Image: The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Conroe, Austin, Washington, D.C., and Bogota, Columbia, March 31 – Montgomery County, Texas, now has 81 positive test results, but only 70 active cases, because eleven (11) have enjoyed complete recoveries. Montgomery County fortunately still has suffered no deaths from the dreaded disease.
EPA’s advice: “Watch what you flush”; President Trump leading national response to Chinese coronavirus
The Environmental Protection Agency has a message for Americans — watch what you flush. “Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging all Americans to only flush toilet paper,” the agency says in a statement.
Americans are using far more disinfecting wipes in the coronavirus outbreak, the EPA noted, but disposing of them improperly threatens plumbing, sewer and septic systems.
EPA news statements on aspects of the pandemic shutting down economies and societies around the globe have been limited and include addressing the effectiveness of disinfectants. The EPA says it’s critical that the nation have “fully operational wastewater services” to contain the virus and protect against other health risks.
President Donald Trump says America will be sending surplus equipment to European nations to help them combat the new coronavirus.
President Trump says, as U.S. companies ramp up production of ventilators, the U.S. will be able to send excess ventilators to Italy, France, Spain and other hard-hit countries when possible.
The president, speaking at a coronavirus briefing in the White House Rose Garden, says he spoke with the Italian prime minister on Monday and that the U.S. will be sending about $100 million in medical and hospital items to Italy.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the U.S. has tested more than 1 million samples for the coronavirus — a number he says exceeds that of any other country. It wasn’t clear if that figure represented actual patients or samples processed. With a population of over 330 million, 1 million patients tested would represent about one-third of one percent of all Americans.
Public health experts have estimated the U.S. should be testing between 100,000 and 150,000 patients daily to track and contain the virus. Azar said the U.S. is testing “nearly 100,000 samples per day.”
Meanwhile, the new coronavirus is even having an impact on Colombia’s armed conflict. One of the nation’s last guerrilla groups — the National Liberation Army — has announced a unilateral ceasefire beginning April 1.
The rebel group says in a statement it will cease hostilities “as a humanitarian gesture with the Colombian people, who are suffering from the devastation of the coronavirus.”
World News Developments
Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of patients. The death toll topped 7,300. At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals. Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the tsunami of people gasping for breath.
In Japan, officials announced a new date for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — summer of 2021 — as a spike in reported infections fueled suspicions that the government had been understating the extent of the country’s outbreak in recent weeks while it was still hoping to salvage the Summer Games.
Moscow locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.
Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. And in Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive for the virus, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.
Italy’s death toll climbed to nearly 11,600. But in a bit of positive news, newly released numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people recovered. “We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.
In a sign of the mounting economic toll exacted by the virus in the United States, Macy’s said it would stop paying tens of thousands of employees thrown out of work when the chain closed its more than 500 department stores earlier this month.
AG Paxton Seeks Immediate Appellate Review to Enforce Governor’s Order Halting Unnecessary Medical Procedures
Following a Temporary Restraining Order granted by a U.S. District Court in Austin to block the application of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA 09 to elective abortions, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave this statement:
“I am deeply disappointed that the court ruled against the health and safety of Texans. My office is seeking prompt appellate review to ensure that medical professionals on the frontlines have the supplies and protective gear they desperately need. We will fight tirelessly against this politically-driven lawsuit to protect the health of Texans suffering from this COVID-19 crisis.”
Pastor arrested for violating rules amid virus outbreak
According to jail records, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities Monday afternoon in Hernando County, where he lives. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. Bail was set at $500, according to the jail’s website, and he was released after posting bond.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a news conference Monday that he negotiated with the attorney of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne to turn himself in to authorities in Hernando County. His church is located in Tampa.
“Not only did the church comply with the administrative order regarding six-foot distancing, it went above and beyond any other business to ensure the health and safety of the people,” said a statement from Liberty Counsel, Howard-Browne’s law firm. “Contrary to Sheriff Chronister’s allegation that Pastor Howard-Browne was ‘reckless,” the actions of Hillsborough Country and the Hernando County Sheriff are discriminatory against religion and church gatherings.”
Howard-Browne isn’t alone in refusing to curtail in-person worship services despite public health orders designed to stop the virus from spreading. Churches in Ohio, Kentucky and Louisiana have continued to invite worshippers in recent days as at least a half-dozen states offer some degree of exemption for faith in their orders to shutter nonessential activity during the pandemic.
Chronister said his command staff met with The River at Tampa Bay Church leaders about the danger they are putting themselves — and their congregation — in by not maintaining appropriate social distancing, but Howard-Browne held the services. The Sheriff’s Office also placed a digital sign on the road near the church driveway that said “practice social distancing.”
“Shame on this pastor, their legal staff and the leaders of this staff for forcing us to do our job. That’s not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency,” Chronister said. “We are hopeful that this will be a wakeup call.”
The church has said it sanitized the building, and the pastor said on Twitter that the church is an essential business. He also attacked the media for “religious bigotry and hate.” In the statement released late Monday afternoon, Liberty Counsel said the church enforced the six-foot distance rule between family groups, made sure the staff wore gloves, gave every person who entered hand sanitizer, among other things.
The county and governor’s orders require gatherings, including those held by faith-based groups, be fewer than 10 people to limit the spread of COVID-19. A live stream of Sunday’s three-and-a-half-hour church service showed scores of congregants. In a Facebook post, Howard-Browne said coronavirus “is blown totally way out of proportion.”
On March 18, the church called its ministry an essential service, just like police and firefighters, and said it would keep its doors open.
In a Facebook video Sunday, Howard-Browne said “it looks like we’re going to have to go to court over this because the church is encroached from every side.”
“This is really about your voice. The voice of the body of Christ,” he said.
As recently as last year, Howard-Browne’s church hosted an event with Paula White-Cain, who was named an advisor leading President Donald Trump’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. She’s also an unofficial spiritual advisor to the president.
Governor Abbott issues proclamation regarding self-quarantining certain individuals arriving from out-of-state
Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation yesterday regarding his prior Executive Order mandating a self-quarantine for individuals arriving from the New York Tri-State Area and New Orleans, Louisiana.
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, on March 26, 2020, Executive Order GA-11 imposed a mandatory self-quarantine of 14 days for air travelers flying to Texas from certain areas experiencing substantial community spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, Executive Order GA-11 provided that additional states or cities could be added to that mandatory self-quarantine by proclamation thereafter.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby add the following states and cities, effective at noon on March 30, 2020, to the list set forth in Executive Order GA-11:
State of California;
State of Louisiana;
State of Washington;
City of Atlanta, Georgia;
City of Chicago, Illinois;
City of Detroit, Michigan; and
City of Miami, Florida.
This proclamation shall remain in effect and in full force for as long as Executive Order GA-11 is in effect and in full force, unless otherwise modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.
Montgomery County District Attorney Ligon Responds to Rise in Domestic Violence Cases Amid COVID-19 Isolation
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office reported yesterday an approximately 35% increase in domestic violence cases filed in March 2020 as were filed in the same time period in 2019. This rise may be due to increased isolation, stress, and more access to victims by perpetrators caused by the COVID-19 virus fallout, according to First Assistant District Attorney Mike Holley.
District Attorney Brett Ligon said, “Our priority during this emergency situation is safety of everyone in our community. This requires the best in all of us. We will continue to protect the health and welfare of our citizens, which requires more than just preventing them from becoming ill; it requires us to stop those who seek to harm those who are most vulnerable. Individuals who display the worst of humanity and commit acts of violence during this time should expect to be met with determined and aggressive prosecution by the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.”
The DA’s Office added the following in a press release yesterday:
“As social distancing guidelines continue to further isolate victims from resources available to them, those victims are at an increased risk for abuse. The District Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute violent offenders, particularly those who prey upon these most vulnerable members of our community. The District Attorney’s Office has implemented the following procedures to combat the increase in domestic violence that occurs during these difficult times:
- The District Attorney’s Office will aggressively pursue all disaster enhancements allowed by law for offenders who commit domestic violence offenses during this emergency situation. Adding disaster enhancements increases the minimum range of punishment on certain assaultive offenses, either by increasing the minimum days in jail, or by increasing the charge itself to a higher level offense. These enhancements will be utilized when appropriate.
- A specialized domestic violence prosecutor remains on call to provide advice and resources to law enforcement investigating domestic violence cases and to personally respond to cases with a high lethality risk.
- Members of the District Attorney’s Office will to continue to attempting contact with victims who report domestic violence in Montgomery County within 24-72 hours from time an arrest is made. Victims will be provided resources and safety planning during this communication.
- Victims of domestic abuse should continue to contact law enforcement in an emergency. Additionally, domestic violence organizations, both in our community and nationwide, remain open and victims of abuse, and those who suspect abuse, are encouraged to seek additional resources and information to get help for their situation:
Montgomery County Women’s Center 24 hour hotline: 936-441-7273, or https://mcwctx.org/
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-72323, thehotline/org
National Dating Violence Hotline: 866-331-9474
org or Text hotline: Text LOVEIS to 22522
Texas Council on Family Violence: https://tcfv.org/survivor-resources/.”