U.S. report indicates broad risk of COVID-19 at wildfire camps for crews
BOISE, Idaho — Outbreaks of the coronavirus could sweep through large camps where crews typically stay as they fight wildfires across the U.S., according to a federal document obtained by The Associated Press, and the problem is likely to get worse the longer the fire season lasts.
The U.S. Forest Service’s draft risk assessment suggests that even in a best-case scenario — with social distancing followed and plenty of tests and protective equipment available — nearly two dozen firefighters could be infected with COVID-19 at a camp with hundreds of people who come in to combat a fire that burns for months.
The worst-case scenario? More than 1,000 infections.
“The Forest Service is diligently working with partners to assess the risk that COVID-19 presents for the 2020 fire season,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to understand that the figures in this report are not predictions, but rather, model possible scenarios.”
The Forest Service said the document was outdated and being redone, and the newest version wasn’t yet ready to share.
Another assault over mask rule, this time in Indiana
Police in Mishawaka, Indiana, are looking for a man who beat a 7-Eleven employee after being refused service for not wearing a mask.
Police said in a statement that the aggravated assault happened around 9 a.m. Wednesday when a customer with a cup of coffee was refused service because he wasn’t wearing a mask, NBC affiliate WNDU of South Bend reported.
The suspect threw the coffee on the worker and left. He returned, was asked to leave and then punched the worker and knocked her to the ground. He punched and kicked her, police said.
It was one of at least two incidents across the country this week in which people were accused of assaulting others over mask rules.
The Los Angeles Police Department on Monday announced the arrest of two men in a fight that started when one suddenly punched a store employee as the pair was being escorted out for not wearing masks. One worker suffered a broken arm in the incident, which occurred May 1 in Van Nuys, police said.
Health authorities say that masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, and they are recommended by the CDC in confined areas like stores, in part because people may have the virus and not know it but they can still spread it to others.
‘Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’ personality accused of coronavirus relief fraud
A Georgia man who has appeared in the reality TV series “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” is accused of securing a loan designed to help businesses keep employees during the coronavirus crisis and spending the money on himself.
Maurice Fayne, also known as “Arkansas Mo” allegedly received more than $2 million from a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program and used more than $1.5 million to buy jewelry, lease a Rolls Royce and to pay child support, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
He is facing federal bank fraud charges.
New Zealand barber snips away at midnight as nation reopens
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The raggedy hairstyles and scruffy beards have been there for all to see on video calls, so barber Conrad Fitz-Gerald decided to reopen his shop at midnight Wednesday — the moment New Zealand dropped most of its lockdown restrictions as the nation prepared itself for a new normal.
Malls, retail stores and restaurants are all reopening Thursday in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, and many people are returning to their workplaces. But most gatherings will be limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines will remain in place.
The reopening reflects the success New Zealand has experienced in its bold goal of eliminating the virus. The country reported no new cases of the virus for a third straight day on Thursday. More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 have recovered, while 21 have died.
Fitz-Gerald said he’d had about 50 inquiries for midnight haircuts, but limited the initial customers to a dozen, starting with his 18-year-old son. He planned to then go home and return at 6 a.m. for another round of cuts.
“People are saying their hair is out-of-control, they can’t handle it anymore,” he said.
Nearly 2,000 medical students graduate early to join fight
Whistleblower to warn of ‘darkest winter’ if virus rebounds
WASHINGTON — America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.
Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about early administration handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures, respirator masks.
A federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” that Bright was removed from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after sounding the alarm at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bright alleged he became a target of criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.
“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in his prepared testimony posted on the House committee website. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”
U.N. expects pandemic to shrink world economy by 3.2% this year
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is forecasting that the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2% this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
The U.N.’s mid-year report released Wednesday said COVID-19 is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the past four years.
In January, the U.N. forecast a modest growth of 2.5 percent in 2020.
The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report said the pandemic is also “exacerbating poverty and inequality,” with an estimated 34.3 million people likely to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020 — 56 percent of them in Africa.
It said an additional 130 million people may join the ranks of people living in extreme poverty by 2030, dealing a “huge blow” to global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the end of the decade.
Rare child illness linked to coronavirus detected in states not considered hot spots
Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down state’s ‘stay-at-home’ order
The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid and unenforceable” after finding the state’s health commissioner exceeded her authority.
In a 4-3 ruling, the court called State Department of Health head Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.”
The order directed all individuals present within the state of Wisconsin to stay at home or at their place of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which was set to run until May 26, also put in place travel restrictions and business restrictions, along with threats of jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.