rent forgiveness program to pay off unpaid rent accumulated during the pandemic.
It is not entirely clear yet who would receive the money, which comes from an unexpected budget surplus and federal stimulus funds. After speaking to a top aide for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), the Associated Press reported that the $5.2 billion figure would cover all rent.
However, the same aide told The New York Times that the state had federal funds “to help pay the rent of low-income people.”
The outlet also explicitly reported that the program “would be available to residents who earn no more than 80 percent of the median income in their area and who can show pandemic-related financial hardship.”
Newsom offered little clarity, retweeting multiple stories and posts on the matter, including The Times article as well as others that said “all” rent would be paid.
Regardless, the program would be the most generous rent forgiveness plan in American. Still, there remains an unresolved question of extending the statewide eviction moratorium that ends June 30.
Eviction Ban Complications
Starting the new program and distributing all the money will take some time, and California has been struggling to keep up with demand for more modest rent relief programs.
According to a report from the California Department Housing and Community Development, just $32 million of $490 million in requests for rental assistance through the end of May had been paid.
State legislators are debating extending the protections and are reportedly close to a deal, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Tenants rights groups say the move is necessary to ensure struggling Californians are not evicted before their debts can be paid off by the state, and some housing advocates want to keep the moratorium in place until employment has reached pre-pandemic levels.
Landlords, however, have said it is time to end the ban, pointing to the state’s rapid economic recovery, which added 495,000 new jobs since February, as well as Newsom lifting all restrictions on businesses last week.
But according to Opportunity Insights, an economic tracker based at Harvard, while it is true that employment for middle- and high-wage jobs has now surpassed pre-pandemic levels, the rates for low-income workers are down nearly 40% since January of last year.
As a result, many of the people who have months or even a year of unpaid rent have barely been able to chip away at what they owe.
State Recovery Spurred by Revenue Surplus
Newsom’s new program comes as the governor has proposed a $100 billion recovery package — also drawing from the budget surplus and unspent federal funds — that would pour funds into numerous sectors including education, homelessness, and much more.
California is not the only state that has newfound reserves. According to The Times, at least 22 states have surplus revenue after pinching pennies during the pandemic. Some are still deciding what to do with the funding, but others have already begun to invest it into education, construction, the arts, and more.
While many economists have said these funds will be incredibly helpful tools to get economic recovery back on track and aid those hurt most by the pandemic, Republicans in Congress have argued to those surpluses should go towards paying for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The Biden Administration and most Congressional Democrats have remained adamant that the states keep their extra funding to implement recovery-centered programs. White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons reiterated that belief Monday, telling reporters that state surpluses will not alter America’s infrastructure needs and emphasizing that many states are still struggling economically.
“This crisis has adversely impacted state and local governments, and that is not fully captured by one economic indicator,” she said.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Hill)
Manhattan City Council Candidate Says He’s “Not Ashamed” After BDSM Video Leaks Online
While many applauded the candidate’s response, others suspect the entire ordeal may have been manufactured for publicity.
BDSM Video Leaks
Zack Weiner, a 26-year-old candidate for Manhattan’s City Council, has caught a flood of attention in recent days after responding to a BDSM video of himself that leaked online.
According to the New York Post, which first reported on the leak Saturday, the video was published by an anonymous Twitter account earlier this month.
“My magnificent domme friend played with Upper West Side city council candidate Zack Weiner and I’m the only one who has the footage,” the tweet reportedly read.
The video was flagged to the Post by Weiner’s campaign manager, Joe Gallagher, the news outlet said. The tabloid also claimed it showed Weiner gagged while “subjecting himself to various abuses by a leather-bound woman who pours wax on him and clips his nipples with clothespins.”
The footage was filmed at Parthenon studio in Midtown, which the Post described as known for its high-quality BDSM dungeons, and Weiner actually confirmed the video’s authenticity to the outlet, saying it was filmed at that location in 2019 with a former girlfriend that he met during a Halloween party.
Weiner Says He’s “Not Ashamed”
Weiner took to Twitter on Saturday to address the private video head on.
“Whoops. I didn’t want anyone to see that, but here we are,” he wrote.
“I am not ashamed of the private video circulating of me on Twitter. This was a recreational activity that I did with my friend at the time, for fun. Like many young people, I have grown into a world where some of our most private moments have been documented online.”
“While a few loud voices on Twitter might chastise me for the video, most people see the video for what it is: a distraction. I trust that voters will choose a city council representative based on their policies and their ability to best serve the community,” he continued.
In his comments to the Post, he added, “I am a proud BDSMer. I like BDSM activity.” He also said he had no idea how the footage surfaced, saying “It’s definitely a violation of trust.”
Praise and Suspicions
Many people online have applauded Weiner for refusing to apologize for private consensual acts. One, for example, tweeted, “Yeah – as long as this was between 2 (or more) consenting adults – I don’t care one bit. If this info ALONE would cause you to vote for somebody else, then I am FAR MORE worried about YOUR participation in Government than his!”
In fact, many have said they would vote for him after learning of the video and slammed critics, as well as the tabloid, for “kink-shaming.”
It’s worth noting that the Post’s article described Weiner as someone who “has mostly been a nonentity in the race for the Upper West Side’s 6th District.” It pointed to the fact that he has no endorsements and that his campaign barely raised $10,000 — most of which allegedly came from himself and his campaign manager.
Because of this, along with Gallagher’s contact with the Post, some have speculated that the entire ordeal may have been some kind of stunt manufactured for publicity.