Misery in America as coronavirus death toll exceeds 100,000
UNTV News • May 28, 2020 • 294
The United States reached a grim milestone on Wednesday (May 27) as the coronavirus death toll exceeded 100,000 people, amid the ongoing global scramble to contain the virus and find a vaccine.
Currently, the death toll for coronavirus cases across the United States stands at 100,008 people, according to a Reuters tally.
The loss has largely hit urban areas, especially New York, with elderly people and minorities disproportionately affected.
On the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, nurses and doctors are caring for the living. But there is another front line of those caring for the dead.
Funeral homes in New York are chaotic and overwhelmed. It can be weeks before bodies are embalmed or buried.
Most COVID-19 victims die alone, and when they die, their families are told to quarantine. The women try to find ways for them to say goodbye.
“I don’t want to apologize because I am doing the absolute best I can, but if it’s not good enough, I am sorry. Like, deeply sorry,” says 25-year-old resident funeral director of the International Funeral & Cremation Services Funeral Home Lily Sage.
In early May U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences from the Rose Garden in the White House. “We mourn for every life the virus has claimed,” he said. “And we share the grief of all of you who have lost a loved one.”
For medical workers that grief can be overwhelming.
The shifts are long and the scenes are heartbreaking inside a Maryland hospital where nurses and doctors have been treating coronavirus patients for weeks, unable to let family inside to visit loved ones on their death beds.
One of the hardest moments of a recent work day for Biocontainment Nurse Tiffany Fare was, “having to see a family member of a COVID patient, say goodbye over an iPad rooms away.”
At an event in Pennsylvania in mid-May Trump hailed the work of medical workers. “They are warriors…they are running into death, just like soldiers run into bullets,” he said. “It is incredible to see, it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Dr. Erick Eiting, Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s emergency department medical director in New York, has been at the center of the storm aiding patients, whose ages range from people in their 20s to their 80s, as they discover new symptoms and evolving treatments. He said the hospital’s visitor policy was recently changed so that novel coronavirus patients nearing the end of their lives don’t have to die alone.
“That’s one of the most tragic pieces of this disease, is because it’s so contagious, that people do end up just dying alone,” he said on one overnight shift.
As bodies pour out of hospitals, 28-year-old Alix Monteleone, has a seat at the front line from the window of her third-floor Brooklyn apartment. “We see it and we’re like, this is very serious,” she told Reuters.
Refrigerated trucks have fanned out across the city to process the pile up of corpses. Their stops include the parking lot right below her window to serve the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center.
“This is very real. And we’re seeing so much chaos manifest outside of our home that we can’t imagine how bad it is inside. You know, we stopped counting how many bodies came out,” Monteleone said.
It was at this time in April that Trump once again offered his assurances. “We’re going to have a rough week. We’re going to have maybe a rough a little more than a week. But there’s tremendous light at the end of that tunnel.”
Early data from U.S. states show African Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, highlighting long-standing disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care, experts said.
Not all states have released demographic data showing the virus’ toll on different racial groups.
In Louisiana more than half of the deaths have been African American, a far larger percentage than the state’s population of African Americans.
Gary Harrell knew 10 of them. “It’s just hard, You wake up one in the morning and – like yesterday – and you kind of worry about what news you’re going to get. The first thing was a message from a friend who is asking that I assist her with her father’s obituary. He had passed on Sunday,” he recalled. “And then within a few hours, I got another text message as I’m driving. And that text informs me that my aunt had passed away. And, you know, it’s just it just all becomes very surreal.”
In New York, city officials hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter’s field on Hart Island as the city’s daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic reached grim new records.
The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.
Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which sits off the east shore of the city’s Bronx borough and is accessible only by boat.
Now, about 24 bodies are being buried daily, five days a week, according to Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.
Many of those who have died have been elderly, with nursing homes accounting for a large portion of the deaths in the United States.
Even before the coronavirus had swept through her Seattle-area nursing home, Susan Hailey was already eager to leave.
The 74-year-old had come to the facility for rehabilitative care following knee-replacement surgery, and was due to leave in March before a bad fall left her with a broken ankle and an extended move-out date.
Then a wave of severe respiratory illness swept through the nursing home at the end of February. The facility went into lockdown and residents were forced in quarantine. A week later, Hailey tested positive for the coronavirus. She survived. Others did not.
“I remember one morning getting up because they were going to make my bed. And they called a code blue. And my aid ran across the hall and came back and said ‘he died.’ Just very nonchalant. And I couldn’t get over the callous way that it was put,” Hailey told Reuters.
It was a very different ending for retired firefighter Gary Holmberg who was only supposed to be at the Pleasant View nursing home in Maryland for a few weeks, recovering from a fall at his assisted living center.
Pleasant View has become the site of one of Maryland’s worst outbreaks, 40 miles outside the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C. At least 98 of the facility’s residents and staff tested positive and 17 people associated with the home have died, according to the Carroll County Department of Health.
The 77-year old became one of more than a dozen of the nursing home’s residents who died from the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“I think about it every night. I think about, you know, me telling him I’m going to get him out of there, I’m going to get him out of there and not being able to do it in time,” his son Rob Holmberg, 47, told Reuters.
It’s a grief shared by people who rush to the scenes to help, such as Anthony Almojera, a 17-year veteran paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In his eyes, this has been one of the most devastating times in the department’s history.
The coronavirus outbreak in New York City has pushed ambulance service to its limits, said Almojera in an interview with Reuters. The department went from an average of 4,000 calls to almost 7,000, putting a strain on EMTs and paramedics.
“I don’t know if any of us will ever be the same after this and that’s something we’re going to have to manage,” he told Reuters.
For registered nurse Julia Trainer the pandemic has given her an important life lesson, “Tell everyone that you love them because you never know when you won’t be able to tell them again.”
That’s a lesson not lost on 18-year-old Minnoli Aya.
The last text message she received from her mother, a physicians assistant in New York was “Home soon,” “Love you.”
“I kept texting her wanting to believe it wasn’t true,” Minnoli told Reuters.
Each night in New York City, neighborhoods around hospitals cheer for healthcare workers to express gratitude for the risks they are taking to save lives. Minnoli watches videos of the applause on social media.
“I can’t help but think, what about the ones who have fallen? What about the ones who are already dead?” Minnoli said.
It took the United States 38 days after recording its first fatality on Feb. 29 to reach 10,000 deaths on April 6 but only five more days to reach 20,000 dead, according to a Reuters tally.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has lead the state with the highest death toll in the United States.
“It is a tough time, but a lot of people have shown a lot of courage and a lot of beauty and they’ve had very tough lives — and let’s appreciate them,” he added.
Every night in New York City, people lean out their windows and flood balconies, applauding essential workers.
In mid-April Brian Stokes Mitchell added star power to the evening salute, belting out ‘The Impossible Dream” from his balcony as part of an ongoing tribute to the responders to the coronavirus in the hardest-hit American city. (Reuters)
President Donald Trump, hardening his stance on China as he struggles to contain the coronavirus, said on Tuesday (July 14) that he signed a legislation and an executive order to hold China accountable for the “oppressive” national security law it imposed on Hong Kong.
Acting on a Tuesday deadline, Trump signed a bill approved by the U.S. Congress to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security law in Hong Kong.
He said he also signed an executive order aimed at further punishing China for what he called its “oppressive actions” against Hong Kong.
It will end the preferential economic treatment Hong Kong has received for years – “no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” Trump told a news conference.
“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” he said.
Taken together, the actions represented a further plunging of U.S. relations with China already strained over the global pandemic, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, its treatment of Uighur Muslims and massive trade surpluses.
According to a White House fact sheet, the executive order includes revoking special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.
The former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a law protecting freedoms of speech, assembly and the press until 2047.
The legislation Trump signed calls for sanctions on Chinese officials and others who help violate Hong Kong’s autonomy, and financial institutions that do business with those found to have participated in any crackdown on the city. (Reuters)
China firmly opposes and strongly condemns the U.S. move of signing the so-called “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” into law, said a statement released on the foreign ministry’s website Wednesday.
The U.S. vicious move of slandering the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and imposing sanctions has violated the international law and the basic norms governing international relations and is a gross interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.
China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it, said the statement.
The enactment and implementation of the Law is completely in compliance with China’s Constitution and the Basic Law, ensuring sustained and steady progress of the principle of “one country, two systems” as an institutional and legal guarantee. It can safeguard China’s national sovereignty, safety and interests, as well as long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, therefore the law has been endorsed and supported by all Chinese people including our compatriots from Hong Kong, said the statement.
Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region and its affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs. No foreign country has the right to interfere.
China will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant personnel and entities of the United States, said the statement.
The U.S. vicious move of signing the so-called “Hong Kong Autonomy Act” into law will lead nowhere, said the statement.
To safeguard China’s legitimate interests, the Chinese side has made necessary response and sanctioned relevant U.S. personnel and entities.
The statement pointed out that China urged the U.S. side to correct its mistake as soon as possible, stop its move of signing the so-called act into law and interfering in China’s internal affairs, including Hong Kong affairs.
China will definitely give a firm response if the United States clings obstinately to the wrong course, said the statement. (Reuters)
The U.S. government will rescind a new rule that could have denied international students their stay in the country if they only attend online courses in the coming fall semester, a federal judge in Boston, Massachusetts said Tuesday.
The ruling was issued on July 6 by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stating that international students will have to take in-person classes to qualify for a visa, otherwise they will have to leave the country. The Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) then initiated lawsuits against the Trump administration on related issues.
The judge Allison D. Burroughs attended an online hearing together with lawyers from Harvard University, MIT and the government. She said that the agreement reached between the universities and the government would cause the July 6 ruling to be rescinded nationwide. (Reuters)
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