Protesters converge on White House for second straight day – The Denver Post

By ASHRAF KHALIL, KEVIN FREKING and MICHAEL BALSAMO

WASHINGTON — Police fired pepper spray at demonstrators near the White House and the D.C. National Guard was called in as pockets of violence erupted during a second straight night of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and President Donald Trump’s response to it.

Hundreds of people converged on the White House and marched along the National Mall, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace.”

Protesters dragged away barricades and some broke up concrete to use as projectiles. At one point, a trash bin was set on fire.

The D.C. demonstration was one of several around the country protesting Floyd’s death.

Trump appeared to cheer on the tougher tactics being used by law enforcement to disperse protesters Saturday night. He commended National Guard troops deployed in Minneapolis, declaring “No games!” and he also said police in New York City “must be allowed to do their job!”

“Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest,” Trump said on Twitter after returning to the White House from Florida, where he watched the launch of a SpaceX rocket. He did not talk to reporters upon his return and it was not clear if he could hear the protest over the sound of his helicopter. But for at least part of the flight, televisions on Air Force One were turned to Fox News and its coverage of the protests.

Earlier in the day, he had belittled the protesters and claimed that many Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen” if protesters crossed the White House’s security fence.

He pledged later to “stop mob violence.”

“I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack and menace,” the president said after watching the launch of a SpaceX rocket. “Healing, not hatred, justice, not chaos, are the missions at hand.”

There were multiple incidents of protesters pushing against barricades and being repelled with pepper spray.

Police were in tactical gear. The D.C. National Guard was activated at the direction of the secretary of the Army after a request from the Park Police to help maintain order near the White House, Commanding Gen. William J. Walker said in a post on the Guard’s Facebook page.

“We’re sick of it. The cops are out of control,” protester Olga Hall said. “They’re wild. There’s just been too many dead boys,” she said.

During one confrontation, protesters took down a barrier and one person threw an electric scooter at the police.

An activist wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt put himself between police and the protesters and yelled, “Stop. This is what they want.”

Speaking over a megaphone earlier in the evening, Cameron McCall said, “We don’t need violence. All we need are our voices.”

While some protesters stayed near the White House, others marched through the streets chanting, “No justice and no peace.” and “Say his name: George Floyd.” The mood was angry and several speakers implored marchers to remain peaceful.

At multiple stops along the march, protesters verbally abused lines of uniformed police officers with riot shields.

The march paused between the the Washington Monument and the African-American Museum and demonstrators sat down in the street for a nine-minute moment of silence for the nine minutes that the Minneapolis police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck. .

At the Lincoln Memorial, one organizer spoke over a megaphone “Look to the left and to the right and thank that person. We can’t hug anybody because of COVID but I love you anyway.” Many of the protesters wore masks, but did not socially distance themselves.

Another group circled through the Capitol Hill neighborhood for at least an hour in cars, honking. A helicopter hovered overhead.

During an earlier skirmish, protesters threw bottles and eggs at Secret Service officers on the edge of Lafayette Square and pepper spray was used to disperse them, according to a reporter for radio station WTOP.

“After a long stalemate the Secret Service, in full tactical gear, pushed forward and cleared the intersection, and there was a cloud of pepper spray and people ran backwards as fast as they could. It was almost a mad stampede,” said WTOP digital editor Alejandro Alvarez.

In a series of tweets earlier Saturday, Trump doubted their allegiance to Floyd’s memory, saying they were “professionally managed.” He offered no evidence to back his assertion, and the president even seemed to invite supporters to make their presence felt: “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”

Trump later rejected the suggestion that he was stoking a potential conflict between protesters and his supporters. “I was just asking. But I have no idea if they are going to be here,” he said. “MAGA is Make America Great Again. By the way, they love African American people. They love black people.”

At Saturday’s demonstration, there was no evidence of a counter-move by Trump supporters.

Trump said he had “watched every move” from inside the executive mansion during Friday’s protest and “couldn’t have felt more safe” as the Secret Service let the protesters carry on, “but whenever someone … got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on then, hard — didn’t know what hit them.”

The president also criticized the mayors of Washington and Minneapolis.

Trump said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey “is probably a very good person, but he’s a radical, left mayor.” He then described how he watched as a police station in the city was overrun. “For that police station to be abandoned and taken over, I’ve never seen anything so horrible and stupid in my life,” Trump said when speaking briefly to reporters at the White House.

He said Minnesota officials have to get tougher with rioters, and that by doing so they would be honoring the memory of Floyd.

The Secret Service said in a statement Saturday that six protesters were arrested in Washington and “multiple” officers were injured. There were no details on the charges or nature of the injuries. A spokesman for U.S. Park Police said their officers made no arrests, but several suffered minor injuries and one was taken to a hospital after being struck in the helmet by a projectile.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on Saturday called the protesters “criminals” who committed “acts of violence while hiding behind their First Amendment right of lawful protest.”

Wolf said the Secret Service was “evolving and adapting to the changing nature of the threats they face.”

Floyd is the black man who was being held in handcuffs when he died Monday in Minneapolis after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air. Protests have erupted in U.S. cities in the days since.

As he tweeted, Trump claimed that many Secret Service agents were “just waiting for action” and ready to unleash “the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.” His reference to “vicious dogs” potentially being sicced on protesters revisits images from the civil rights movement when marchers faced snarling police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses.

In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Muriel Bowser, mayor of the nation’s capital, called Trump’s remark’s “gross” and said the reference to attack dogs conjures up with the worst memories of the nation’s fight against segregation.

“I call upon our city and our nation to exercise restraint, great restraint, even as the president tries to divide us,” she said. “I feel like these comments are an attack on humanity, an attack on black America, and they make my city less safe.”

In contrast with the president’s tweets, the Secret Service said it “respects the right to assemble and we ask that individuals do so peacefully for the safety of all.”

In protests that stretched into the early hours Saturday, people hurled pieces of bricks, bottles and other objects at Secret Service and Park Police officers who were in riot gear behind barricades around the White House. Protesters at times kicked and punched officers and wrestled over the barricades.

As some in the crowd grew more aggressive, police deployed pepper spray to keep them back and maintain a perimeter of officers around the White House.

The protest went on for hours before police declared the gathering “unlawful” and ordered everyone to leave Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park located directly north of the White House. Dozens of officers pushed forward with their shields and fired off streams of pepper spray at protesters.

“Out of the park or you will be sprayed,” an officer shouted at the crowd.

___

AP video journalist Nathan Ellgren contributed to this report.

Source: Read Full Article

Minneapolis cop who knelt on handcuffed black man arrested – The Denver Post

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis officer who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in custody after pleading that he could not breathe, was arrested Friday.

Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said state investigators arrested Derek Chauvin.

The arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct that had been abandoned by officers.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. THE PREVIOUS VERSION OF THE STORY IS BELOW.

With smoke drifting over Minneapolis, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday acknowledged the “abject failure” of the response to this week’s violent protests and called for swift justice for police involved in the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white officer knelt on his neck.

Walz said the state would take over the response and that it’s time to show respect and dignity to those who are suffering.

“Minneapolis and St. Paul are on fire. The fire is still smoldering in our streets. The ashes are symbolic of decades and generations of pain, of anguish unheard,” Walz said, adding. “Now generations of pain is manifesting itself in front of the world — and the world is watching.”

The governor cited a call he received from a state senator who described her district “on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do. That is an abject failure that cannot happen.”

His comments came the morning after protesters torched a police station that officers abandoned during a third night of violence. Livestream video showed protesters entering the building, where intentionally set fires activated smoke alarms and sprinklers. President Donald Trump threatened action, tweeting “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which prompted a warning from Twitter for “glorifying violence.”

The governor faced tough questions after National Guard leader Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen blamed a lack of clarity about the Guard’s mission for a slow response. Walz said the state was in a supporting role and that it was up to city leaders to run the situation. Walz said it became apparent as the 3rd Precinct was lost that the state had to step in, which happened at 12:05 a.m. Requests from the cities for resources “never came,” he said.

“You will not see that tonight, there will be no lack of leadership,” Walz said.

Dozens of fires were also set in nearby St. Paul, where nearly 200 businesses were damaged or looted. Protests spread across the U.S., fueled by outrage over Floyd’s death, and years of violence against African Americans at the hands of police. Demonstrators clashed with officers in New York and blocked traffic in Columbus, Ohio, and Denver.

Trump threatened to bring Minneapolis “under control,” calling the protesters “thugs” and tweeting that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet drew another warning from Twitter, which said the comment violated the platform’s rules, but the company did not remove it.

Trump also blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis.

A visibly tired and frustrated Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey made his first public appearance of the night early Friday at City Hall and took responsibility for evacuating the precinct, saying it had become too dangerous for officers. As Frey continued, a reporter cut across loudly with a question: “What’s the plan here?”

“With regard to?” Frey responded. Then he added: “There is a lot of pain and anger right now in our city. I understand that … What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights here in terms of looting is unacceptable.”

He defended the city’s lack of engagement with looters — only a handful of arrests across the first two nights of violence — and said, “We are doing absolutely everything that we can to keep the peace.” He said National Guard members were stationed in locations to help stem looting, including at banks, grocery stores and pharmacies.

The Minnesota State Patrol arrested a CNN television crew early Friday as the journalists reported on the unrest. While live on air, CNN reporter Omar Jimenez was handcuffed and led away. A producer and a photojournalist for CNN were also taken away in handcuffs.

The Minnesota State Patrol said the journalists were among four people arrested as troopers were “clearing the streets and restoring order,” and they were released after being confirmed to be media members. CNN said on Twitter that the arrests were “a clear violation of their First Amendment rights.”

Firefighters worked Friday to contain a number of blazes as National Guard troops blocked access to streets where businesses had been damaged. They marched side by side and block by block as they expanded a perimeter around a heavily damaged area.

Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd’s death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. In the footage, Floyd can be seen pleading as officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving.

Minutes after the precinct burned, the Guard tweeted that it had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area. By Friday morning, a couple dozen Guard members armed with assault-style rifles blocked a street near a Target store that has sustained heavy damage by looters.

The Guard said a “key objective” was to make sure firefighters could respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet that soldiers would assist the Minneapolis Fire Department. But no move was made to put out the 3rd Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not safely respond to blazes at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.

Elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice.

In New York City, protesters defied New York’s coronavirus prohibition on public gatherings Thursday, clashing with police, while demonstrators blocked traffic in downtown Denver and downtown Columbus. A day earlier, demonstrators had taken to the streets in Los Angeles and Memphis.

About 10 protesters went to a Florida home believed to belong to Chauvin. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Friday that Chauvin was not at the residence and has no plans to be in the area.

In Louisville, Kentucky, police confirmed that at least seven people had been shot Thursday night as protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was fatally shot by police in her home in March.

In Mississippi, the mayor of the community of Petal resisted calls to resign following his remarks about Floyd’s death. Hal Marx, a Republican, asked on Twitter: “Why in the world would anyone choose to become a police officer in our society today?” In a follow-up tweet, he said he “didn’t see anything unreasonable.”

The city on Thursday released a transcript of the 911 call that brought police to the grocery store where Floyd was arrested. The caller described someone paying with a counterfeit bill, with workers rushing outside to find the man sitting on a van. The caller described the man as “awfully drunk” and said he was “not in control of himself.”

Asked by the 911 operator whether the man was “under the influence of something,” the caller said: “Something like that, yes. He is not acting right.” Police said Floyd matched the caller’s description of the suspect.

State and federal authorities are investigating Floyd’s death.

Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the arrest.

___

Associated Press writers Steve Karnowski, Jeff Baenen and Doug Glass in Minneapolis, Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, and Aaron Morrison in New York contributed to this report.

Source: Read Full Article

As CHSAA lifts moratorium on in-person workouts June 1, districts are left to make own decisions for summer – The Denver Post

The Colorado High School Activities Association will lifts its moratorium on in-person training between coaches and high school students starting June 1.

CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green sent an email to schools Tuesday addressing the change, as it will soon be up to local school districts to make decisions on player-coach contact during the summer months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s likely those decisions will vary based on differing conditions and local health orders across the state.

Multiple districts in the Denver metro have prohibited player-coach contact until July 1, while Jeffco Public Schools’ prohibition remains in place until Aug. 1. Jeffco schools athletic director Jim Thyfault said that date could be moved to the start of July, however, if public health orders from local authorities change.

“Right now I think you have to remain fluid,” Thyfault said in a phone interview. “I heard one of our athletes say it best last week when he said ‘I don’t want the decision made today, because I’m not too sure I’d like the decision.’ I thought that was a great point. We all know where we’re at right now, and where we’re at right now makes it pretty difficult.”

Like other districts in the metro, Cherry Creek School District’s facilities are closed through the end of June. Thus, it won’t be able to allow player-coach contact until July 1 at the earliest. And even that date remains in question, with Cherry Creek athletic director Larry Bull saying his district intends to re-evaluate the situation in mid-June.

Current state social distancing guidelines call for no more than 10 people in a room, with all those in the room at least six feet apart. Although, some counties can be granted a variance.

While those standards may allow for limited player-coach contact, there is no doubt things will have to change for sports to fully return this August. As Thyfault said Friday, any return to high school sports will have to be accompanied by a return to the classroom.

“We’re just going to remain optimistic that this thing is going to continue to get better over the course of the next two and a half months and in the end we’ll be able to have sports,” he said. “Whether that’s middle of August startup or a middle-of-September startup, it could be that we have to adjust seasons a little bit to make it happen.”

Last week, CHSAA announced the creation of a task force to solicit ideas for how and when high school athletics can return to play for the 2020-21 school year. There is no established timetable for when the association will make those decisions.

All summer bylaws remain in place for CHSAA. After June 1, the association’s administrative oversight on player-coach contact will not resume until camps, clinics and fall sports practice dates are scheduled.

In the email sent out to schools earlier this week, Blanford-Green provided administrators with a list of suggested guidelines to follow during the summer. Among those recommendations were that all training sessions be voluntary, that districts establish safety plans approved by administrators at the district and school levels, and that those plans are shared with all participants.

“Decisions to return to coach/participant contact will need to be made with an abundance of caution and within the state guidelines,” the email read. “As much as the return to athletics and activities is invading our every thought and the external pressure from coaches and parents mounts with each passing day, we must continue to make our decisions based on the safety and well-being of all those under our care.”

Other recommendations listed in the CHSAA email:

  • Federal and state social distancing guidelines must be followed.
  • The number of participants per session should align with federal and state public gathering mandates.
  • Groups should be divided into “pods” and should include the same participants and coaches at each session.
  • All participants should be screened prior to each session with temperature checks and health surveys.
  • Signage should be posted in highly visible areas with questions pertaining to COVID-19.
  • No use of locker rooms and showers, with athletes and coaches dressed to participate upon arrival.
  • All equipment should be properly sanitized after every time it is used, with areas disinfected between staggered “pod” training sessions. And there should be no shared equipment, including balls, bats, clubs, rackets, sleds, helmets and masks.
  • Hand sanitizer should be provided during all sessions.
  • Participants should bring their own water bottles, with use of shared water sources prohibited.
  • Spectators and non-essential individuals should not be allowed to attend, and outside groups should not be invited.
  • Masks are recommended during all sessions.

Source: Read Full Article

Trump team ignored warnings on drug and coronavirus, whistleblower says

WASHINGTON — A government scientist was ousted after the Trump administration ignored his dire warnings about COVID-19 and a malaria drug President Donald Trump was pushing for the coronavirus despite scant evidence it helped, according to a whistleblower complaint Tuesday.

Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, filed the complaint Tuesday with the Office of Special Counsel, a government agency responsible for whistleblower complaints.

He alleges he was reassigned to a lesser role because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug favored by Trump. He said the Trump administration wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.

Bright’s complaint comes as the Trump administration faces criticism over its response to the pandemic, including testing and supplies of ventilators, masks and other equipment to try to stem the spread. To date, there have been nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases in the United States and more than 70,000 deaths.

Bright also said the Trump administration rejected his warnings on COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. He said he “acted with urgency” to address the growing spread of COVID-19 after the World Health Organization issued a warning in January.

But he said he “encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Health and Human Services Secretary (Alex) Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic event.”

Bright alleges in the complaint that political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services tried to promote hydroxychloroquine “as a panacea.” The officials also “demanded that New York and New Jersey be ‘flooded’ with these drugs, which were imported from factories in Pakistan and India that had not been inspected by the FDA,” the complaint says.

But Bright opposed broad use of the drug, arguing the scientific evidence wasn’t there to back up its use in coronavirus patients. He felt an urgent need to tell the public there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to support using the drugs for COVID-19 patients, the complaint states.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned doctors against prescribing the drug except in hospitals and research studies. In an alert, regulators flagged reports of sometimes fatal heart side effects among coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine or the related drug chloroquine.

The decades-old drugs, also prescribed for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause a number of side effects, including heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage.

In late January, Bright said he made an effort to ramp up federal procurement of N95 respirator masks, after having heard warnings that a global shortage could imperil first-responders.

But he said his boss, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Preparedness Robert Kadlec, gave short shrift to the warnings during a meeting Jan. 23.

At another meeting that day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Kadlec “responded with surprise at (Bright’s) dire predictions and urgency, and asserted that the United States would be able to contain the virus and keep it out,” the whistleblower complaint said.

Publicly, HHS was saying it had all the masks that would be needed.

Bright found an ally in White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was also urgently concerned about the virus.

The complaint described a series of contacts with Navarro’s office that led to a meeting between Bright and the trade official on at the White House on a Saturday early in February. Bright said his boss, Kadlec was not pleased.

“Navarro clearly shared (Bright’s) concerns about the potential devastation the United States would face from the coronavirus and asked (Bright) to identify the supply chain and medical countermeasures most critical to address at that time in order to save lives.”

Navarro’s memos to top White House officials raised alarms even as Trump was publicly assuring Americans that the outbreak was under control.

Bright felt officials had “refused to listen or take appropriate action to accurately inform the public” and spoke to a reporter who was working on a story about the drug.

He said he had to tell the public about the lack of science backing up its use, despite the drug being pushed by the president as press briefings, to protect people from what he believed “constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” the complaint says.

“As the death toll mounted exponentially each day, Dr. Bright concluded that he had a moral obligation to the American public, including those vulnerable as a result of illness from COVID-19, to protect it from drugs which he believed constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety,” the complaint says.

On Jan. 20, according to the complaint, the WHO held an emergency call to discuss the novel coronavirus. It was attended by many HHS officials, and which WHO officials advised that “the outbreak is a big problem.”

Trump has accused the U.N. agency of mismanaging and covering up the spread of the virus after it emerged in China and said he would cut funding.

Bright’s agency works to guard against pandemics and emergent infectious diseases, and is working to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

Top officials also pressured him to steer contracts to a client of a lobbyist, he reported.

Bright said he repeatedly clashed with leadership about the role played by pharmacy industry lobbyist John Clerici in drug contracts. As he tried to push a contract extension of a contract for one of his clients Aeolus Pharmaceuticals, Clerici said the company’s CEO was a friend of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

In the complaint, Bright says he wants to returned to his position as the director and a full investigation.

When Bright’s plans to file a complaint surfaced last month, HHS confirmed that Bright is no longer at the BARDA agency, but did not address his allegations of political interference in the COVID-19 response.

Source: Read Full Article

Colorado lawmakers give up on paid family leave bill, will support ballot measure

Sponsors are abandoning efforts to start a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado via legislation, announcing Friday they will instead support a ballot initiative already under way that’s aiming for the November ballot.

Since the beginning, the plan faced rough waters, but after the new coronavirus pandemic forced the General Assembly to recess, legislators won’t introduce a bill at all, the four Democratic would-be sponsors said. State Sens. Faith Winter and Dominick Moreno and Reps. Matt Gray and Yadira Caraveo announced the decision Friday morning.

The pandemic cut the legislators’ ability to solicit input from businesses and other stakeholders, Caraveo said.

In addition, some were pushing hard for compromises that would have likely left gig, part-time and low-income workers without benefits, Winter said — an unacceptable concession.

“We’ve seen those workers step up and keep everything running right now,” Winter said. “We weren’t going to accept a policy that didn’t include those workers.”

The issue has taken heat from both sides of the aisle. Some advocates voiced concerns that the measure as suggested would require employers to provide paid family leave to employees either in-house or through the private insurance market.

In late February, the measure’s lead sponsors, Winter and Gray, learned that their partners on the measure, Sen. Angela Williams and Rep. Monica Duran, would drop their names from the legislation. Both voiced concern that the measure wouldn’t sufficiently protect Colorado’s most vulnerable workers.

That loss of support signaled a large problem for the bill, as Democrats hold a narrow 19-16 majority in the Senate.

Caraveo signed on as a new sponsor, but then the legislature abruptly adjourned as the coronavirus began spreading through Colorado.

Facing the political and epidemiological challenges, the options became to either pass a measure that was “not very substantial” or to back a ballot initiative, Caraveo said.

Earlier in the year, a group called Colorado Families First announced a plan to introduce a ballot measure and noted significant financial support.

The group still needs to collect petitions to earn a spot on the ballot, Caraveo said. And it apparently plans to do so by phone, keeping the recommended social distancing requirements in mind.

“Their idea is that they will be sending text messages out by neighborhood and say ‘If you’re interested in signing the petition we’re going to be in your neighborhood on such and such a day,’” Caraveo said.

A ballot measure would almost certainly draw substantial opposition from business groups and a defeat at the polls could set back the issue for some time. Still, Gray said, polling suggests most Coloradans support the idea.

“When you start somewhere between 65 and 83% it takes more of a campaign to beat that than it does a campaign to win for it,” he said.

Plus, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted many of the shortcomings in the current system, Winter said. A quarter of women go back to work just two weeks after giving birth, and she noted that even cancer patients must balance their treatment with the ability to work and pay bills.

“Frankly, the time to deal with this was 3 or 4 years ago so we would have this in place right now,” Gray said.

Source: Read Full Article

Coronavirus infects 668 on French aircraft carrier

A third of the sailors on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle – 668 out of nearly 2,000 – are infected with coronavirus, the navy says.

The ship returned to the French port of Toulon early from Atlantic exercises. Twenty sailors are in hospital, one of them in intensive care.

The figure for those infected is likely to rise, as 30% of the test results are not yet in. The navy is investigating how so many sailors caught the virus.

France’s Covid-19 death toll is 17,167.

Of those 10,643 died in hospital. French health authorities said on Wednesday 6,457 Covid-19 patients were in intensive care in France – 273 fewer than on Tuesday.

The aircraft carrier is now in quarantine. Last week it was brought home 10 days early from its Atlantic deployment after some sailors showed symptoms.

France has a very strict lockdown, which President Emmanuel Macron has extended to 11 May.

It has the third-highest death toll in Europe after Italy and Spain, however some European countries appear to be under-reporting care home deaths.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic row flared up between France and China this week after an unnamed Chinese diplomat posted an article in French, dated 12 April, claiming that in some Western care homes staff had abandoned sick pensioners. The writer used the French term “Ehpad” for nursing homes, and the article is still on the Chinese embassy’s website.

Now the Chinese embassy has responded to French anger by adding a statement from its foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, stressing that Beijing is co-operating closely with France and other countries to fight the pandemic.

“We hope that there is no misunderstanding: the Chinese side has never made a negative comment on French management of the epidemic, and has no intention of doing so,” he was quoted as saying.

Faced with shortages of medical kit, like many other countries, France has ordered about 600 million face masks from China, though they have not yet arrived, Reuters news agency reports.

Source: Read Full Article