An offering of stories and topics that you may have missed for the week of April 17.
An African American woman from North Carolina, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett—one of the top viral immunologist in the US—is leading the nation’s effort to create a vaccine for COVID-19.
Corbett is heading a team of researchers from the National Institute of Health that have begun the first clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine—the first of its kind in the world. If Corbett and her team succeed, they hope to have a working vaccine that will prevent infection with COViD-19 by mid-2021.
Richest Community in the U.S. Fisher Island buys COVID-19 tests
The Miami Herald reported early this week that the richest zip code in the U.S. plans to test all of its residents as well as the islands service workers.
According to the paper, the private island, which sits between Miami and Miami Beach and is accessible only by boat, has contracted with UHealth to make the tests available to the more than 800 families living on the island, along with its service, maintenance, and security personnel.
Bloomberg News in 2018 reported that Fisher Island, with an average annual income of $2.5 million, has the highest of any zip code (33109) in America.
Philadelphia police snatch people off public transit for not wearing masks
Last week videos surfaced of Philadelphia police ordering people off public transit buses who were not wearing masks. The most egregious of the videos caught cops physically removing a passenger. The transit authority had issued rules stating that people would only be allowed to ride the bus if they wore a face mask.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) had issued a memo last month urging customers to wear a cloth face covering when using the bus line as part of an effort to protect passengers and employees from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. SEPTA eased the restrictions after people complained about the treatment of passengers by cops
In sharp contrast, social media was filled with pictures of police in Spain passing out face masks at transit stops in that country.
Apparently ALL LIVES DON’T MATTER: Congressman suggests some should be allowed to die
On an Indiana radio show, Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth asserted that, while he appreciated the science behind the coronavirus’ spread, “It is always the American government’s position to say, in the choice between the loss of our way of life as Americans and the loss of life, of American lives, we have to always choose the latter.”
Incidentally Hollingsworth is an active “pro-life” advocate.
Hollingsworth’s comments are consistent with other conservatives and protesters who have in the midst of this global pandemic asserted that restrictions should be eased and even suggested lives should be sacrificed for the good of the U.S. economy.
Oddly, none who advocate that people should give their lives for the advancement of U.S. capitalism have offered to go first!
The government “giveth” and the banks “taketh” away (stimulus money)
Banks are reportedly confiscating stimulus checks to pay for overdrafts and overdrawn accounts. Banking laws allow banks to legally withhold funds from accounts which have negative balances. But the move by the banks—which were given a bailout in 2008—has raised eyebrows and prompted consumer complaints.
The New York Times reported that the public has complained to elected representatives who have taken their concerns to the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Apparently Congress did not anticipate this impediment to getting families and individuals funds that many desperately need when they passed the CARES ACT that provides $2 trillion in relief for failing businesses and individuals.
Frontline workers dying on the job
It feels like a war zone,” is how the Washington Post characterized the feelings of grocery store employees working during this pandemic. Many have watched as co-workers fall victim to the coronavirus.
Most workers operating the cash register, stocking shelves, filling warehouses, delivering orders, delivering mail, driving transit or providing care for sick people never imagined their job could cost them their health or even their lives. But COVID-19 has done just that.
At last count, 41 transit workers have died in New York alone. Dozens of bus drivers around the country have taken ill with at least two drivers reportedly dying from the disease. More than 40 grocery store workers from chains around the country have died, including; Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Warehouse workers at Amazon have also contracted the coronavirus. One worker has died and at least 51 were infected at a Safeway distribution center in Northern California.
While thousands of elderly patients have contracted the novel coronavirus and thousands have died, hundreds of caregivers around the country have contracted it as well.
Smithfield’s foods despite hundreds of sick workers resisted closing Sioux Falls processing plant
Despite having hundreds of workers testing positive for COVID-19, Smithfield pork plant was not shut down until pressure was brought by Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken and the South Dakota governor.
Over 350 of the nearly 3,700 workers have come down with the coronavirus. According to the company, the Sioux Falls plant produces nearly four to five percent of all the pork processed in the U.S. Some workers had staged protests outside the plant in the days preceding the closure, complaining of unsafe conditions.
Incredibly, Smithfield’s CEO, Kenneth Sullivan, despite the threat to his employees, protested the closure. “We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,” Sullivan wrote in a statement after Smithfield closed its Sioux Falls plant.
Most of the workers at the plant are immigrants; they speak 26 different languages.