Wisconsin mayors seek to scrap in-person voting in last-ditch effort

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

hermosawave/iStock(MADISON, Wis.) — As the novel coronavirus shutters nearly every aspect of American society, 10 mayors in Wisconsin are pushing for the pandemic to shut down one more: in-person voting.

A new letter, signed by the mayors who represent some of the state’s largest cities including Milwaukee and Madison, urges Wisconsin’s top health official to invoke emergency powers to stop in-person voting for Tuesday’s election, which includes the presidential primary and general elections for state Supreme Court and a slew of local races.

“We implore you to implement all emergency measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, a communicable disease,” the letter sent to Wisconsin Department of Human Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm reads. “Specifically, we need you to step up and stop the State of Wisconsin from putting hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk by requiring them to vote at the polls while this ugly pandemic spreads.”

“We believe it would be irresponsible and contrary to public health to conduct in-person voting throughout the state at the very time this disease is spreading rapidly,” the mayors wrote.

The mayors, who say they represent 1.3 million constituents in total, include Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, Eric Genrich of Green Bay, Lori Palmeri of Oshkosh, Tim Kabat of La Crosse, John Antaramian of Kenosha, Cory Mason of Racine, Tim Hanna of Appleton, Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, Karen Mischel of Viroqua and Kathy Ehley of Wauwatosa.

While the letter, which comes as bipartisan negotiations over the best path forward for the election have stalled, applauds Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for his “leadership” in declaring a state of emergency, the local leaders scold the GOP-controlled legislature for their “inexcusable refusal to act.”

“You and your department now are the sole parties in the position to prevent hundreds of thousands of voters and poll workers from potentially being exposed needlessly to this worldwide pandemic,” the mayors wrote in a last-resort effort.

They are asking the state Department of Health Services to take a similar step to the one Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, used last month to postpone the state’s primary and scrap in-person voting less than 12 hours before polls opened.

While Wisconsin appears determined to go it alone by moving forward with an in-person election, several other states postponed their primaries and adjusted voting mechanisms to make the process safer amid the threat of COVID-19 in the last week. The decision to forge on as planned in Wisconsin has carved a sharp divide between Democrats and Republicans in the state.

On Friday, in an 11th-hour maneuver by Evers, he issued an executive order calling on the state legislature to take up some short-term changes for the election in a special session. Among the changes, Evers sought to shift to an all-mail election — canceling in-person voting, mailing every voter a ballot and delaying the election until late May — in a reversal for the governor, who for weeks sought to keep the election on track as planned.

But on Saturday, the legislature gaveled in for the special session and took no action — with ABC News’ Madison affiliate describing the state capitol as a “ghost town” after hardly any lawmakers showed up — in a slight to Evers. But the legislature only adjourned until Monday, leaving open the possibility for action on the eve of the election.

For weeks, mayors, Democrats and local election officials across the state — and even the state’s chief election official — implored top leaders to make significant changes for the contest, as communities faced the stark reality of critical poll worker shortages — falling short by up to 7,000 workers, as nearly 60% of Wisconsin municipalities reported a shortage of election volunteers.

“It’s just distressing that Wisconsin did not learn from the Ohio experience, and that there is this 11th-hour scramble to try to address an issue that I think many of us have been trying to press for months now, as we watch the COVID-19 pandemic escalate in the country and in Wisconsin and in the city of Milwaukee,” Neil Albrecht, the executive director for the city of Milwaukee Election Commission, told ABC News.

Some elections officials believe the state is headed for chaos on Tuesday.

“We are in a car going very fast, and we’re approaching the edge of the Grand Canyon,” Mark Thomsen, a Democrat on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told ABC News. “They have the complete ability to have us land safely, or leave us in this chaos. This isn’t a partisan question. This is about whether you believe in democracy or not.”

The shortages, have in turn, led to the consolidation of polling places, making social distancing all the more difficult to enforce. In Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, there will only be five polling locations, a fraction of the 180 that are historically operating on election day, with local election officials saying turnout could be as high as four to 5,000 voters in each of the five sites on Tuesday.

Evers has repeatedly said he cannot change the rules “on my own,” saying that his “hands are tied” without the support from the state Senate and Assembly.

After Saturday’s affront by Republicans, Evers said in a statement, they were “playing politics with public safety and ignoring the urgency of this public health crisis. It’s wrong. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

While Republicans appear unwavering in their resistance to making any changes to the upcoming primary this late in the game, the mayors turned to the extraordinary step of bypassing legislative leaders in order to try to close the polls.

The state is currently contending with over 2,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and dozens of deaths from the outbreak.

The mayors acknowledged the election has “already begun” but are pushing this course of action because “the real issue now is how we conclude.”

“The lives of our constituents depend on it,” the letter ended.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wisconsin mayors seek to scrap in-person voting in last-ditch effort

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

hermosawave/iStock(MADISON, Wis.) — As the novel coronavirus shutters nearly every aspect of American society, 10 mayors in Wisconsin are pushing for the pandemic to shut down one more: in-person voting.

A new letter, signed by the mayors who represent some of the state’s largest cities including Milwaukee and Madison, urges Wisconsin’s top health official to invoke emergency powers to stop in-person voting for Tuesday’s election, which includes the presidential primary and general elections for state Supreme Court and a slew of local races.

“We implore you to implement all emergency measures necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, a communicable disease,” the letter sent to Wisconsin Department of Human Services Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm reads. “Specifically, we need you to step up and stop the State of Wisconsin from putting hundreds of thousands of citizens at risk by requiring them to vote at the polls while this ugly pandemic spreads.”

“We believe it would be irresponsible and contrary to public health to conduct in-person voting throughout the state at the very time this disease is spreading rapidly,” the mayors wrote.

The mayors, who say they represent 1.3 million constituents in total, include Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, Eric Genrich of Green Bay, Lori Palmeri of Oshkosh, Tim Kabat of La Crosse, John Antaramian of Kenosha, Cory Mason of Racine, Tim Hanna of Appleton, Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, Karen Mischel of Viroqua and Kathy Ehley of Wauwatosa.

While the letter, which comes as bipartisan negotiations over the best path forward for the election have stalled, applauds Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for his “leadership” in declaring a state of emergency, the local leaders scold the GOP-controlled legislature for their “inexcusable refusal to act.”

“You and your department now are the sole parties in the position to prevent hundreds of thousands of voters and poll workers from potentially being exposed needlessly to this worldwide pandemic,” the mayors wrote in a last-resort effort.

They are asking the state Department of Health Services to take a similar step to the one Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, used last month to postpone the state’s primary and scrap in-person voting less than 12 hours before polls opened.

While Wisconsin appears determined to go it alone by moving forward with an in-person election, several other states postponed their primaries and adjusted voting mechanisms to make the process safer amid the threat of COVID-19 in the last week. The decision to forge on as planned in Wisconsin has carved a sharp divide between Democrats and Republicans in the state.

On Friday, in an 11th-hour maneuver by Evers, he issued an executive order calling on the state legislature to take up some short-term changes for the election in a special session. Among the changes, Evers sought to shift to an all-mail election — canceling in-person voting, mailing every voter a ballot and delaying the election until late May — in a reversal for the governor, who for weeks sought to keep the election on track as planned.

But on Saturday, the legislature gaveled in for the special session and took no action — with ABC News’ Madison affiliate describing the state capitol as a “ghost town” after hardly any lawmakers showed up — in a slight to Evers. But the legislature only adjourned until Monday, leaving open the possibility for action on the eve of the election.

For weeks, mayors, Democrats and local election officials across the state — and even the state’s chief election official — implored top leaders to make significant changes for the contest, as communities faced the stark reality of critical poll worker shortages — falling short by up to 7,000 workers, as nearly 60% of Wisconsin municipalities reported a shortage of election volunteers.

“It’s just distressing that Wisconsin did not learn from the Ohio experience, and that there is this 11th-hour scramble to try to address an issue that I think many of us have been trying to press for months now, as we watch the COVID-19 pandemic escalate in the country and in Wisconsin and in the city of Milwaukee,” Neil Albrecht, the executive director for the city of Milwaukee Election Commission, told ABC News.

Some elections officials believe the state is headed for chaos on Tuesday.

“We are in a car going very fast, and we’re approaching the edge of the Grand Canyon,” Mark Thomsen, a Democrat on the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told ABC News. “They have the complete ability to have us land safely, or leave us in this chaos. This isn’t a partisan question. This is about whether you believe in democracy or not.”

The shortages, have in turn, led to the consolidation of polling places, making social distancing all the more difficult to enforce. In Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, there will only be five polling locations, a fraction of the 180 that are historically operating on election day, with local election officials saying turnout could be as high as four to 5,000 voters in each of the five sites on Tuesday.

Evers has repeatedly said he cannot change the rules “on my own,” saying that his “hands are tied” without the support from the state Senate and Assembly.

After Saturday’s affront by Republicans, Evers said in a statement, they were “playing politics with public safety and ignoring the urgency of this public health crisis. It’s wrong. No one should have to choose between their health and their right to vote.”

While Republicans appear unwavering in their resistance to making any changes to the upcoming primary this late in the game, the mayors turned to the extraordinary step of bypassing legislative leaders in order to try to close the polls.

The state is currently contending with over 2,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and dozens of deaths from the outbreak.

The mayors acknowledged the election has “already begun” but are pushing this course of action because “the real issue now is how we conclude.”

“The lives of our constituents depend on it,” the letter ended.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden says 2020 convention may be ‘virtual,’ will wear mask in public amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday on ABC’s This Week that the recently delayed Democratic Convention will have to happen, but conceded that it may need to be held virtually if the novel coronavirus continues to pose a public health threat by mid-August.

“Well, we’re going to have to do a convention. We may have to do a virtual convention. I think we should be thinking about that right now. The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place and that’s very possible. Again let’s see where it is — and what we do between now and then is going to dictate a lot of that as well. But my point is that I think you just got to follow the science,” Biden told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The decision to delay the convention, originally scheduled for mid-July, came after Biden publicly suggested the date be moved back to August as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the majority of the American public at home, and the likely Democratic nominee off the campaign trail.

Biden has remained at his Willmington, Delaware, home, following the guidance of a stay-at-home order put in place by the state’s governor, and said Sunday morning that he would be heeding the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by wearing a mask the next time he goes out in public as a way to mitigate his risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Yes. Look, I think it’s important to follow the science, listen to the experts do what they tell you,” Biden said. “He may not like how he looks in a mask but the truth of the matter is that — follow the science. That’s what they’re telling us. So if I go out in public, and I have not gone to commercial places of late I haven’t gone to my local church … but my generic point is that you should follow the science.”

When pressed by Stephanopoulos if the Obama administration should have done more to heed a 2014 warning that a “devastating pandemic” was the highest homeland security risk, Biden pushed back, shifting the blame to the Trump administration for ending policies previously put in place by Obama, such as closing the White House Pandemic office.

“We did a whole lot of things, and they got a very detailed breakdown on this by a briefing that the Trump administration (got) when we transition out of office. But the president dismantled almost all of that, drastically cut budgets for the CDC,” Biden said. “He didn’t follow through on any of what we suggested was a real problem.”

Biden’s comments come as the likely Democratic nominee has struggled to compete with what he referred to on Friday as Trump’s “bully pulpit” amid the coronavirus crisis.

The former vice president also slammed the decision to relieve Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he raised concerns over an outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship. Biden had previously criticized Crozier’s dismissal as sending a “chilling message” to the rest of the fleet.

“It’s close to criminal the way they’re dealing with this guy,” Biden said Sunday. “The idea that this man stood up and said what had to be said, got it out that his troops, his Navy personnel were in danger. … Look how many have the virus. I think … he should have a commendation rather than be fired.”

While Biden’s campaign has charged that President Donald Trump’s slow response to the coronavirus will cost lives, the former vice president again did not go as far when asked if Trump’s inaction has led to more deaths — saying the president was not responsible for the coronavirus, but is responsible for the handling of the crisis.

Biden also said a suggested call between himself and Trump on the coronavirus response hasn’t happened, but reiterated he was open to speaking with the president.

“Well, it hasn’t happened. I’m happy to talk to him and I’d just tell him what we found is important to do … and that is to move swiftly and … we have to move more rapidly,” Biden said.

The former vice president and his campaign are adjusting to the new reality of the 2020 campaign by launching a variety of online efforts, including virtual town halls, fundraisers and even a podcast hosted by Biden.

Those events have brought varying degrees of success for a campaign that leans heavily on Biden’s ability to connect one-on-one with voters at in-person events.

Biden also elaborated on a recent conversation he had with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his lone remaining rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, about his moving forward with the process of selecting a vice presidential running mate.

“I was apologizing to him by saying ‘Bernie, I don’t want in any way — it’s not in any way to demean your effort — but if we don’t start now we’re not going to be able to get there’, and he was very gracious, he said that he understood. It wasn’t about asking him for recommendations of who he or I would pick,” Biden said, noting that the intensive vetting process for a running mate needs to get underway now.

“If we don’t start now or shortly in the month of April, it’s gonna be hard to get it done. So I was basically apologizing and making it clear I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous in any way…and (Sanders) said he appreciated that,” Biden said.

Biden currently leads Sanders by more than 300 delegates — a lead that is expected to grow larger as Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in the primary Tuesday, which has been clouded by legal challenges attempting to delay the vote over concerns for public safety.

Biden’s interview comes ahead of his virtual town hall with his wife Dr. Jill Biden on Sunday night aimed at families.

The town hall, according to a campaign news release, seeks to provide “parents and children across the country with advice on how to stay connected, continue schoolwork, take care of each other, and spread joy and kindness during times of great uncertainty and anxiety.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden says 2020 convention may be ‘virtual,’ will wear mask in public amid COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday on ABC’s This Week that the recently delayed Democratic Convention will have to happen, but conceded that it may need to be held virtually if the novel coronavirus continues to pose a public health threat by mid-August.

“Well, we’re going to have to do a convention. We may have to do a virtual convention. I think we should be thinking about that right now. The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place and that’s very possible. Again let’s see where it is — and what we do between now and then is going to dictate a lot of that as well. But my point is that I think you just got to follow the science,” Biden told ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The decision to delay the convention, originally scheduled for mid-July, came after Biden publicly suggested the date be moved back to August as the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep the majority of the American public at home, and the likely Democratic nominee off the campaign trail.

Biden has remained at his Willmington, Delaware, home, following the guidance of a stay-at-home order put in place by the state’s governor, and said Sunday morning that he would be heeding the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by wearing a mask the next time he goes out in public as a way to mitigate his risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Yes. Look, I think it’s important to follow the science, listen to the experts do what they tell you,” Biden said. “He may not like how he looks in a mask but the truth of the matter is that — follow the science. That’s what they’re telling us. So if I go out in public, and I have not gone to commercial places of late I haven’t gone to my local church … but my generic point is that you should follow the science.”

When pressed by Stephanopoulos if the Obama administration should have done more to heed a 2014 warning that a “devastating pandemic” was the highest homeland security risk, Biden pushed back, shifting the blame to the Trump administration for ending policies previously put in place by Obama, such as closing the White House Pandemic office.

“We did a whole lot of things, and they got a very detailed breakdown on this by a briefing that the Trump administration (got) when we transition out of office. But the president dismantled almost all of that, drastically cut budgets for the CDC,” Biden said. “He didn’t follow through on any of what we suggested was a real problem.”

Biden’s comments come as the likely Democratic nominee has struggled to compete with what he referred to on Friday as Trump’s “bully pulpit” amid the coronavirus crisis.

The former vice president also slammed the decision to relieve Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, after he raised concerns over an outbreak of COVID-19 on his ship. Biden had previously criticized Crozier’s dismissal as sending a “chilling message” to the rest of the fleet.

“It’s close to criminal the way they’re dealing with this guy,” Biden said Sunday. “The idea that this man stood up and said what had to be said, got it out that his troops, his Navy personnel were in danger. … Look how many have the virus. I think … he should have a commendation rather than be fired.”

While Biden’s campaign has charged that President Donald Trump’s slow response to the coronavirus will cost lives, the former vice president again did not go as far when asked if Trump’s inaction has led to more deaths — saying the president was not responsible for the coronavirus, but is responsible for the handling of the crisis.

Biden also said a suggested call between himself and Trump on the coronavirus response hasn’t happened, but reiterated he was open to speaking with the president.

“Well, it hasn’t happened. I’m happy to talk to him and I’d just tell him what we found is important to do … and that is to move swiftly and … we have to move more rapidly,” Biden said.

The former vice president and his campaign are adjusting to the new reality of the 2020 campaign by launching a variety of online efforts, including virtual town halls, fundraisers and even a podcast hosted by Biden.

Those events have brought varying degrees of success for a campaign that leans heavily on Biden’s ability to connect one-on-one with voters at in-person events.

Biden also elaborated on a recent conversation he had with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his lone remaining rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, about his moving forward with the process of selecting a vice presidential running mate.

“I was apologizing to him by saying ‘Bernie, I don’t want in any way — it’s not in any way to demean your effort — but if we don’t start now we’re not going to be able to get there’, and he was very gracious, he said that he understood. It wasn’t about asking him for recommendations of who he or I would pick,” Biden said, noting that the intensive vetting process for a running mate needs to get underway now.

“If we don’t start now or shortly in the month of April, it’s gonna be hard to get it done. So I was basically apologizing and making it clear I wasn’t trying to be presumptuous in any way…and (Sanders) said he appreciated that,” Biden said.

Biden currently leads Sanders by more than 300 delegates — a lead that is expected to grow larger as Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in the primary Tuesday, which has been clouded by legal challenges attempting to delay the vote over concerns for public safety.

Biden’s interview comes ahead of his virtual town hall with his wife Dr. Jill Biden on Sunday night aimed at families.

The town hall, according to a campaign news release, seeks to provide “parents and children across the country with advice on how to stay connected, continue schoolwork, take care of each other, and spread joy and kindness during times of great uncertainty and anxiety.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with virus

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to a hospital for tests, 10 days after being diagnosed with the new coronavirus

Puerto Rico imposes stricter COVID-19 measures

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The ACLU says it it is seeking an injunction to block part of Puerto Rico’s strict curfew against the new coronavirus, arguing that some of its restrictions are unconstitutional

Pentagon announces new face mask guidance

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Over 1,200 service members and Department of Defense civilians have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Andrew Yang faces backlash from the Asian American community over op-ed

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is facing backlash from the Asian American community for his column in The Washington Post last week addressing racism surrounding the novel coronavirus.

The article, titled “We Asian Americans are not the virus, but we can be part of the cure,” was published April 1 in response to the recent surge of discrimination against Asian Americans amid coronavirus fears. It starts with Yang’s recent experience at a grocery store when he writes he felt judged and demeaned.

“For the first time in years, I felt it. I felt self-conscious — even a bit ashamed — of being Asian,” Yang wrote.

In many cases, that unease and wariness towards Asian Americans manifested into harassment and violent attacks around the country, including a man in New York City who was sprayed with air freshener while riding the subway, a Filipino boy bullied at a California middle school and the stabbing of an Asian American family in Midland, Texas, where the suspect allegedly claimed he targeted the family because they were Chinese.

As a way to improve the current situation, Yang implored Asian Americans to demonstrate they are part of the solution by embracing “our American-ness in ways we never have before.”

“We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need,” Yang wrote in his op-ed.

Jenny Yang, an Asian American comedian and writer who’s known for using her work to address Asian American issues, said this is the wrong message.

“I felt my stomach sink,” Jenny Yang told ABC News. “Andrew is telling us we cannot expect telling people to not be racist to work, so we should lean in to be more American so we will be less threatening to other Americans,” — a direct reference to Yang’s words in the article, “I obviously think that being racist is not a good thing. But saying, ‘Don’t be racist toward Asians,’ won’t work.”

Two days after the article was published, Jenny Yang posted a video of her attempting to take the former presidential candidate’s advice and embrace her “American-ness” in order to show “how ridiculous this premise was.”

In the video, she is dressed in red, white and blue and is standing on the street with a sign that reads, “Honk if you won’t hate crime me,” while handing out Clorox wipes to strangers. The video had garnered over 78,400 views through Sunday morning.

“We are fighting two viruses at once,” Simu Liu, an Asian Canadian actor who’s best known in his role in the TV show “Kim’s Convenience,” said, calling Yang’s op-ed “a slap in the face.”

Set to play Shang Chi, the first Asian American superhero in the Marvel Universe, Liu initially responded on April 2 to the piece on Twitter: “At a time where Asian diaspora from around the world are experiencing massive racism and discrimination, @AndrewYang basically just told us to suck it up, eat a cheeseburger and buy an American flag.”

To which Yang responded the next day, “Just saying that we need to do all we can to ease this crisis and step up in this time of national and global need,” adding that he’s proud of his heritage and knows people will have different takes.

Liu, who said he recently experienced harassment when someone yelled “coronavirus” at him outside a restaurant in Sydney, said he appreciates the dialogue from Yang but believes he backpedaled and failed to address the problem.

“It frames the onus on us, somehow we have to prove we are worthy of belonging. We do belong, the burden should not be on us,” Liu told ABC News.

Yang’s team had no comment when ABC News reached out for a response.

The call for Asian Americans to display their “American-ness” was only part of the problem, experts argue. Yang’s invocation of Japanese-Americans who volunteered for military duty during World War II, without proper historical context, was another point of contention, they said.

“Many in our community, during and after the forced removal of our families in ’42, argued precisely what Yang is saying. Just be good Americans, don’t make waves or protest, show how patriotic we are and everything will be fine. Well, my family lost their constitutional rights. I wouldn’t consider that ‘just fine,'” Bruce Embrey, the co-chair of the Manzanar Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raise awareness about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II, told ABC News.

Embrey, who had four uncles serve in WWII, says their heroism shows an incomplete story. His mother’s family was held at Manzanar, a concentration camp in California, where there were protests and strikes. Japanese-Americans spoke up and actively challenged the notion of patriotism, Embrey added, and that led to progress like the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which offered redress to every Japanese-American incarcerated during the war.

“Fighting for one’s rights against inequality and racism has been a constant in our nation’s history. Fighting back is as American as you can get,” Embrey said.

This isn’t the first time Yang has found himself in hot water with the Asian community. He faced criticism when he used racial stereotypes in his speeches, saying the “opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian guy who likes math,” referring to his campaign slogan “Make America Think Harder.”

In a September Democratic presidential debate, Yang said, “I’m Asian so I know a lot of doctors” when addressing the health care system in the U.S.

Author and journalist Jeff Yang, whose work has focused on Asian American identity, points out that Yang has a unique and challenging role when it comes to representing Asian Americans in national politics, a community that’s “almost as diverse as the country at large.”

The complex nature of the group is why Yang needs to be more thoughtful, Jeff Yang told ABC News, especially with such a significant platform. He said Andrew Yang should clarify people’s perceptions of Asian Americans rather than dilute them into racial tropes.

In March, the FBI released an analysis predicting an increase in hate-crime incidents against Asian Americans “based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” The analysis indicated there has already been an increase in reports of hate crimes from Los Angeles to New York to Texas.

With the rising wave of coronavirus-related racism, groups like the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department launched sites allowing people to report cases. In just the past two weeks, they have received over 1,100 reports with incidents ranging from verbal harassment and shunning to physical assault.

Asian American Advancing Justice, the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization, has also been tracking coronavirus-related racist incidents.

Stewart Kwoh, founder of Asian American Advancing Justice, believes the winning strategy to combat racist behavior is twofold: first, people need to stand up, call it out and mobilize other groups for support, and second, there needs to be unity against the virus, our common enemy.

“I think he (Yang) neglected to emphasize the first part; he did not take a strong stand on fighting racism, that’s where the criticism is well taken,” Kwoh told ABC News. Given that, Kwoh believes Yang’s heart was in the right place and that some of his argument is valid.

Every major shift in culture in this country came from people who spoke up, Jeff Yang said, adding, “It’s not about an apology, but a bigger conversation, and that means loud noises and resistance.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Andrew Yang faces backlash from the Asian American community over op-ed

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is facing backlash from the Asian American community for his column in The Washington Post last week addressing racism surrounding the novel coronavirus.

The article, titled “We Asian Americans are not the virus, but we can be part of the cure,” was published April 1 in response to the recent surge of discrimination against Asian Americans amid coronavirus fears. It starts with Yang’s recent experience at a grocery store when he writes he felt judged and demeaned.

“For the first time in years, I felt it. I felt self-conscious — even a bit ashamed — of being Asian,” Yang wrote.

In many cases, that unease and wariness towards Asian Americans manifested into harassment and violent attacks around the country, including a man in New York City who was sprayed with air freshener while riding the subway, a Filipino boy bullied at a California middle school and the stabbing of an Asian American family in Midland, Texas, where the suspect allegedly claimed he targeted the family because they were Chinese.

As a way to improve the current situation, Yang implored Asian Americans to demonstrate they are part of the solution by embracing “our American-ness in ways we never have before.”

“We need to step up, help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations, and do everything in our power to accelerate the end of this crisis. We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need,” Yang wrote in his op-ed.

Jenny Yang, an Asian American comedian and writer who’s known for using her work to address Asian American issues, said this is the wrong message.

“I felt my stomach sink,” Jenny Yang told ABC News. “Andrew is telling us we cannot expect telling people to not be racist to work, so we should lean in to be more American so we will be less threatening to other Americans,” — a direct reference to Yang’s words in the article, “I obviously think that being racist is not a good thing. But saying, ‘Don’t be racist toward Asians,’ won’t work.”

Two days after the article was published, Jenny Yang posted a video of her attempting to take the former presidential candidate’s advice and embrace her “American-ness” in order to show “how ridiculous this premise was.”

In the video, she is dressed in red, white and blue and is standing on the street with a sign that reads, “Honk if you won’t hate crime me,” while handing out Clorox wipes to strangers. The video had garnered over 78,400 views through Sunday morning.

“We are fighting two viruses at once,” Simu Liu, an Asian Canadian actor who’s best known in his role in the TV show “Kim’s Convenience,” said, calling Yang’s op-ed “a slap in the face.”

Set to play Shang Chi, the first Asian American superhero in the Marvel Universe, Liu initially responded on April 2 to the piece on Twitter: “At a time where Asian diaspora from around the world are experiencing massive racism and discrimination, @AndrewYang basically just told us to suck it up, eat a cheeseburger and buy an American flag.”

To which Yang responded the next day, “Just saying that we need to do all we can to ease this crisis and step up in this time of national and global need,” adding that he’s proud of his heritage and knows people will have different takes.

Liu, who said he recently experienced harassment when someone yelled “coronavirus” at him outside a restaurant in Sydney, said he appreciates the dialogue from Yang but believes he backpedaled and failed to address the problem.

“It frames the onus on us, somehow we have to prove we are worthy of belonging. We do belong, the burden should not be on us,” Liu told ABC News.

Yang’s team had no comment when ABC News reached out for a response.

The call for Asian Americans to display their “American-ness” was only part of the problem, experts argue. Yang’s invocation of Japanese-Americans who volunteered for military duty during World War II, without proper historical context, was another point of contention, they said.

“Many in our community, during and after the forced removal of our families in ’42, argued precisely what Yang is saying. Just be good Americans, don’t make waves or protest, show how patriotic we are and everything will be fine. Well, my family lost their constitutional rights. I wouldn’t consider that ‘just fine,'” Bruce Embrey, the co-chair of the Manzanar Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raise awareness about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in World War II, told ABC News.

Embrey, who had four uncles serve in WWII, says their heroism shows an incomplete story. His mother’s family was held at Manzanar, a concentration camp in California, where there were protests and strikes. Japanese-Americans spoke up and actively challenged the notion of patriotism, Embrey added, and that led to progress like the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which offered redress to every Japanese-American incarcerated during the war.

“Fighting for one’s rights against inequality and racism has been a constant in our nation’s history. Fighting back is as American as you can get,” Embrey said.

This isn’t the first time Yang has found himself in hot water with the Asian community. He faced criticism when he used racial stereotypes in his speeches, saying the “opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian guy who likes math,” referring to his campaign slogan “Make America Think Harder.”

In a September Democratic presidential debate, Yang said, “I’m Asian so I know a lot of doctors” when addressing the health care system in the U.S.

Author and journalist Jeff Yang, whose work has focused on Asian American identity, points out that Yang has a unique and challenging role when it comes to representing Asian Americans in national politics, a community that’s “almost as diverse as the country at large.”

The complex nature of the group is why Yang needs to be more thoughtful, Jeff Yang told ABC News, especially with such a significant platform. He said Andrew Yang should clarify people’s perceptions of Asian Americans rather than dilute them into racial tropes.

In March, the FBI released an analysis predicting an increase in hate-crime incidents against Asian Americans “based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” The analysis indicated there has already been an increase in reports of hate crimes from Los Angeles to New York to Texas.

With the rising wave of coronavirus-related racism, groups like the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department launched sites allowing people to report cases. In just the past two weeks, they have received over 1,100 reports with incidents ranging from verbal harassment and shunning to physical assault.

Asian American Advancing Justice, the nation’s largest Asian American legal and civil rights organization, has also been tracking coronavirus-related racist incidents.

Stewart Kwoh, founder of Asian American Advancing Justice, believes the winning strategy to combat racist behavior is twofold: first, people need to stand up, call it out and mobilize other groups for support, and second, there needs to be unity against the virus, our common enemy.

“I think he (Yang) neglected to emphasize the first part; he did not take a strong stand on fighting racism, that’s where the criticism is well taken,” Kwoh told ABC News. Given that, Kwoh believes Yang’s heart was in the right place and that some of his argument is valid.

Every major shift in culture in this country came from people who spoke up, Jeff Yang said, adding, “It’s not about an apology, but a bigger conversation, and that means loud noises and resistance.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus threatens safety nets needed for rural hospitals

Posted on: April 5th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Rural hospitals face a precarious situation in dealing with the pandemic because of their reliance on cities.

Wisconsin GOP vows Supreme Court appeal on extended voting

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Wisconsin Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block extended absentee voting in Tuesday’s primary

2 dead, 5 wounded in suspected terrorist knife attack in France

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

A knife attack which resulted in two dead and five wounded Saturday morning in the town of Romans-sur-Isere, is being treated as a terrorist attack.

Pelosi, Democrats decry Trump’s ‘shameful’ firing of inspector general amid coronavirus outbreak

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump fired the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, Friday, saying he no longer had confidence in him. His termination quickly drew the ire of top Democrats.

Atkinson was the intelligence community inspector general whose communications to Congress about a whistleblower complaint helped initiate the Ukraine impeachment inquiry against the president.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and doesn’t of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fuller confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General,” Trump said in a letter Friday announcing Atkinson’s termination. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, senior Democrats and other Inspectors General defended Atkinson while others in Washington questioned the timing of Trump’s decision.

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who is also Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement Friday.

At least 7,159 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and more 278,000 people have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Michael Horowitz, Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency and the Inspector General at the Department of Justice, issued a statement early Saturday morning, complimenting Atkinson’s career.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Horowitz said in a statement. “That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint.”

Without mentioning Trump, Horowitz said the inspector general community would continue to “conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Friday night.

Pelosi called Atkinsons’ dismissal “shameful,” saying his firing will have a chilling effect against whistleblowers.

“The shameful late-night firing of Inspector General Atkinson is a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pelosi, Democrats decry Trump’s ‘shameful’ firing of inspector general amid coronavirus outbreak

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump fired the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, Friday, saying he no longer had confidence in him. His termination quickly drew the ire of top Democrats.

Atkinson was the intelligence community inspector general whose communications to Congress about a whistleblower complaint helped initiate the Ukraine impeachment inquiry against the president.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and doesn’t of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fuller confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General,” Trump said in a letter Friday announcing Atkinson’s termination. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, senior Democrats and other Inspectors General defended Atkinson while others in Washington questioned the timing of Trump’s decision.

“In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who is also Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement Friday.

At least 7,159 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and more 278,000 people have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Michael Horowitz, Chair of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency and the Inspector General at the Department of Justice, issued a statement early Saturday morning, complimenting Atkinson’s career.

“Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” Horowitz said in a statement. “That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint.”

Without mentioning Trump, Horowitz said the inspector general community would continue to “conduct aggressive, independent oversight of the agencies that we oversee.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Friday night.

Pelosi called Atkinsons’ dismissal “shameful,” saying his firing will have a chilling effect against whistleblowers.

“The shameful late-night firing of Inspector General Atkinson is a brazen act against a patriotic public servant who has honorably performed his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security, as required by the law and by his oath,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

White House says it will use $100B to reimburse hospitals to treat uninsured Americans for coronavirus

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Valeriya/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The White House announced Friday that it plans to designate $100 billion in emergency spending approved by Congress to reimburse hospitals and other health care providers for treating the estimated 28 million people who are uninsured in the United States.

The decision comes amid the fast-moving novel coronavirus pandemic that has left many Americans furloughed or fired and without health insurance. The situation has become so urgent that Trump administration officials who once vilified the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are now turning to the law as a workable option.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Friday Americans who lose their employee-sponsored insurance qualify for special enrollment and aren’t impacted by the December 2019 deadline to get insurance this year. He also pointed that several states have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Obama-era law.

Azar was a long-time critic of the program, previously declaring it unworkable and said that it was “circling the drain.”

“I would also like to remind people that if you have lost employer insurance coverage, you have insurance options that you should look into,” he told reporters Friday. “You would be eligible for a special enrollment period on the health care exchanges and depending on your state, you may be eligible for Medicaid.”

To help Americans who remain uninsured, the administration plans to directly reimburse hospitals and other health care providers as long as they promise not to stick uninsured patients with the bill.

Azar said $1 billion is already approved by Congress to reimburse health care providers for testing and diagnosing uninsured patients. Another $100 billion has been approved by Congress for health care providers. That larger chunk of money would be paid out to health care providers under negotiated rates.

“Under the president’s direction, we will use a portion of that funding to cover providers’ costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured,” said Azar.

“As a condition of receiving funds under this program, providers will be forbidden from balance billing the uninsured for the cost of their care,” he said. “Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates.”

Trump had alluded to the move a day earlier when he said he was looking at a “cash payment” that would go to a “certain group of people” to protect Americans who were uninsured from facing large medical bills.

“So we’re going to work it out, so we’re going to try and get for that certain group of people a cash payment,” Trump said late Thursday.

Added Pence: “The president has made it very clear, we don’t want any American to worry about the cost of getting a test where the cost of getting treatment.”

Trump had said earlier this week that he would not re-open enrollment for the federally run health care exchanges, which allow Americans to purchase subsidized plans independent of their employer. Enrollment for 2020 coverage ended last December.

Americans are eligible for special enrollment, however, if they quit or get fired from their jobs.

They also could turn to state-run exchanges if they live in any of the dozen states that have re-opened enrollment because of coronavirus.

Jose Vera, a graphic designer in Wilton Manor, Florida, said paying his mortgage and finding health insurance were his top concerns after getting laid off as a result of the ongoing health crisis. He said his company had too many clients cancel orders and so they downsized.

Now, for the first time, he is trying to navigate the health insurance marketplaces, set up through the Affordable Care Act, that allows individuals to buy their own health insurance plans.

“I’m applying and just trying to get as much help as I can,” he told ABC News. “It’s a lot of uncertainty, and it’s very scary. This is the first time I’ve been going through something like this. I’ve always been very fortunate to have a job.”

The question though, is whether Americans like Vera will find a health insurance plan they can afford while paying other bills as part of the newly unemployed.

Also unclear is how people who opted not to buy health insurance, but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, will fare in an era of pandemic flu.

These can often be families or young people looking to save a few dollars each month by not enrolling in Obamacare because they are healthy at the time.

The Obama-era law had required Americans to enroll in a health insurance plan in a bid to force cost sharing across a bigger pool of people. But a federal appeals court struck down that requirement after an aggressive challenge by Republican-led states, backed by the Trump administration.

The matter will be taken up by the Supreme Court later this year.

Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said there are probably as many as 9 million Americans who are uninsured and don’t qualify for Medicaid. These Americans will have to see if they live in any of the 12 states that have re-opened enrollment on their health care exchanges, he said.

“These are people who have either chosen not to get insured or weren’t aware of their options. They might make a very different judgment today with the potential risk of serious illness from the coronavirus,” Levitt said.

In the end, Trump might have to lean on “Obamacare” as a solution to see the country through a pandemic flu, despite campaigning against the law and expected to argue to dismantle it in court.

“This will be the first economic downturn when the (Affordable Care Act) is in place as a safety net,” Levitt said. “As people are losing their jobs and losing their health care it could be an inopportune time to overturn the safety net.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

White House says it will use $100B to reimburse hospitals to treat uninsured Americans for coronavirus

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Valeriya/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The White House announced Friday that it plans to designate $100 billion in emergency spending approved by Congress to reimburse hospitals and other health care providers for treating the estimated 28 million people who are uninsured in the United States.

The decision comes amid the fast-moving novel coronavirus pandemic that has left many Americans furloughed or fired and without health insurance. The situation has become so urgent that Trump administration officials who once vilified the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are now turning to the law as a workable option.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Friday Americans who lose their employee-sponsored insurance qualify for special enrollment and aren’t impacted by the December 2019 deadline to get insurance this year. He also pointed that several states have expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Obama-era law.

Azar was a long-time critic of the program, previously declaring it unworkable and said that it was “circling the drain.”

“I would also like to remind people that if you have lost employer insurance coverage, you have insurance options that you should look into,” he told reporters Friday. “You would be eligible for a special enrollment period on the health care exchanges and depending on your state, you may be eligible for Medicaid.”

To help Americans who remain uninsured, the administration plans to directly reimburse hospitals and other health care providers as long as they promise not to stick uninsured patients with the bill.

Azar said $1 billion is already approved by Congress to reimburse health care providers for testing and diagnosing uninsured patients. Another $100 billion has been approved by Congress for health care providers. That larger chunk of money would be paid out to health care providers under negotiated rates.

“Under the president’s direction, we will use a portion of that funding to cover providers’ costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured,” said Azar.

“As a condition of receiving funds under this program, providers will be forbidden from balance billing the uninsured for the cost of their care,” he said. “Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates.”

Trump had alluded to the move a day earlier when he said he was looking at a “cash payment” that would go to a “certain group of people” to protect Americans who were uninsured from facing large medical bills.

“So we’re going to work it out, so we’re going to try and get for that certain group of people a cash payment,” Trump said late Thursday.

Added Pence: “The president has made it very clear, we don’t want any American to worry about the cost of getting a test where the cost of getting treatment.”

Trump had said earlier this week that he would not re-open enrollment for the federally run health care exchanges, which allow Americans to purchase subsidized plans independent of their employer. Enrollment for 2020 coverage ended last December.

Americans are eligible for special enrollment, however, if they quit or get fired from their jobs.

They also could turn to state-run exchanges if they live in any of the dozen states that have re-opened enrollment because of coronavirus.

Jose Vera, a graphic designer in Wilton Manor, Florida, said paying his mortgage and finding health insurance were his top concerns after getting laid off as a result of the ongoing health crisis. He said his company had too many clients cancel orders and so they downsized.

Now, for the first time, he is trying to navigate the health insurance marketplaces, set up through the Affordable Care Act, that allows individuals to buy their own health insurance plans.

“I’m applying and just trying to get as much help as I can,” he told ABC News. “It’s a lot of uncertainty, and it’s very scary. This is the first time I’ve been going through something like this. I’ve always been very fortunate to have a job.”

The question though, is whether Americans like Vera will find a health insurance plan they can afford while paying other bills as part of the newly unemployed.

Also unclear is how people who opted not to buy health insurance, but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, will fare in an era of pandemic flu.

These can often be families or young people looking to save a few dollars each month by not enrolling in Obamacare because they are healthy at the time.

The Obama-era law had required Americans to enroll in a health insurance plan in a bid to force cost sharing across a bigger pool of people. But a federal appeals court struck down that requirement after an aggressive challenge by Republican-led states, backed by the Trump administration.

The matter will be taken up by the Supreme Court later this year.

Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said there are probably as many as 9 million Americans who are uninsured and don’t qualify for Medicaid. These Americans will have to see if they live in any of the 12 states that have re-opened enrollment on their health care exchanges, he said.

“These are people who have either chosen not to get insured or weren’t aware of their options. They might make a very different judgment today with the potential risk of serious illness from the coronavirus,” Levitt said.

In the end, Trump might have to lean on “Obamacare” as a solution to see the country through a pandemic flu, despite campaigning against the law and expected to argue to dismantle it in court.

“This will be the first economic downturn when the (Affordable Care Act) is in place as a safety net,” Levitt said. “As people are losing their jobs and losing their health care it could be an inopportune time to overturn the safety net.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

‘Courageous, resilient’: Detroit police solider on, despite COVID-19 outbreak

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Behind the NYPD, DPD has some of the highest quarantine numbers in the country.

Saudi Arabia sharply rebukes Russia over oil price collapse

Posted on: April 4th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Saudi Arabia has sharply criticized Russia over what it described as Moscow blaming the kingdom for the collapse in global energy prices

Biden, Trump campaigns haven’t called for Wisconsin primary postponement

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, both campaigns for Joe Biden and President Donald Trump haven’t called on Wisconsin to delay its elections.

On first day, small business loan application process plagued with problems

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

hailshadow/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Across the U.S. banking industry, officials scrambled overnight to stand up a massive new government-backed lending program to help small businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and many were unable to make it happen by the Friday deadline given that the Treasury Department released its guidelines for the loans late Thursday night.

The $350 billion federal program — called the Paycheck Protection Program — was a key part of the recently-passed $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. The Paycheck Protection Program is a relief plan designed to extend loans, backed by the federal government, that become grants if the money is used for payroll and other overhead operating expenses.

Despite the major problems in implementation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted Thursday night that the program was up and running with a link to the application guidelines.

But across the U.S., at banks big and small, the program is simply not yet operational. And experts said it would be a week before the program was fully up and running.

Wells Fargo stated on its website Friday, “Financial institutions like ours continue to receive program implementation guidance from the SBA and the U.S. Treasury. Unfortunately, as a result, Wells Fargo will not be able to start accepting applications on Friday, April 3rd. When we are able to take applications, you’ll find a link to that application on this page so check back often.”

“The applications were just released a little more than 12 hours ago, literally in the middle of the night,” said one banking industry official. “Some loans will go out today and we hope the system will be running on all cylinders early next week. It is important to remember banks were handed the operator’s manual for a $350 billion program at 6:30 p.m. the day before it was supposed to launch. Expectations were unrealistically set but rest assured banks are doing everything humanly possible to get this system up and running to help small businesses.”

Two separate banking industry sources indicated to ABC News on Friday that applications were not received for both prospective borrowers and lenders until 10:30 pm Thursday night.

Additionally, some new lenders are having trouble accessing the SBA application site called “E-Tran,” according to two industry sources.

One source said there have also been security concerns with the portal that are currently being addressed.

Despite Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan touting his institution’s success in standing up its program in record time — telling CNBC that the bank has taken in 10,000 applications as of Friday morning — much ire was directed at the bank online and by one powerful Senate committee chairman.

“BankofAmerica got bailed out with $45 billion of your tax money. But now just heard from #smallbusiness with a BOA account & a 400k line of credit they paid off. BOA denied #PPP loan because they don’t have a credit account. A ridiculous requirement that isn’t anywhere in law,” tweeted Small Business Administration Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla, who was integral in creating the new PPP program.

Moynihan told CNBC that his bank is prioritizing those who have an established lending relationship with Bank of America.

“We are prioritizing. We have a million borrowing customers we’re trying to get through the system first. Then our second priority will be the customers who have the core operating account with us but don’t borrow anywhere,” Moynihan said. “For those that borrow from the other 4,000 banks in the country, we’re trying to get them to go back to their bank.”

Still, small business owners who maintain accounts with Bank of America but don’t have open lines of credit were surprised to discover their loan applications were denied Friday morning.

Patrick Slaughter, the owner of a small law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee, says he has a business credit card and business checking with Bank of America, but has never needed to apply for a business loan. With his loan application denied for now, Slaughter says he could be forced to lay off his employees within a few weeks.

“It’s an emotional thing for me. Truth is, I could probably retire and walk away from this. But I’ve got too many people that didn’t do anything wrong that were hopeful we were getting this help from the government,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter said Bank of America contacted him a few hours after he was initially told he did not qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan at this time with an offer for a conventional loan or a credit card.

“They are purposefully denying us this Paycheck Protection Program opportunity so they can profit by selling us their loans,” Slaughter said.

“We know for these businesses speed is of the essence. We can move fastest with our nearly 1 million small business borrowing clients. That is our near term priority. As the administration has made clear going to your current lending bank is the fastest route to completion,” said Bank of America spokesperson Ball Haldin.

Late Friday, Bank of America said loans will become available to those without a lending relationship “soon.” A source close to the matter says that could happen within days.

One Bank of America official expressed frustration that the bank was seemingly being targeted for denying customers who don’t have open lines of credit, considering the bank is one of the few actively processing applications. As of Friday afternoon, the bank said it had already assisted more than 58,000 customers with SBA loans.

Lindsey Johnson, the CEO of Weezie, an e-commerce retailer of linens based in Georgia, said she spent the week poring over the CARES Act, preparing all of her financial information, and stayed up late into the night to wait for the application to go live.

“No one has ever mentioned the stipulation about having a lending relationship,” she said. Johnson has 28 employees she has been able to keep on payroll, but she said the situation is “very much wait and see.”

“It feels like this was like an oversight. My hope is that Bank of America changes their requirement. I feel hopeful that they will. It’s in their best interest to keep their clients. If you can’t turn to your bank in a time like this, it’s like, where else are we supposed to go?”

Consumer Bankers Association’s President and CEO, Richard Hunt, counseled patience Friday, saying in a statement, “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them.”

But that message was incongruous with statements from administration officials.

Just before Noon on Friday, Secretary Mnuchin tweeted, “UPDATE #PPPloan now over $875,000,000 processed almost all from community banks! Big banks taking applications and will submitting them shortly. @SBAgov @USTreasury.”

And some were insisting any problems with the Paycheck Protection Program were minor.

“I think this program is ready,” National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow told Fox News. “They always have glitches when they start out. It’s a massive undertaking, but at the end of the day, these are guaranteed loans and they will be forgiven if you cover your payroll and other expenses. You have eight weeks to do that. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity, a 1% interest rate. Again the U.S. Government is guaranteeing these loans let me also say for people who are looking to apply they should be moving rapidly.”

The Treasury Department has not responded to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

On first day, small business loan application process plagued with problems

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

hailshadow/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Across the U.S. banking industry, officials scrambled overnight to stand up a massive new government-backed lending program to help small businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and many were unable to make it happen by the Friday deadline given that the Treasury Department released its guidelines for the loans late Thursday night.

The $350 billion federal program — called the Paycheck Protection Program — was a key part of the recently-passed $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package. The Paycheck Protection Program is a relief plan designed to extend loans, backed by the federal government, that become grants if the money is used for payroll and other overhead operating expenses.

Despite the major problems in implementation, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted Thursday night that the program was up and running with a link to the application guidelines.

But across the U.S., at banks big and small, the program is simply not yet operational. And experts said it would be a week before the program was fully up and running.

Wells Fargo stated on its website Friday, “Financial institutions like ours continue to receive program implementation guidance from the SBA and the U.S. Treasury. Unfortunately, as a result, Wells Fargo will not be able to start accepting applications on Friday, April 3rd. When we are able to take applications, you’ll find a link to that application on this page so check back often.”

“The applications were just released a little more than 12 hours ago, literally in the middle of the night,” said one banking industry official. “Some loans will go out today and we hope the system will be running on all cylinders early next week. It is important to remember banks were handed the operator’s manual for a $350 billion program at 6:30 p.m. the day before it was supposed to launch. Expectations were unrealistically set but rest assured banks are doing everything humanly possible to get this system up and running to help small businesses.”

Two separate banking industry sources indicated to ABC News on Friday that applications were not received for both prospective borrowers and lenders until 10:30 pm Thursday night.

Additionally, some new lenders are having trouble accessing the SBA application site called “E-Tran,” according to two industry sources.

One source said there have also been security concerns with the portal that are currently being addressed.

Despite Bank of America Chairman and CEO Brian Moynihan touting his institution’s success in standing up its program in record time — telling CNBC that the bank has taken in 10,000 applications as of Friday morning — much ire was directed at the bank online and by one powerful Senate committee chairman.

“BankofAmerica got bailed out with $45 billion of your tax money. But now just heard from #smallbusiness with a BOA account & a 400k line of credit they paid off. BOA denied #PPP loan because they don’t have a credit account. A ridiculous requirement that isn’t anywhere in law,” tweeted Small Business Administration Committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla, who was integral in creating the new PPP program.

Moynihan told CNBC that his bank is prioritizing those who have an established lending relationship with Bank of America.

“We are prioritizing. We have a million borrowing customers we’re trying to get through the system first. Then our second priority will be the customers who have the core operating account with us but don’t borrow anywhere,” Moynihan said. “For those that borrow from the other 4,000 banks in the country, we’re trying to get them to go back to their bank.”

Still, small business owners who maintain accounts with Bank of America but don’t have open lines of credit were surprised to discover their loan applications were denied Friday morning.

Patrick Slaughter, the owner of a small law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee, says he has a business credit card and business checking with Bank of America, but has never needed to apply for a business loan. With his loan application denied for now, Slaughter says he could be forced to lay off his employees within a few weeks.

“It’s an emotional thing for me. Truth is, I could probably retire and walk away from this. But I’ve got too many people that didn’t do anything wrong that were hopeful we were getting this help from the government,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter said Bank of America contacted him a few hours after he was initially told he did not qualify for a Paycheck Protection Program loan at this time with an offer for a conventional loan or a credit card.

“They are purposefully denying us this Paycheck Protection Program opportunity so they can profit by selling us their loans,” Slaughter said.

“We know for these businesses speed is of the essence. We can move fastest with our nearly 1 million small business borrowing clients. That is our near term priority. As the administration has made clear going to your current lending bank is the fastest route to completion,” said Bank of America spokesperson Ball Haldin.

Late Friday, Bank of America said loans will become available to those without a lending relationship “soon.” A source close to the matter says that could happen within days.

One Bank of America official expressed frustration that the bank was seemingly being targeted for denying customers who don’t have open lines of credit, considering the bank is one of the few actively processing applications. As of Friday afternoon, the bank said it had already assisted more than 58,000 customers with SBA loans.

Lindsey Johnson, the CEO of Weezie, an e-commerce retailer of linens based in Georgia, said she spent the week poring over the CARES Act, preparing all of her financial information, and stayed up late into the night to wait for the application to go live.

“No one has ever mentioned the stipulation about having a lending relationship,” she said. Johnson has 28 employees she has been able to keep on payroll, but she said the situation is “very much wait and see.”

“It feels like this was like an oversight. My hope is that Bank of America changes their requirement. I feel hopeful that they will. It’s in their best interest to keep their clients. If you can’t turn to your bank in a time like this, it’s like, where else are we supposed to go?”

Consumer Bankers Association’s President and CEO, Richard Hunt, counseled patience Friday, saying in a statement, “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them.”

But that message was incongruous with statements from administration officials.

Just before Noon on Friday, Secretary Mnuchin tweeted, “UPDATE #PPPloan now over $875,000,000 processed almost all from community banks! Big banks taking applications and will submitting them shortly. @SBAgov @USTreasury.”

And some were insisting any problems with the Paycheck Protection Program were minor.

“I think this program is ready,” National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow told Fox News. “They always have glitches when they start out. It’s a massive undertaking, but at the end of the day, these are guaranteed loans and they will be forgiven if you cover your payroll and other expenses. You have eight weeks to do that. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity, a 1% interest rate. Again the U.S. Government is guaranteeing these loans let me also say for people who are looking to apply they should be moving rapidly.”

The Treasury Department has not responded to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden and Trump campaigns haven’t called on Wisconsin to postpone primaries amid pandemic

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

3dfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Wisconsin’s primary elections are moving forward as scheduled on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And despite conflicting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about limited larges gatherings, both campaigns for former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump say they won’t call on the state to postpone their respective contests.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled on Thursday that in-person voting would not be canceled or postponed, but voters in Wisconsin now have an additional day to request an absentee ballot, until Saturday at 5 p.m.

Voters will now have an additional six days to get their absentee ballots to election officials.

However, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-led state legislature have not made major changes to the state’s election date, unlike other states who have postponed their elections. But on Friday, in a last-minute effort to protect Wisconsin voters from COVID-19, Evers issued an executive order to call the Republican-controlled state legislature into special session.

Evers is urging state lawmakers to move to an all-mail election, do away with in-person voting on April 7, send every voter an absentee ballot, and extend the deadline to return absentee ballots to late May, essentially delaying the primary.

Biden, the Democratic front-runner, sparked controversy after saying he believed the primary could be held next Tuesday amid the pandemic, while adding it’s ultimately up to local officials.

“Well, the answer is I’d listen to the scientists. Having a convention, having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing, 6 to 10 feet apart, one at a time going in and having machines scrubbed down,” Biden said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

“I think you can hold the election as well dealing with mail-in ballots and same day registration. I mean there’s a lot of things that can be done. That’s for the Wisconsin courts and folks to decide, but I think it’s possible to do both…And I think it could be done based on what I’ve been hearing from the news and what I understand the governor and others are saying. But that’s for them to decide,” Biden added.

ABC News has reached out to the Biden campaign to clarify if the former vice president has changed his position after Evers’ announcement Friday.

Some progressive voices have criticized Biden’s stance on the Wisconsin primary, including supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has called on Wisconsin to postpone the primary election amid the coronavirus. Ryan Grim of The Intercept called it “despicable” and “irresponsible” for the former vice president not to call on the state to delay the contest amid the pandemic, a tweet that Sanders’ national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray retweeted.

President’s re-election campaign also offered a severe response, claiming the former vice president wanted voters to “risk their lives because he’s so desperate to be the nominee.”

“@JoeBiden , the man who claims he has all the answers to the virus crisis, wants the people of Wisconsin to risk their lives because he’s so desperate to be the nominee. SAD!” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

However, the Trump campaign itself has not called on Wisconsin to postpone or alter their Republican primary amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite criticizing Biden.

“It’s a state call whether to delay the primary or not,” a Trump campaign senior official told ABC News. “We hope they make the best decision for the safety of voters. They know better what’s happening on the ground.”

On Friday, President Trump also endorsed a candidate on Twitter who’s on the ballot Tuesday in Wisconsin running for a Supreme Court seat.

“Highly respected Justice Daniel Kelly is running for the Supreme Court in the Great State of Wisconsin. Justice Kelly has been doing a terrific job upholding the Rule of Law and defending your #2A. Tough on Crime, Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my Complete Endorsement!”

The Republican National Committee argued that by extending the absentee voting period, Democrats will have more of an advantage and that the changes were made to “fit their far-left agenda,” according to press secretary Mandi Merritt.

“It is unprecedented to allow votes to be cast after Election Day has already occurred, and we are appealing the judge’s decision in order to uphold the integrity of our elections,” Merritt said in a statement.

The RNC and the Wisconsin Republican Party have argued that asking a judge to change election laws days before voters are set to head to the polls is “dangerous.”

“Asking a federal judge to change completely how we do election laws in Wisconsin in a matter of two or three days was dangerous. Honestly, think about how long it has taken us to develop our election laws or regulations or rules and to get it, even changing the game between now and November, makes me a little uneasy,” Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt told ABC News.

Hitt said that with Judge Conley’s order to extend the absentee voting period, the date of the election is effectively changed to April 13, despite the fact that voters still have the option of voting in-person on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t seem like now is the time to reinvent a new process or a new election strategy, and the result of his decision is you’re going to start to see results trickle in, but people are still voting,” Hitt said.

As Democrats and Republicans in the state spar over the best path forward for voters, one Milwaukee election official told ABC News that the hyper-partisanship in the state is dictating “decision-making.”

“This is a politically polarized state,” said Neil Albrecht is the executive director for the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. “And I think it is a state government that has put party politics at the forefront of any practical decision-making. And because of that, I’m not optimistic that the type, the type of action that is so critical to the public health and safety of this state’s residents is actually going to happen.”

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled on Friday afternoon that results must be posted after the deadline for ballots to be returned on April 13.

“Ultimately, he said he wasn’t going to change the date and ultimately what he did is change the date, and we don’t think he has the authority to do that,” Hitt said.

Hitt told ABC News that asking voters to go to the poll on Tuesday isn’t demanding too much — but people should use their best judgement.

“We’ve found a way to do many essential things throughout the country. We can grocery shop, you can go get alcohol,” Hitt said. “People need to be careful, you know they’ve had a lot of time here to pull an absentee ballot. There’s a common sense element to this.”

The RNC and the Wisconsin Republican Party have said in their appeals against the judge’s decision that imposing a vote-by-mail system ahead of November will result in “significant problems” in administering the election.

“Imposing a new system onto states unnecessarily will result in significant problems in the November election, and it is critical we work to preserve the integrity of the democratic process,” Merritt told ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden and Trump campaigns haven’t called on Wisconsin to postpone primaries amid pandemic

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

3dfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Wisconsin’s primary elections are moving forward as scheduled on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And despite conflicting guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about limited larges gatherings, both campaigns for former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump say they won’t call on the state to postpone their respective contests.

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled on Thursday that in-person voting would not be canceled or postponed, but voters in Wisconsin now have an additional day to request an absentee ballot, until Saturday at 5 p.m.

Voters will now have an additional six days to get their absentee ballots to election officials.

However, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican-led state legislature have not made major changes to the state’s election date, unlike other states who have postponed their elections. But on Friday, in a last-minute effort to protect Wisconsin voters from COVID-19, Evers issued an executive order to call the Republican-controlled state legislature into special session.

Evers is urging state lawmakers to move to an all-mail election, do away with in-person voting on April 7, send every voter an absentee ballot, and extend the deadline to return absentee ballots to late May, essentially delaying the primary.

Biden, the Democratic front-runner, sparked controversy after saying he believed the primary could be held next Tuesday amid the pandemic, while adding it’s ultimately up to local officials.

“Well, the answer is I’d listen to the scientists. Having a convention, having tens of thousands of people in one arena is very different than having people walk into a polling booth with accurate spacing, 6 to 10 feet apart, one at a time going in and having machines scrubbed down,” Biden said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.

“I think you can hold the election as well dealing with mail-in ballots and same day registration. I mean there’s a lot of things that can be done. That’s for the Wisconsin courts and folks to decide, but I think it’s possible to do both…And I think it could be done based on what I’ve been hearing from the news and what I understand the governor and others are saying. But that’s for them to decide,” Biden added.

ABC News has reached out to the Biden campaign to clarify if the former vice president has changed his position after Evers’ announcement Friday.

Some progressive voices have criticized Biden’s stance on the Wisconsin primary, including supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has called on Wisconsin to postpone the primary election amid the coronavirus. Ryan Grim of The Intercept called it “despicable” and “irresponsible” for the former vice president not to call on the state to delay the contest amid the pandemic, a tweet that Sanders’ national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray retweeted.

President’s re-election campaign also offered a severe response, claiming the former vice president wanted voters to “risk their lives because he’s so desperate to be the nominee.”

“@JoeBiden , the man who claims he has all the answers to the virus crisis, wants the people of Wisconsin to risk their lives because he’s so desperate to be the nominee. SAD!” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wrote in a tweet on Thursday.

However, the Trump campaign itself has not called on Wisconsin to postpone or alter their Republican primary amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite criticizing Biden.

“It’s a state call whether to delay the primary or not,” a Trump campaign senior official told ABC News. “We hope they make the best decision for the safety of voters. They know better what’s happening on the ground.”

On Friday, President Trump also endorsed a candidate on Twitter who’s on the ballot Tuesday in Wisconsin running for a Supreme Court seat.

“Highly respected Justice Daniel Kelly is running for the Supreme Court in the Great State of Wisconsin. Justice Kelly has been doing a terrific job upholding the Rule of Law and defending your #2A. Tough on Crime, Loves our Military and our Vets. He has my Complete Endorsement!”

The Republican National Committee argued that by extending the absentee voting period, Democrats will have more of an advantage and that the changes were made to “fit their far-left agenda,” according to press secretary Mandi Merritt.

“It is unprecedented to allow votes to be cast after Election Day has already occurred, and we are appealing the judge’s decision in order to uphold the integrity of our elections,” Merritt said in a statement.

The RNC and the Wisconsin Republican Party have argued that asking a judge to change election laws days before voters are set to head to the polls is “dangerous.”

“Asking a federal judge to change completely how we do election laws in Wisconsin in a matter of two or three days was dangerous. Honestly, think about how long it has taken us to develop our election laws or regulations or rules and to get it, even changing the game between now and November, makes me a little uneasy,” Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt told ABC News.

Hitt said that with Judge Conley’s order to extend the absentee voting period, the date of the election is effectively changed to April 13, despite the fact that voters still have the option of voting in-person on Tuesday.

“It doesn’t seem like now is the time to reinvent a new process or a new election strategy, and the result of his decision is you’re going to start to see results trickle in, but people are still voting,” Hitt said.

As Democrats and Republicans in the state spar over the best path forward for voters, one Milwaukee election official told ABC News that the hyper-partisanship in the state is dictating “decision-making.”

“This is a politically polarized state,” said Neil Albrecht is the executive director for the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. “And I think it is a state government that has put party politics at the forefront of any practical decision-making. And because of that, I’m not optimistic that the type, the type of action that is so critical to the public health and safety of this state’s residents is actually going to happen.”

U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled on Friday afternoon that results must be posted after the deadline for ballots to be returned on April 13.

“Ultimately, he said he wasn’t going to change the date and ultimately what he did is change the date, and we don’t think he has the authority to do that,” Hitt said.

Hitt told ABC News that asking voters to go to the poll on Tuesday isn’t demanding too much — but people should use their best judgement.

“We’ve found a way to do many essential things throughout the country. We can grocery shop, you can go get alcohol,” Hitt said. “People need to be careful, you know they’ve had a lot of time here to pull an absentee ballot. There’s a common sense element to this.”

The RNC and the Wisconsin Republican Party have said in their appeals against the judge’s decision that imposing a vote-by-mail system ahead of November will result in “significant problems” in administering the election.

“Imposing a new system onto states unnecessarily will result in significant problems in the November election, and it is critical we work to preserve the integrity of the democratic process,” Merritt told ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Justice Ginsburg continues ‘essential’ Supreme Court workouts during COVID-19 threat

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t letting COVID-19 disrupt her world famous workouts.

The 87-year-old justice is still doing her planks and leg lifts inside the US Supreme Court at a “limited private space” set up for exercise at her request, spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed to ABC News.

The Court’s regular fitness facility for the justices and staff has been closed to conform with social-distancing guidelines imposed by public health officials.

“Her doctors share her view that the training sessions are essential to her well-being,” Arberg said in a statement explaining the arrangement. “The space is being used exclusively by the Justice.”

Late last year, Ginsburg, the high court’s oldest member and celebrated feminist icon, was briefly hospitalized for a “stomach bug,” just weeks after undergoing treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.

In a January interview with CNN, Ginsburg said, “I’m cancer-free. That’s good.”

Throughout her health battles, Ginsburg has credited a regular fitness regimen with maintaining her strength and resilience.

Ginsburg’s longtime personal trainer Bryant Johnson told legal blog Law360 this week that he was still working with the justice under additional safety conditions — wiping down the equipment, washing their hands and staying at least 6-feet apart. He also told the blog that he had discontinued training sessions with other clients.

“Everybody’s been shut down. The only reason why I didn’t shut the justice down is because, hey, she ain’t having it,” Johnson told Law360. “She has that grandfather status to me and if she wants to train, that’s the least that I can do.”

It’s unclear whether Johnson is continuing to train with Ginsburg in-person after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented a stay-at-home order on April 1st, shutting down all non-essential business in the city.

The Supreme Court closed its doors to the public last month and took the extraordinary step of postponing oral arguments for more than a dozen cases — the most significant disruption to the court’s business in more than 100 years.

Arberg said all of the justices remain healthy and working remotely on court business. The justices on Friday convened their regular weekly conference by phone and plan to release more opinions in pending cases on Monday.

Six Supreme Court justices are 65 or older and many have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Justice Ginsburg continues ‘essential’ Supreme Court workouts during COVID-19 threat

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t letting COVID-19 disrupt her world famous workouts.

The 87-year-old justice is still doing her planks and leg lifts inside the US Supreme Court at a “limited private space” set up for exercise at her request, spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed to ABC News.

The Court’s regular fitness facility for the justices and staff has been closed to conform with social-distancing guidelines imposed by public health officials.

“Her doctors share her view that the training sessions are essential to her well-being,” Arberg said in a statement explaining the arrangement. “The space is being used exclusively by the Justice.”

Late last year, Ginsburg, the high court’s oldest member and celebrated feminist icon, was briefly hospitalized for a “stomach bug,” just weeks after undergoing treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.

In a January interview with CNN, Ginsburg said, “I’m cancer-free. That’s good.”

Throughout her health battles, Ginsburg has credited a regular fitness regimen with maintaining her strength and resilience.

Ginsburg’s longtime personal trainer Bryant Johnson told legal blog Law360 this week that he was still working with the justice under additional safety conditions — wiping down the equipment, washing their hands and staying at least 6-feet apart. He also told the blog that he had discontinued training sessions with other clients.

“Everybody’s been shut down. The only reason why I didn’t shut the justice down is because, hey, she ain’t having it,” Johnson told Law360. “She has that grandfather status to me and if she wants to train, that’s the least that I can do.”

It’s unclear whether Johnson is continuing to train with Ginsburg in-person after DC Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented a stay-at-home order on April 1st, shutting down all non-essential business in the city.

The Supreme Court closed its doors to the public last month and took the extraordinary step of postponing oral arguments for more than a dozen cases — the most significant disruption to the court’s business in more than 100 years.

Arberg said all of the justices remain healthy and working remotely on court business. The justices on Friday convened their regular weekly conference by phone and plan to release more opinions in pending cases on Monday.

Six Supreme Court justices are 65 or older and many have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus government response updates: Trump says CDC now advising Americans wear non-medical masks

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — As the coronavirus task force weighs additional measures to take amid the pandemic, President Donald Trump continues to resist a nationwide stay-at-home directive, despite his top health official stressing more strongly than ever that strict social distancing is key to saving American lives.

While Capitol Hill lawmakers are officially on recess, Democrats are pushing another round of relief amid a volatile stock market and nearly 10 million jobless claims in the past two weeks, but the Senate’s Republican leader is raising concerns over the cost.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Trump: CDC now advising Americans wear non-medical masks

President Trump began the daily White House briefing on the crisis by announcing new government guidance that Americans should wear masks.

“The CDC is announcing the use of non-medical cloth face coverings as an additional voluntary public health measure,” President Trump said, of the reversal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is voluntary. You do not have to do it,” he said.

The president added that he did not think he would wear a mask.

Trump also announced that hospitals and healthcare providers treating uninsured patients with coronavirus will be reimbursed by the federal government through the $2 trillion relief measure passed by Congress last week.

“Today I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using funds from the economic relief package Congress passed last month,” he said.

“Stay at home. This is ending. This will end. You will see some bad things, and then you will see some really good things. And it’s not going to be too long,” Trump said, in an apparent effort to reassure the public. “We’re getting better. We’re getting better very quickly,” Trump said.

“This was artificially induced,” the president added before tossing to the vice president, without offering an explanation of what exactly he meant.

Asked why he wouldn’t be following the CDC’s recommendation for voluntary non-medical mask use, he replied he’s “feeling good” and suggested he doesn’t think of it as presidential.

“I just don’t want to be doing — somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful, Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask — as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, it somehow, I don’t see it for myself,” Trump said.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the CDC had reversed its guidance because of new evidence of transmission by asymptotic patients.

“In light of the new evidence, CDC recommends and the Task Force recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” Adams said. “These include places like grocery stores and pharmacies.”

“Please, please leave the N95, the medical supplies, for the medical professionals, health care workers, and frontline workers,” Adams said. “Know that this is not a substitute for social distancing. And please remember this is all about me protecting you, and you protecting me.”

New White House procedure: Anyone who comes close to Trump must get rapid COVID-19 test

The White House has confirmed a new procedure is now in place requiring anyone who comes into close proximity with the president, such as in meetings, to get a rapid COVID-19 test.

“As the Physician to the President and White House Operations continue to protect the health and safety of the President and Vice President, starting today anyone who is expected to be in close proximity to either of them will be administered a COVID-19 test to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission,” Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

The White House is declining to elaborate on why this policy is being implemented now, other than to say that decisions are being made in consultation with the White House physician.

This development comes just a day after the president said he received his second negative test results.

The tests will not apply to members of the press at this time.

— ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Jordyn Phelps, Katherine Faulders and Jon Santucci


Kudlow says he won’t ‘sugarcoat’ it, U.S. economy is ‘going to get worse’

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, warned of the dire economic situation the country faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s going to get worse in the weeks ahead, there’s no question about it,” he told reporters Friday. “We have not seen the worst of it, I don’t want to sugarcoat it.”

Kudlow declined to offer a numerical figure for how bad he forecasts unemployment numbers to get, but when asked on FOX News whether the country is looking at double-digit unemployment figures, he didn’t mince words.

“The numbers are going to come in very badly, they’re going to look terrible in the weeks ahead. How much longer, I don’t really want to forecast. That’s up to the health people. But there’s no question that it will be bad,” Kudlow said.

His comments came after a Friday report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from 3.5%.

It marks a sharp reversal from the administration’s tone just a few weeks ago, when Kudlow himself said there was no need for “massive, federal throw money at people plans” and the administration was looking at “micro” economic stimulus actions.

Kudlow said the administration’s focus remains on implementing the current stimulus and not in writing a future plan, but he added, “if we need to do more, we will do more.”

— ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus government response updates: Trump says CDC now advising Americans wear non-medical masks

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — As the coronavirus task force weighs additional measures to take amid the pandemic, President Donald Trump continues to resist a nationwide stay-at-home directive, despite his top health official stressing more strongly than ever that strict social distancing is key to saving American lives.

While Capitol Hill lawmakers are officially on recess, Democrats are pushing another round of relief amid a volatile stock market and nearly 10 million jobless claims in the past two weeks, but the Senate’s Republican leader is raising concerns over the cost.

Here are the latest developments in the government response:

Trump: CDC now advising Americans wear non-medical masks

President Trump began the daily White House briefing on the crisis by announcing new government guidance that Americans should wear masks.

“The CDC is announcing the use of non-medical cloth face coverings as an additional voluntary public health measure,” President Trump said, of the reversal by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is voluntary. You do not have to do it,” he said.

The president added that he did not think he would wear a mask.

Trump also announced that hospitals and healthcare providers treating uninsured patients with coronavirus will be reimbursed by the federal government through the $2 trillion relief measure passed by Congress last week.

“Today I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using funds from the economic relief package Congress passed last month,” he said.

“Stay at home. This is ending. This will end. You will see some bad things, and then you will see some really good things. And it’s not going to be too long,” Trump said, in an apparent effort to reassure the public. “We’re getting better. We’re getting better very quickly,” Trump said.

“This was artificially induced,” the president added before tossing to the vice president, without offering an explanation of what exactly he meant.

Asked why he wouldn’t be following the CDC’s recommendation for voluntary non-medical mask use, he replied he’s “feeling good” and suggested he doesn’t think of it as presidential.

“I just don’t want to be doing — somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful, Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask — as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, it somehow, I don’t see it for myself,” Trump said.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the CDC had reversed its guidance because of new evidence of transmission by asymptotic patients.

“In light of the new evidence, CDC recommends and the Task Force recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” Adams said. “These include places like grocery stores and pharmacies.”

“Please, please leave the N95, the medical supplies, for the medical professionals, health care workers, and frontline workers,” Adams said. “Know that this is not a substitute for social distancing. And please remember this is all about me protecting you, and you protecting me.”

New White House procedure: Anyone who comes close to Trump must get rapid COVID-19 test

The White House has confirmed a new procedure is now in place requiring anyone who comes into close proximity with the president, such as in meetings, to get a rapid COVID-19 test.

“As the Physician to the President and White House Operations continue to protect the health and safety of the President and Vice President, starting today anyone who is expected to be in close proximity to either of them will be administered a COVID-19 test to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission,” Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

The White House is declining to elaborate on why this policy is being implemented now, other than to say that decisions are being made in consultation with the White House physician.

This development comes just a day after the president said he received his second negative test results.

The tests will not apply to members of the press at this time.

— ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Jordyn Phelps, Katherine Faulders and Jon Santucci


Kudlow says he won’t ‘sugarcoat’ it, U.S. economy is ‘going to get worse’

Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, warned of the dire economic situation the country faces amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s going to get worse in the weeks ahead, there’s no question about it,” he told reporters Friday. “We have not seen the worst of it, I don’t want to sugarcoat it.”

Kudlow declined to offer a numerical figure for how bad he forecasts unemployment numbers to get, but when asked on FOX News whether the country is looking at double-digit unemployment figures, he didn’t mince words.

“The numbers are going to come in very badly, they’re going to look terrible in the weeks ahead. How much longer, I don’t really want to forecast. That’s up to the health people. But there’s no question that it will be bad,” Kudlow said.

His comments came after a Friday report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from 3.5%.

It marks a sharp reversal from the administration’s tone just a few weeks ago, when Kudlow himself said there was no need for “massive, federal throw money at people plans” and the administration was looking at “micro” economic stimulus actions.

Kudlow said the administration’s focus remains on implementing the current stimulus and not in writing a future plan, but he added, “if we need to do more, we will do more.”

— ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

California governor says state will ‘rely disproportionately on ourselves’ amid outbreak

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

California Governor Gavin Newsom joins “The View,” April 3, 2020. – (ABC)(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — When it comes to handling the coronavirus crisis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom anticipates his state will need to “rely disproportionately” on themselves instead of the federal government.

California, which is the most populous state in the U.S., was one of the first to declare a state of emergency amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of April, there are at least 9,191 diagnosed COVID-19 cases and 203 related deaths in California.

When “The View” co-hosts questioned Newsom on Friday about whether he thinks governors will eventually have to bypass the administration and work together to exchange supplies to fight the coronavirus outbreak as needed, he said, “governors are already doing that and in a very collaborative way.”

“We are working collaboratively with procurement agents in different states to see if we can go together to avoid not just the inability or ability to get more protective gear, but deal with price gouging and leverage our resources in a resourceful mindset,” Newsom said.

“Here’s the stubborn fact,” Newsom continued. “I have handed out … specifically 35.9 million N-95 masks. We’ve received from the national stockpile so far 1,089,000.”

“So when you ask, ‘are we going to rely on the federal government or are gonna rely on ourselves,’ we’re going to rely disproportionately on ourselves,” he said.

Despite being involved in more than 68 lawsuits with the Trump administration, Newsom says the relationship between California and the administration “has been strong” because they were able to build a relationship early on in the fight against the novel virus.

A U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, a 1,000-bed hospital ship, was originally expected to go to the Seattle region, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that the Mercy be docked in Los Angeles instead.

At a White House press conference last week, the president confirmed the Mercy would be located off the coast of Los Angeles. In a Pentagon briefing on Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was the Federal Emergency Management Agency that determined the Mercy’s destination, despite his initial “hunch” that the ship would go to Seattle.

“From my perspective, the relationship has been strong and I’m not doing it to kiss the ring,” Newsom said on “The View” Friday. “I’m just being forthright with the president.

“[Trump] returns calls, he reaches out, he’s been proactive. We got that Mercy ship down here in Los Angeles, that was directly because he sent it down here,” he continued. “I’ll let you know in a few weeks if that relationship continues.”

Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker told CNN in March that states were “competing” against each other” for dwindling medical supplies, comparing it to the “wild west.” Newsom, who said he’s worked with Pritzker and other governors, agreed with his comparison.

“At the end of the day, we’re all trying to source from similar places from all around the globe to get more ventilators,” Newsom said. “We can finger point, we can lament, or we can start to address this moment head on and take some account.

Newsom went on to say that he’s “trying to work with other governors in a more collaborative spirit” so they’re “not competing against each other” for medical supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

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Coronavirus economic updates: US cuts 701K jobs in March, unemployment rate at 4.4%

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

The new jobs report show the first impacts of the outbreak on the labor market.

Pentagon asked to provide 85 refrigerated trucks, 100K body bags for coronavirus response

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Ivan Cholakov/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Defense Department has been tasked with providing 85 refrigerated trucks and 100,000 body bags to assist state health agencies with mortuary affairs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The requests, made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), come as the White House revealed this week that as many as 240,000 Americans could die from the virus.

The 85 refrigerated trucks have been ordered to New York City where they will hold the deceased as morgue space in the city is almost full, according to a FEMA memo reviewed by ABC News. The trucks are due in the city in mid-April.

FEMA’s request for body bags, formally called Human Remains Pouches, was confirmed by the Pentagon on Thursday.

“The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities from DLA’s industrial partners during crisis response operations,” said Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Pentagon spokesperson, in a statement. “DLA is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies.”

But it’s not just equipment that DOD is providing to assist with mortuary affairs, it’s personnel, too.

Earlier this week, FEMA requested that a DOD mortuary affairs support team deploy to New York state, according to Vice Director of Operations for the Joint Staff Maj. Gen. Jeff Taliaferro. That team arrived in New York on Wednesday, and a second mortuary affairs support team is expected to be deploy elsewhere in the United States, a U.S. official told ABC News.

As of Friday, more than 6,000 Americans had passed away from the coronavirus.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters during a briefing this week that academic modeling shows 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from the virus even with social distancing measures in place. Birx emphasized that without mitigation efforts between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people in the U.S. would die.

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