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Coronavirus

Trump Administration Begins Formal Withdrawal From WHO

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The Trump Administration notified Congress and the United Nations that the United States is formally withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO), a move that comes amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in America over the past week.

What We Know:

  • The Trump Administration submitted the notice to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and to Congress. A spokesperson for Guterres said he had received the notice and “is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met”. Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations”.
  • The withdrawal is expected to take effect on July 6, 2021, but has already drawn criticism from bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations, and allies abroad.
  • Among its current functions, the WHO is attempting to coordinate efforts to get personal safety and medical equipment, like ventilators, to hospitals around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Elizabeth Cousens, the president and CEO of the UN Foundation, said the organization is “indispensable” in the fight against Covid-19. She called the decision to withdraw “short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous” and said that the United States’ “ability to lead and shape an agenda for reform is drastically diminished when they step out of the field of play”.
  • Loyce Pace, president and executive director of Global Health Council, agreed with Cousens, saying, “thousands of people have spoken, from health experts to heads of state and heroes on the frontlines: the world needs WHO. This move signals a dangerous gamble in the midst of a pandemic we have yet to conquer, and without a viable alternative to WHO.”
  • The Trump administration has been outspoken in recent months with the president’s criticism of the WHO. In mid-April, Trump said he was halting funding to the organization and in May he announced his intention to withdraw from the WHO after he said it “failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms”. Trump also consistently accused the organization of aiding China in allegedly covering up the origins of the virus and allowing its spread.
  • Lawmakers from both parties have long cited systemic problems with the WHO, but many have denounced Trump’s decision to withdraw during a global pandemic. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed on Twitter to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of true senselessness” and Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tweeted the news Tuesday, calling Trump’s response to Covid-19 “chaotic and incoherent”.

  • Trump also faces criticism from his own party. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said he disagreed with Trump’s decision. “If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen,” he said. But “withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States, as well as others in the world, need.”
  • Last month, members of the GOP China task force urged Trump to reconsider his decision to sever relations with the international body, arguing that the US can do more to affect change as a member.
  • The heads of the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American College of Physicians condemned the move to withdraw from the WHO, saying in a statement that it “puts the health of our country at grave risk”. In a joint statement, they say, “We call on Congress to reject the Administration’s withdrawal from the WHO and make every effort to preserve the United States’ relationship with this valued global institution. Now is the time to invest in global health, rather than turn back.”

The number of coronavirus cases continues to surge across the U.S. and in various countries around the world. Currently, the United States has at least 2,953,423 cases of coronavirus and an estimated 130,546 people have died from the virus in this country, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.

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Coronavirus

Senate Leaves for Recess Without New Coronavirus Relief Package

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The U.S. went on its August recess Thursday until September 8th, pushing back hopes of a new coronavirus relief deal, the Hill reports.

What We Know:

  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) kept the Senate in session throughout the week in hopes of a compromise between the chamber, the Democratic held House, and the Trump administration to pass a new relief package. The House has already been out of session and will not return until September 14th.
  • “We will have our regular pro forma meetings through the end of the state work period. If the Speaker of the House and the minority leader of the Senate decide to finally let another package move forward … it would take bipartisan consent to meet for legislative business sooner than scheduled,” McConnell said in a statement.
  • If a breakthrough is made and votes can be scheduled, senators will have 24 hours to return to Washington. As of now, few believe a deal can be reached within the next 48 hours which Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) believes is the limit to get lawmakers back before September. In reference to executive orders from the Trump administration, Sen. Grassley said “If it doesn’t happen in the next 48 hours, I think this is all you’re going to see until Congress gets back into session after Labor Day”.
  • Reports say that a call between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) this week ended aggressively, showing how serious this stalemate could be. Democrats have asked for as much as $3.7 trillion while Republicans refuse to go over $1 trillion. “We are miles apart in our values,” Speaker Pelosi said, adding that she would speak to Mnuchin next when “they come in with $2 trillion”.

The weekly stimulus going out to Americans ended at the end of July. Now, two weeks later, Congressional leadership is eager to produce their own version of the bill to help with reelection campaigns as we push closer to November.

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AMC Theaters Reopening with 15 Cent Movie Tickets

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A closed AMC movie theater in New York City on June 9, 2020.Anthony Behar / Sipa USA via AP file

AMC is set to reopen locations on August 20th with new safety guidelines in place.

What We Know:

  • AMC closed down all theaters in the US in March as the coronavirus pandemic gained control, and the reopening was postponed several times.
  • In June, the theater company announced it was set to reopen July 15th but that was delayed again to July 30th due to a lack of movies being offered by studios. It was postponed again last month to mid-to-late August.
  • The world’s largest movie theater company will reopen more than 100 US theaters on August 20th, the company said on Thursday. To celebrate its centennial, AMC will offer “movies in 2020 at 1920 prices” on opening day at only 15 cents a ticket.
  • At first, the company said last month that they would not require guests to wear face masks in theaters, but they quickly revoked such policy. AMC said that it will apply new safety and health measures to keep visitors safe and suppress the coronavirus spread. This will require all guests to wear masks, lowering theater capacity, and upgrading ventilation systems.
  • The new systems will also incorporate blocking off every other row seating in certain theaters, cleaning and disinfecting credit card machines between each transaction, and not accepting cash at concession stands.
  • AMC stated that it expects to open two-thirds of its more than 600 US theater locations by the time Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet hits theaters on September 3rd. According to the company, AMC’s other US theaters will open “only after authorized to do so by state and local officials”. The August 20th promotion for AMC is just part of the first phase of reopening plans.
  • After opening day, tickets will still be available for a lower cost than usual. Tickets for films like Inception, Black Panther, Back to the Future, and The Empire Strikes Back will cost $5. There will also be discounts on concessions like popcorn for $5 through the end of October. AMC is bringing back old films since the North American box office had to pause with so many new movies that have been delayed this year due to the outbreak.

CEO Adam Aron said hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes are going to be available all around the theaters for guests. Visitors can also purchase masks for $1 across all locations. Movie lovers are now required to have masks on in the theater to watch movies. Anyone hesitant to wear a mask will not be allowed to stay at the theater.

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Coronavirus

Florida Sheriff Bans Masks for Deputies

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Sheriff Billy Woods (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

An order from a local sheriff in Florida is going against the recommendations from government officials and scientists: masks will not be worn, with some exceptions.

What We Know:

  • Seeing as there is an apparent general agreement in the U.S. indicating that masks are very critical in the fight against Covid-19, Florida’s Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods notified his employees on Tuesday that they are banned from wearing face coverings while on duty and that visitors that visit the sheriff’s office will be ordered to remove their masks.
  • Woods noted the mayor of Ocala, which is the largest city in Florida’s Marion County, vetoed a mask mandate that was recently passed by the city council. He said the veto is expected to be revoked but the ordinance exempts government entities, leaving the ruling of whether or not to mandate masks to the figureheads.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t,” Woods said.

  • Officers are permitted to wear masks in specific situations (for instance: in public schools, hospitals, and courthouses), but they are required to remove the face coverings immediately afterward.

Woods also stated, “effective immediately, any individual walking into any one of our lobbies that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it,” and if they do not comply, “they will be asked to leave”.

  • The reason behind this new order is clear communication. Woods stated, due to the current events happening and how individuals may be feeling against law enforcement in the country today, this is to make sure that there is clear communication. It also aids in identification purposes of any person walking into the lobby.

Across the nation, police officers are being seen not wearing masks, listing a multitude of reasons as to why, though health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advise that face masks help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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