The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 63,000 as of last night (April 30th), according to the count being kept by Johns Hopkins University. Even as some states are slowly reopening amid those grim numbers, California Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday ordered Orange County beaches closed after people crowded on to them last weekend. The decision drew confusion and accusations of "targeted harassment" from Republicans in the county that was once a GOP stronghold, after administration officials had told police and local officials Wednesday that Newsom planned to order all state beaches closed. Newsom said he never saw that notification and said, "When our health folks tell me they can’t promise that if we promote another weekend like we had, then I have to make this adjustment. I hope it's a very short-term adjustment.”
Another 3.8 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total over the last six weeks since the start of the coronavirus shutdowns to some 30.3 million people, or one in six American workers, by far the worst stretch of job layoffs on record. Economists have forecast the unemployment rate for April could be as high as 20 percent, which would be the highest since it reached 25 percent during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
President Trump claimed yesterday that he's seen evidence giving him a, quote, "high degree of confidence" the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, contradicting the U.S. intelligence community. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence had issued a rare public statement hours earlier that didn't give that assessment, saying they were still examining whether the outbreak began, quote, "through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan." Trump officials have been pushing for U.S. intelligence to determine the outbreak's origins in pursuit of an unproven theory it started because of a lab accident, CNN reported. The intelligence statement did say they'd determined the virus wasn't man-made, which is the near-consensus view of scientists. Scientists and intelligence professionals have said the U.S. may never know the exact origin of the virus, which has widely been blamed on a "wet market" where wild animals were sold in Wuhan.
In other developments:
71 Percent of Federal Inmates Tested are Positive : The Bureau of Prisons has released new data that shows out of 2,700 federal prisoners that were tested systemwide, nearly 2,000 of them were positive for the virus, some 71 percent. Those 2,700 inmates tested represent just two percent of the nearly 150,000 in federal prisons. At least 31 federal inmates have died of the virus. Federal prison employees are also at risk, with 343 having tested positive.
NYC Subway Shutting Down Overnight for First Time : New York City's subway system will be shut down overnight daily from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. so that trains and stations can be cleaned. Subway cars will now be cleaned once every 24 hours instead of once every 72 hours. Ridership has plunged 92 percent amid the pandemic, and homeless people have been increasingly staying on the trains. The subway has operated 24 hours a day since October 1904, except for short interruptions due to weather events, blackouts or strikes.