The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 1:00 am

Coronavirus roundup

Policy extended to oust migrants

News services

WASHINGTON – A Trump administration policy of quickly expelling most migrants stopped along the border because of the COVID-19 pandemic was indefinitely extended Tuesday, with a top health official arguing what had been a short-term order was still needed to protect the country from the virus.

The order issued by Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, authorizes Customs and Border Protection to immediately remove migrants, including people seeking asylum, as a way to prevent the potential spread of the virus while in custody.

Administration officials have defended the policy amid criticism from human rights advocates who say the U.S. is using health as a pretext to deny people the right to seek asylum and to enact immigration policies aimed at appealing to supporters of the president in an election year.

Aid flown from UAE to Israel

An unmarked Etihad Airways cargo plane flew aid to help the Palestinians fight the coronavirus pandemic from the capital of the United Arab Emirates into Israel on Tuesday, marking the first known direct commercial flight between the two nations.

The UAE, home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on the Arabian Peninsula, has no diplomatic ties to Israel over its occupation of land wanted by the Palestinians for a future state, like all Arab nations except Egypt and Jordan.

Yet the flight marked a moment of cooperation between Israel and the UAE after years of rumored back-channel discussions over the mutual enmity of Iran and other issues.

Barbers offer cuts on Capitol lawn

Barbers planned today to offer free haircuts on the Michigan Capitol lawn to protest the state's stay-at-home orders, a defiant demonstration that reflects how salons have become a symbol for small businesses eager to reopen two months after the pandemic began.

Third-generation hairdresser Scott Weaver, who owns five salons across Michigan, said his “forgotten industry” is getting much-needed attention after being initially dismissed as “just hair.”

Barbershops, salons and spas stand at the forefront of small businesses that want to open again despite the risks of their services, which require employees to be in close contact with customers – similar to medical or dental care.

Homeless occupy half of LA hotels

Only about half of the 15,000 hotel and motel rooms that California has leased for mostly homeless people to slow the spread of the coronavirus are now occupied, a review of state records by the Los Angeles Times shows.

More than a month into Gov. Gavin Newsom's program to get homeless people off the streets, the occupied rooms account for – at most – less than 5% of the 151,000 people who sleep on street corners, under bridges and in emergency shelters across California. As of Monday, 7,919 hotel rooms had guests and another 7,700 were vacant, according to figures released by Newsom's office.

The actual number of leased rooms in the statewide program known as Project Roomkey could be even lower since Newsom's goal also included rooms reserved for people, homeless or not, who needed to quarantine or isolate themselves because of the coronavirus.

Hong Kong chief defends limits

Hong Kong's leader signaled that the city would extend social-distancing measures, despite objections from pro-democracy groups that a ban on large gatherings was being used to suppress protests.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said before a regular meeting of her Executive Council advisory panel Tuesday that Hong Kong needed to “remain vigilant” after new coronavirus infections broke a 23-day streak without local cases. She denied that a desire to prevent gatherings, such as an annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square activists, weighed on the decision.

“There's no political consideration at all on certain anniversaries or political gatherings and so on,” Lam told reporters. “Our only consideration is public safety and public health concerns.”

9,300 new cases seen in Russia

New hot spots emerged Tuesday in Russia, and the country recorded nearly 9,300 new infections in 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, but some say the number is surely higher than that.

President Vladimir Putin's approval rating has sunk to 59%, the lowest in the two decades he has been in power, Russia's independent pollster Levada Center reported. The plunge reflects growing mistrust and uncertainty among the public, Levada said.

Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia's low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening.

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